Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 30 May 2020

Coronavirus: taking a test drive at Abu Dhabi's new fast-track screening centre

Sheikh Mohamed looks to set up drive-through Covid-19 test centres across the UAE

A large white tent sits just behind the Mubadala arena in Zayed Sports City.

It’s the UAE’s first drive-through coronavirus testing centre. And even though it doesn’t open to the public until Monday, it is already a hive of activity.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, has instructed the Department of Health to build more drive-through centres across the UAE.

Over the next 10 days, test centres will open in Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, Al Ain and Al Dhafra, to provide rapid-response tests for citizens and residents using the latest medical technology.

As I arrive at the first testing centre in Abu Dhabi, I pull my small car up to a security guard who directs me into one of four lanes.

There’s a small yellow sign telling drivers to dial in their radio to 98.5. I tune in and a message in Arabic and English plays on a loop instructing drivers to get keep their windows closed and to get their Emirates ID ready.

From there, I pull up to the first station. A staff member asks me to take a small bottle of hands sanitiser and to make sure my hands are clean.

Then I am told to place my Emirates ID in a card machine.

While the machine processes my ID I’m asked to recite my phone number into a walkie talkie.

Once I am registered, I pull forward a few metres, where Dr Suhail greets me and warns the nasal swab may be a “little uncomfortable.”

He takes my temperature, which come in at 37.1.

Then a nurse swoops in and performs the nose swab.

Dr Suhail was not lying, the swab is certainly uncomfortable and a little ticklish.

The nurse informs me the test results will be take 24 to 48 hours to come in and that I should self-quarantine until I get them.

And that was it.

The whole process took less than five minutes. I never left the car and the only thing I touched was the hand sanitiser, which I got to keep.

The fast-track facility is managed by Abu Dhabi Health Services (Seha), the body which owns and operates all public hospitals and clinics in the emirate.

The centre will be open from 8am until 8pm each day and has the capacity to conduct 600 tests per day.

The service is available by appointment only. People can book by calling Estijaba 8001717.

You will then be asked to answer questions regarding your health condition to assess whether you are eligible for a free, priority check.

People who are suspected to have contracted the virus, are senior citizens, are pregnant, or have chronic illnesses, make up this priority group.

Any other person who wishes to take the test for peace of mind will pay a fee of Dh370.

Updated: March 29, 2020 11:51 PM

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