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Abu Dhabi entry rules eased: How a year of border Covid testing helped fight the virus

Sahim Salim /Abu Dhabi
sahim@khaleejtimes.com Filed on September 19, 2021
KT Photo: Ryan Lim

The decision to lift restrictions came after daily infections dropped drastically in the emirate

Checkpoints on the Abu Dhabi-Dubai border were removed after midnight on Sunday, as authorities cancelled the PCR testing requirement for those travelling to the UAE Capital.

In a video posted by Abu Dhabi TV, a convoy of police patrols with their sirens flashing can be seen leading civilian vehicles across the border:

The Abu Dhabi Police posted a heartfelt message of gratitude to residents for their cooperation in implementing the rule that has been in place for more than a year. Till yesterday, residents and tourists needed to have a negative Covid test result to cross into the Capital.

The police, however, cautioned residents to continue adhering to all Covid safety measures and to “be responsible”.

Covid safety first

The decision to lift the Covid testing requirement came after daily coronavirus infections dropped drastically in Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi entry rules eased: How a year of border Covid testing helped fight the virus (https://www.khaleejtimes.com/assets/jpg/KT30250919.JPG)

Abu Dhabi had implemented the border testing rule in July 2020. Since then, thousands of residents and tourists took the mandatory tests to travel to the Capital.

Indian expatriate Arijit Nandi, who travels to Abu Dhabi for work every day, spoke about the frequency with which he had to undergo testing:

Abu Dhabi entry rules eased: How a year of border Covid testing helped fight the virus (https://www.khaleejtimes.com/assets/jpg/KT30249919.JPEG)

Though officials have not revealed the positivity rate of such tests, doctors and experts believe that they helped check the infection spread.

“It helped contain the spread of the virus directly as only negative report carriers were allowed to cross the border,” said Dr Santosh Sharma, medical director and consultant neurosurgeon, NMC Royal Hospital, DIP, Dubai.

“The gradual removal of the curbs — where the validity of the negative results was first valid for 48 hours and then 72 hours — was also done in a very scientific manner. Authorities had the freedom to place or remove curbs as per the daily infections.”

Here is a message from the frontliner, as he looks back over the past year:

The rule also helped identify asymptomatic cases, another doctor said.

“Given that an estimated 40 per cent of people with SARS-CoV-2 infection have no symptoms but can still transmit the virus, testing all the people who crossed the borders was the most effective strategy to prevent asymptomatic carriers from spreading the virus,” said Dr Ramesh Bhaskaran, internal medicine (specialist), Aster Hospital, Qusais.

He said with daily infections down, and most residents and travellers fully vaccinated, the chances of severe cases are low.

“Now, the onus lies on the individual to… avoid travel in case of any symptoms in the better interest of the community,” he said.

Green pass to a Covid-free future

Another reason authorities cited for removing the requirement is the activation of the Green Pass protocol.

Most public spaces in Abu Dhabi are restricted to vaccinated citizens, residents and tourists.

These include shopping centres, restaurants, cafes, and all other retail outlets, including those not within a shopping centre, as well as gyms, recreational facilities and sporting activities, health clubs, resorts, museums, cultural centres and theme parks. The list also includes universities, institutes, public and private schools and children’s nurseries in the emirate.

Only those with a green status on their AlHosn apps are allowed to enter these public spaces.

Here is how the Green Pass system works:

Abu Dhabi entry rules eased: How a year of border Covid testing helped fight the virus (https://www.khaleejtimes.com/assets/jpg/KT30251919.JPG)

How Abu Dhabi became the safest city

Authorities in Abu Dhabi implemented a stringent regime of mass testing and vaccination to emerge as the safest city in the world. London-based analytics consortium Deep Knowledge Group (DKG) put the UAE Capital right on top of its list of leading cities for their response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Authorities have done everything from door-to-door Covid testing to hosting mass drives for densely populated areas to keep a check on infection spread.

Abu Dhabi is one of the few places in the world that have not been affected by the second wave of Covid-19, a doctor had told Khaleej Times earlier.

Dr Sajeev Nair, specialist pulmonologist at LLH Hospital Musaffah, said: “The mortality rate and new Covid-19 cases in Abu Dhabi are very low and all this can be attributed to the proper surveillance of residents through routine screenings which help control the spread of the virus.

“Early diagnosis of the disease helps to prevent patients from developing complications like pneumonia and reduces the chances of death.”

sahim@khaleejtimes.com

Sahim Salim





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