Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia opens free drive-through Covid-19 testing

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Drive through coronavirus testing centres have opened in Saudi Arabia in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam as the kingdom ramps up screening for Covid-19.

The Health Ministry run drive-through centres do 5-minute throat swabs free of charge for both residents and nationals. Each centre can test up to 5,000 people per day and as many as 600 can be being tested at the same time across all the sites.

“The demand for testing people for Covid-19 is growing, so it is important that we are able to provide a convenient and safe way to provide tests in a timely way and which makes the best use of our hard-working staff,” a Health Ministry official at the site in Jeddah said.

A health worker collects a sample at a drive-through coronavirus testing center at the Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt. EPA

A health worker wearing protective gear prepares to take swab samples from people queuing in their cars to test for the coronavirus at a drive-through COVID-19 screening center at Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt. AP Photo

A mother walks with her son in the centre of Morocco's capital Rabat amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. AFP

A mask-clad owner climbs the stairs of his shoe store in Arbil, the capital of the northern Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region, during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. AFP

Mask-clad men walk past posters displayed for sale in the vicinity of Arbil Citadel in the capital of the northern Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. AFP

Iraqis sit at a coffee shop in front of Arbil Citadel in the capital of the northern Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. AFP

A Palestinian worker collects watermelons at a field as farmers complain about export restrictions due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in the southern Gaza Strip. REUTERS

A mask-clad boy runs after pigeons near his father in the centre of Morocco's capital Rabat amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. AFP

He added that while 600 swabs were carried out at the site on Wednesday at the official launch, they expected to do around 1,200 tests on Thursday.

The centres have two lanes with 12 testing stations where people are screened for Covid-19 and there is a special bay for those with special needs.

At the new centres, motorists drive to one of several stations where nurses in protective plastic suits, masks and face shields register the drivers, check their

temperatures and use swabs to take samples from the throat passage.

The kingdom brought in strict measures to counter the pandemic shutting borders, closing businesses, cancelling events and implementing curfews and travel restrictions. Many of those rules have been eased in recent weeks as the country seeks to allow people to resume a semblance of normality while preventing the health services being overwhelmed by cases.

There are 145,991 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Saudi Arabia with 1,139 deaths. So far, 93,915 have recovered. Since July 14, the country has been registering over 4,000 new cases a day and over 30 people have died a day since June 3.

Updated: June 18, 2020 05:40 PM

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