New rules requiring commuters entering Abu Dhabi to take a Covid-19 swab test came into force on Thursday.
From August 27, drivers and passengers can only pass through the border from Dubai if they can provide proof of a recent PCR negative test.
The move is part of strengthened measures to curb the spread of Covid-19, after authorities revealed active infections had risen by 10 per cent since the start of the month.
Abu Dhabi introduced a border screening system at the end of June, after a sharp decline in the number of cases and hospital admissions in the emirate.
Initially, only PCR swab test results were accepted, but in early July officials began also permitting people to enter with results from a cheaper diffractive phase interferometry laser test, which cost only Dh50.
People could theoretically use the DPI tests to enter the capital, provided they arranged an appointment to take one.
People entering Abu Dhabi from the Dubai border will no longer be able to pass into the emirate using a laser test result alone.
Drivers can still undergo a DPI laser test near Ghantoot – but only if they can present a PCR test result received within the past six days.
The system means commuters could take a PCR swab test at the start of the week, then ‘refresh’ it days later at the Ghantoot screening centre.
But the same type of test cannot be taken twice in a row within six days.
However, commuters hoping to book a laser blood test at Ghantoot to pass through the Abu Dhabi border currently face a wait of more than two weeks.
All slots at the centre on the border are full until mid-September, with the first available appointment on September 15 at 3am.
The number of clinics across the UAE now offering the laser test was recently expanded to take the pressure off the one at Ghantoot, which processes about 6,000 samples per day.
Centres offering the DPI test include three locations in Abu Dhabi (Zayed Sports City, Corniche, Ghantoot), Al Ain (Al Hili Wedding Hall, Al Hili), Dubai (Mina Rashid, Al Khawaneej) and across the Northern Emirates, at Sharjah Golf & Shooting Club, Emirates Hospitality Centre in Ajman; and in Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah).
The PCR test is considered the gold standard for Covid-19 diagnosis. A sample taken from the throat or nose is stripped down in the lab to detect the virus’s genetic material. The test is more laborious, and expensive, at about Dh370.
In the DPI test, a drop of blood is analysed under a laser beam of light for changes in blood cells. A healthy person’s blood cell is perfectly round, but it takes on a scattered appearance in unhealthy cells. The team behind the device said it was 85 to 90 per cent accurate in tests.