Covid-19: How UAE's mass testing strategy helped businesses beat challenges

Pandemic introduced several new technologies to laboratory testing, says expert


Ismail Sebugwaawo

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Published: Sat 5 Nov 2022, 4:56 PM

Last updated: Sat 5 Nov 2022, 6:30 PM

The UAE successfully battled the Covid-19 pandemic with its mass testing and nationwide vaccination programme. The country recorded among the lowest death rates in the world.

According to an expert, appropriate diagnostic testing to identify Covid-19 infections is a vital part of the UAE's health system.

“The mass testing strategy through the laboratories, which was implemented throughout the UAE, had made a very big impact on containing and controlling the spread of the coronavirus,” said Hosam Fouad, founder and CEO, Abu Dhabi-based Life Diagnostics in Abu Dhabi.

“The mass testing initiative helped the country, and most of the businesses, to continue operating without undergoing a complete lockdown.”

“We had an overwhelming number of tests during the Covid-19 pandemic, something we had not experienced before. We had to expand our resources and had to make great efforts in order to cope with the government vision of applying the mass testing strategy,” Fouad told Khaleej Times on the sidelines of the 2022 AACC Middle East conference that was held, at Grand Hyatt Hotel in Dubai, on Saturday.

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The UAE has conducted 15 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests to SARS-COV-2, as of November 15, 2020.

As of November 5, 2022, the UAE had conducted 19.9 million PCR tests, 19 times the population of the country.

The number of tests per day varied from 10,000 by the end of March to 120,000 tests per day in November 2020.

In his keynote speech at the conference on laboratory medicine, Fouad pointed out that the major challenge faced by almost every Covid-19 testing laboratory has been the uncertainty. “If you ask me right now when will the Covid-19 pandemic end, the answer I can give is that 'I don’t know'. This has been so since the early days of the pandemic,” said Fouad.

“We could hardly tell if we required more machines or hire more staff and for how long, how many testing kits were needed.”

The expert said that human resources and hiring people was a challenge for medical laboratories as they needed more workers to cope with mass testing. Sometimes, they had to bring in experts from other countries, which was costly.

“Healthcare authorities in the UAE supported us a lot. They played a big role in easing the licensing process for us and we could hire new employees. It helped us get workers from across the world,” said Fouad.

The Covid-19 introduced several new technologies to laboratory testing, according to the expert.

“Prior to Covid-19, PCR tests were complicated and very expensive. Nowadays, it has become much more affordable. We now have well trained experts, new machines and many laboratories with testing capacities,” said Fouad.

“Many normal tests that used to be processed using different technologies are now being processed using PCR technology.”

The conference was organised by Abu Dhabi-based Life Diagnostics, in partnership with American Association for Clinical Chemistry AACC.


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