Following a successful debut, Abu Dhabi is set to introduce additional COVID-19 rapid screening centres at entry points to the UAE capital, it has been confirmed.
Residents of the Emirates are currently unable to travel into Abu Dhabi without providing a negative COVID-19 test – taken at a hospital or clinic – before departure. To facilitate the process, the UAE government introduced a rapid screening centre at a checkpoint between Dubai and Abu Dhabi last week to enable commuters to get tested during their journey instead.
Costing AED 50 ($14), the Diffractive Phase Interferometry (DPI) test utilises a laser technique to scan a blood sample for signs of surging red blood cells, said to be an early sign that the body is fighting off a virus. Results are produced within five minutes.
THE LARGER CONTEXT
The equipment used for the test was developed by QuantLase Imaging Lab, the medical-research arm of the Abu Dhabi Stock Exchange-listed International Holdings Company (IHC).
“The equipment, which uses a CMOS detector, will enable mass-scale screening with results made available in seconds,” Pramod Kumar, who led the research at QuantLase Imaging Lab, stated in May. “Our laser-based DPI technique, based on optical-phase modulation, is able to give a signature of infection within a few seconds. What’s more, it is user-friendly, non-invasive and low-cost.”
During the first day of operation, the border COVID-19 screening centre was met with such high demand that an online appointment booking system was implemented to prevent overcrowding. According to Abdullah Al Rashdi, spokesperson for Tamouh Healthcare, which is affiliated with IHC, the centre services an estimated 2,600 appointments per day. But many are finding themselves having to wait for up to 10 days for the next available appointment. As a result, more facilities will be introduced in the coming weeks, with dates yet to be confirmed, he added.
“Once the new [second] tent [centre] opens, waiting time will be between one to two days,” said Al Rashdi.
At the time of publishing, the total number of registered cases of COVID-19 in the UAE stands at 57,988. Out of those, 50,848 have recovered. The total lives lost from the coronavirus in the country is 341, with no deaths recorded in the past 24 hours.
ON THE RECORD
“The [DPI test] device is suitable for use not only in hospitals and public places like cinemas and shopping malls, but with a ‘little hands-on training’ it can be used for in-house testing and monitoring,” said Kumar. “We believe it will be a game-changer in tackling the spread of the coronavirus.”
It’s not just entry to Abu Dhabi that requires prior testing. Yesterday, the UAE announced that a COVID-19 test will become mandatory for all inbound and transit passengers, irrespective of the country of departure, starting 1 August 2020.
The government has partnered with Pure Health to provide an online registration system for COVID-19 testing, offering appointment booking for the closest approved lab available.
Meanwhile, state-owned airline and UAE flag carrier, Emirates, announced it is to provide all travellers with free health insurance cover for COVID-19.
“Emirates will be the first airline to offer free cover for COVID-19 medical costs for customers when they travel to and from the UAE… This will boost travel confidence,” Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, president of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, and CEO and founder of the Emirates Group posted on Twitter.
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