Salem Omar woke up with a sore throat on Tuesday morning, so he put on his traditional white Emirati thob and headed straight to the United Arab Emirates’ latest Covid-19 testing facility: a drive-through.
Instructions blasted through a designated FM radio channel while doctors and nurses whizzed around in scrubs and face-masks, taking nose swabs, printing labels, and stacking up samples to send to a nearby lab.
“In order to ensure my safety and the kids and the family, I decided I would come and do the test as to avoid any risk to other people,” says Omar.
Just 24 hours later, the results would be sent to him via text message.
The UAE is the fifth country in the world to set up drive-through Covid-19 testing, part of an intensive drive to carry out mass screenings for the virus.
The oil-rich state has the second-highest testing density globally. It is screening some 22,900 cases per million people and has conducted over 220,000 tests overall, according to the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP).
In just the last week, the UAE more than tripled its purchase of testing kits – from 30,000 to 100,000 – from Seegene, one of its main South Korean suppliers, according to Jeehoon Park, the company’s Middle East Executive Director.
The UAE was the first country in the Middle East to report a confirmed case of Covid-19. As of March 31 the UAE has registered 664 cases and four deaths from the pandemic, according to MOHAP.