Drive- thru COVID-19 test centre opens in UAE, 10 more to follow

A drive-thru COVID-19 test centre has been opened in the UAE as part of its measures to step up to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces opened the facility where Emiratis and residents can get examined after a pre-assessment.

Situated in Sheikh Zayed Sports City, this facility is a collaborative effort by Abu Dhabi Health Services Co, SEHA, and the Department of Health, Abu Dhabi.

The UAE is the fifth nation in the world to implement a drive-thru COVID-19 testing service, after Australia, South Korea, Germany and Malaysia.

The drive-thru centres accelerate the time it takes to test for the virus. While walk-in tests take up to 20 minutes, it takes around eight to 10 minutes to test each person at the drive-thru centre and results are available in 24 hours. 

Sheikh Mohamed himself did a drive-thru at the test centre where he went through  the following process:

  • He received an in-car radio welcome voice note from SEHA 
  • The audio requested him to prepare his ID card 
  • He was asked to stay put until reaching the registration point 
  • At the registration point his ID was digitally scanned
  • He was requested to proceed to next stoppage point
  • A nasal swab was collected from Sheikh Mohamed at this point 

The UAE leader was later shown around the test facility and got firsthand experience of its advanced equipment and the measures followed by the centre, where all necessary inspections take around five minutes.

With a maximum of four people being tested at one time, the new system is an extension of the UAE's commitment to ensure the availability of COVID-19 testing for all.

The facility operates from 8.00 am to 8.00 pm every week-day and provides services to around 600 people per day.

As part of the process, patients will need to book an appointment and participate in a pre-assessment screening, where they would need to answer questions related to their condition. 

Following the pre-screening, people who are considered to have contracted the virus and those who are most vulnerable, such as the elderly, pregnant women or people with chronic diseases will be prioritised.

The test will be free for these individuals.

For the wider community who prefer to do the examination for reassurance only, the testing procedure will cost Dh370.

The process flow for testing at the drive-thru centers have been well threshed out: 

  1. Smooth entry to the facility at the Zayed Sports City with four entry paths from which patients can arrive
  2. At the registration point, SEHA employees will provide patients with a medical sterilizer for their hands 
  3. Patients will need to insert their Emirates ID into the e-reader for registration, before proceeding to the next point 
  4. After registration, the patients will have to lower their car window for a nose swab test 
  5. On completion of the test, patients can leave and return to their homes where they are advised to maintain self-isolation until they receive their test, and are cleared of COVID-19 virus
  6. Patients will receive their results within six hours through SMS and on the SEHA smartphone app

Sheikh Mohamed hailed the efforts made by various sectors and institutions in the country under the current trying circumstances, especially the health sector whom he called, "the country's first line of defense against COVID-19’. 

Sheikh Mohamed has since ordered authorities to open further drive-thru centres across the UAE to test for the virus. 

Over the next 10 days, test centres will open in Dubai, Sharjah (to also serve Ajman and Umm al Quwain), Ras Al Khaimah, Al Fujairah, Al Ain and Al Dhafra, to provide rapid-response tests for citizens and residents across the UAE using the latest medical technology, as per the leader's instructions to Department of Health, Abu Dhabi Media Office tweeted on Sunday.