How these Abu Dhabi commuters are finding a way to make testing work

We speak to three professionals who juggle daily work and mandatory screening to enter the capital

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Commuters who travel to Abu Dhabi have spoken of how they juggle mandatory testing and their daily work.

To enter the capital, drivers require proof that a negative PCR nasal swab test was taken in the past 48 hours.

Or they must under go a DPI test at a screening centre in Ghantoot, off the Abu Dhabi and Dubai highway. There, medics use a laser to quickly check a drop of blood in a process that takes just minutes.

Several drivers who commute in from Dubai told The National how they have been able to return to work in person.

If you look at it from Abu Dhabi's point of view, it's a precautionary measure that is needed

Nagendra Gaur, 39, a planning engineer working on two construction projects in Abu Dhabi, has taken three PCR tests since July 3, days after the authorities imposed mandatory Covid-19 clearance to enter the emirate.

“If you look at it from Abu Dhabi’s point of view, it’s a precautionary measure that is needed," he said.

“This is the only way to make [the emirate] covid-free. I actually appreciate it. If they allow everyone from outside free movement then all this safety exercise will have been wasted.”

The PCR test costs Dh370 and is offered in most hospitals in Dubai. In contrast, the DPI test on the Dubai-Abu Dhabi road costs just Dh50 - but the centre has been booked for weeks in advance.

Since the nasal swab test results come in anytime between 22 to 16 hours, he must be watchful of the 48-hour valid window.

Mr Gaur has not had to wait at the border since he begins work early and crosses into the capital at around 5am.

Nagendra Gaur with his wife Reena, and sons Mudit and Rughuveer.

Dubai resident Nagendra has tested three times over the past month so he can cross the border to supervise project sites in Abu Dhabi.
(Photo: Reem Mohammed/The National)

Nagendra with his wife Reena and sons Mudit and Raghuveer. Reem Mohammed / The National

Fortunately, his company has covered the cost of several nights in a hotel each week, to avoid having to get tested every two days, and he returns to see his wife and two sons on Thursday nights.

“As of now my company handles all expenses. I’m a little worried if my company at some point thinks this is an additional expense,” he said.

“Covid-19 is unpredictable, you don’t know about the next month or next week. There are things that are uncertain that we cannot plan for.”

Rahul Bohra, 38, who also works in construction, has lived in an Abu Dhabi hotel for two 10-day stretches and returned to his family in Dubai for a few days in between.

After the Eid break, Mr Bohra will take a test every other day to drive in, and stay with a colleague in Abu Dhabi for a couple of days if required.

He has already booked regular appointments at the Ghantoot facility throughout August to ensure he can get to work on an Abu Dhabi construction project.

Testing slots at the facility are currently fully booked until August 17.

“The first thing I check in the day is the bookings,” said Mr Bohra, who prepares cost estimates for project tenders.

“I’m hoping more test centres come up so the booking window will reduce. It is always in my mind that I have to book an appointment.”

But juggling between accommodation and fitting in tests is not his biggest concern throughout the pandemic, when companies worldwide have retrenched staff or asked employees to take unpaid leave.

“All these are secondary issues. The critical thing is that we have jobs and I’m thankful to god for this,” he said.

Mr Bohra has no immediate plans to move out of Dubai, having recently renewed his tenancy contract and found a new school for his daughter.

“Many [commuters] are hopeful that with extra test facilities at border they can travel on a daily basis," he said.

Mr Bohra backs Abu Dhabi's rigorous testing as “absolutely necessary.”

Rahu Bohra and his wife Pooja and daughter Rushda.
Dubai resident Rahul Bohra will get tested every three days after the eid break to ensure he can make it to a construction project in Abu Dhabi he is working on. 
(Photo: Reem Mohammed/The National)

Rahul Bohra with his wife Pooja and daughter Rushda. Reem Mohammed / The National

“With everyone being tested, at least [authorities] will be able to trace where a new case is coming from,” he said.

“I’m pretty much in favour of this because it’s a good thing to be able to trace and track cases. Each country is taking measures to control the pandemic. People may face some problems but it’s for longer term benefit.”

Sushant Dalai, 32, said he plans to move from Dubai to Abu Dhabi next month.

The engineer, who works for a metals company in the capital, said the move would coincide with his lease ending in Dubai.

“My Dubai renewal is in September so I will wait before I decide on moving. I still have time," he said.