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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - The UAE has launched an international testing programme to ensure travellers flying to the Emirates are free of Covid-19.
Medics at some of the 100 or so accredited laboratories overseas said they were geared up to deliver thousands of PCR tests that tourists and some returning residents must take before they fly to the Emirates.
A Covid-19 test will be as vital a component to travel as an entry visa for passengers hoping to fly this summer and beyond, they said.
“The Covid-19 test prior to boarding makes the aircraft as virus free as possible,” said Cameron McTavish, from Australia's Healius medical group, which operates labs expecting thousands of samples from UAE passengers.
“The UAE government is clearly incentivised to get planes back into the air from the two main transit hubs of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
This is a practical solution to getting people travelling again
Cameron McTavish, Healius Ltd labs
“This is a practical solution to getting people travelling again.
“Others are now following the UAE’s lead as they have been on the front of the wave on this.”
Before booking a flight out of the country, travellers should apply for permit from the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) or Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA). Permission is not necessarily required to leave the country - but it is required to return.
If flying with Emirates Airline, passengers require the GDRFA number to book an outward-bound journey. A negative PCR test is no longer needed for residents travelling from Abu Dhabi, but for passengers returning.
The GCC’s largest medical laboratory, Pure Health, has partnered with other testing facilities around the world to simplify the process of recording the mandatory medical certificate before boarding an aircraft back to the UAE.
An online portal guides passengers through the registration process required.
A sample from a PCR nasal swab is collected during an appointment at a registered facility, national testing centre or in some cases, at home or registered address.
Most results will be returned within 24 hours via either WhatsApp, text message or email, but the procedure and price varies between nations.
In Australia, travellers are encouraged to submit a sample no earlier than four days before flying with the cost of a test set at Aus$150, or Dh380.
The country has 2,200 collection points for general pathology nationwide.
Of those, including drive-through clinics, 100 are dedicated Covid-19 sample collection centres.
In Jordan, where Biolabs have partnered with Pure Health under the testing scheme, a 72-hour window is recommended to test before flying into the UAE.
“People in Jordan applying for a visa to visit the UAE can visit an online section that will guide them through the process of the necessary procedure,” said Dina Abu Ta’a, Biolab’s business development executive officer.
“When they apply for a visa, the passenger must pay for the cost of the test which is JD57, about Dh300.
“We have an agreement with Pure Health, the UAE government medical partners, that every passenger planning to travel must take a test in our labs.”
Those labs are in Amman and Irbid and are both specialist Covid-19 test centres.
Results can be viewed via the Pure Health online portal or through a WhatsApp message from Biolab within 48 hours.
Meanwhile in India, Neuberg Diagnostics will test passengers flying back to the Emirates in accredited labs in Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai and Pune.
The registration process demands travellers present proof of identity with an address, preferably an Aadhar government ID card or passport for non-resident Indians.
Fees vary from Inr2000 (Dh98) to Inr4500 (Dh220), depending on the state with results also promised within 48 hours.
“The patient must complete a test requisition form from the doctor with their medical registration number,” said Aishwarya Vasudevan, chief operating officer at Neuberg Diagnostics.
“Depending upon the various state guidelines, people can request Neuberg for the home sample collection or can walk-in to our allotted centres.
“Home sample collection is done through personal protective equipped phlebotomists.”
All positive samples are taken to the National Institute of Virology in Pune under suitable biosafety and biosecurity precautions.
Similar operations are established around the world, with Neuberg also testing across South Africa.
There, testing is available to patients who visit clinics in Durban and Johannesburg. The fee is R850, or Dh180.
Updated: July 9, 2020 08:40 AM
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