UAE takes Covid-19 tests to new heights with millions in record time

Dubai - The country has managed to carry out around 4 million Covid-19 tests in record time.

By Saman Haziq

Published: Sat 11 Jul 2020, 3:21 AM

Last updated: Sat 11 Jul 2020, 10:42 AM

While Covid-19 is raging across the world with crossing the 12 million mark, the UAE is showing the way in the fight against the virus through its proactive steps. The UAE has introduced one of the world's most comprehensive testing and tracing regimes early on.
With accelerated mass testing, the country has managed to carry out around four million Covid-19 tests in record time. Looking to perform another two million more tests in next two months, the country is on its way to achieving yet another milestone.
Calling the UAE an "inspirational model", Dr Raza Siddiqui, executive director, RAK Hospital, said that while countries across the globe are seeing second or third wave of infection, the efforts by the UAE leadership have minimised the infection rates. The RAK Hospital is screening almost 500 patients every day through its 24/7 Cold and Flu Clinic to identify Covid-19 cases.
"The UAE leadership was quick to identify the threat and understood that a comprehensive testing and screening will be the perfect strategy to contain the spread of Covid-19. Hence a massive screening programme was put in place; potential pockets including workers accommodations and areas with high density of population were identified. Widespread health and safety measures were implemented, which included building field hospitals, drive-through screening centres and isolation facilities in a record time.
"With the use of effective strategies, the number of positive cases has now fallen below one in every 100 people tested. We are also noticing a big increase in the number of recoveries while the death toll is very low compared to other countries."
Testing is the key
Dr Raza added: "The UAE has set benchmarks for the world with tests and the speed with which the results are provided. In terms of technology too, we've evolved from rapid antibody testing to 100 per cent foolproof PCR technology, and now we're soon going to move into antigen testing creating accessibility and convenience to the people."
Working together
Hailing the UAE's far-sightedness in setting up testing laboratories even before the Covid-19 was declared a pandemic, Dr Gurdeep Singh Dhatt, chief medical officer at Pure Health that is operating the UAE's largest testing capacity lab in Mafraq Hospital, said: "The spread of virus has not been only through people showing symptoms but asymptomatic people are also carriers of the virus. Therefore, it is commendable that the UAE went for mass screening of both symptomatic and asymptomatic persons to ensure the virus spread is reduced. This has now made the UAE one of the safest countries in the world to be in and travel to.

Calling the new target of testing another two million people in two months "achievable" by working together, Dr Dhatt said: "This is possible by involving all the stakeholders, from people at home to companies screening their employees, to government entities, healthcare professionals, entertainment destinations and so on. All these systems should be working together hand in hand to avoid the spread of infection and to ensure that everyone gets screened. This pandemic has also shown us how important and effective is public-private partnership can be."

From screening of incoming passengers from highly infected destinations in the beginning of February to conducting mass screening within government and private sector entities, Pure Health was selected to ensure that the essential and vital sectors are infection-free. Furthermore, the laboratory consulting and medical supply company has also launched 110 collection centres across the UAE.

"Our mobile screening unit of 100 vehicles and 200 nurses was launched to screen individuals who cannot reach any of the screening centres. We have also launched four Covid-19 dedicated testing facilities, with a processing capacity that increased from 15,000 to 80,000 tests a day."
Testing has evolved
Talking about how testing evolved in the UAE, Dr Seema Oommen, specialist microbiologist and head of Molecular Lab at Burjeel Medical City, Abu Dhabi, said in just a matter of a couple of months after VPS group set up their molecular lab, the sample testing went up from about 300 samples a day to almost over 5,000 samples being tested.

"We started with two PCR machines and a core team of four people in the molecular lab but as the infection rate shot up, we realised we needed to scale up operations and needed more trained staff in the molecular labs."

Calling mass screenings as the best way to fight the pandemic, Dr Oommen said: "It is commendable how the UAE, from the very beginning, has invested heavily into mass screenings. The more we test, the faster we can move to a normal life, as when we do mass testing, we can also pick up asymptomatic cases. Therefore, this widescale testing has made the UAE a safer place to live in, giving its residents more confidence when they step out."

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