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Paramedics at the Ghantoot rapid testing facility. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: In a press briefing on December 31, 2020, the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) advised people that when they step out to celebrate the start of the New Year, they should follow precautionary measures that have been put in place by authorities.

Dr Saif Al Dhaheri, the official spokesperson of NCEMA, also educated people about the importance of adopting periodic checks.

"We also remind our people of the importance of adopting periodic checks for the family to protect the health and safety of everyone, in addition to domestic workers, especially after their visits or going to official celebrations," he said.

The UAE has conducted millions of COVID-19 tests in its efforts to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. Depending on your specific requirements like the purpose of the test and how quickly you need the results, the UAE has provided various options for testing. Here is all you need to know.

The swab test or PCR test

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A paramedic staff collects swab samples at a coronavirus drive-through screening center by Dubai Health Authority at Al Nasr Club in Dubai. Photo for illustrative purpose only. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News/archive

The Reverse Transcription Polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test is done using a nasal swab, where a medical professional takes a sample from the upper part of one’s nose using a synthetic fibre swab, which looks similar to a long cotton bud. The swab has to go quite far back along the nasal passage, and is rotated around to collect an adequate sample. The whole process takes a few seconds but can cause some discomfort. As the sample is taken from the area that connects the base of the nose to the back of the throat, you could have an urge to sneeze or cough and your eyes might tear up. However, the feeling disappears soon after the sample is collected.

What is the cost of the test?

Free - Ministry of Health and Prevention centres in Sharjah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah and Umm Al Quwain are offering the test for free. However, the results may take a day or two to come in.

Find out if you are eligible for a free COVID-19 test in the UAE here. 

Dh150 – Dubai Health Authority testing centres are offering the test at a cost of Dh150.

Dh85 – Seha health centres are offering the test for Dh85.

How long does it take to get the results?

The test results can come in within a day in some cases. However, depending on where you get the test done the result time may vary.

Where can I use this test?

The PCR test is required for various purposes – international travel guidelines require passengers to present a PCR test taken within a stipulated number of hours before their flight departure.

Find the latest guidelines to travel through Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah airports here.

While you can present a PCR test or a rapid test (DPI) while entering Abu Dhabi, the latest guidelines issued by the emirate make it mandatory for people entering Abu Dhabi to take a PCR test on Day 4 and Day 8.

DPI test / Laser test / Rapid screening test

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Paramedic staff at screening centre at the Ghantoot Rapid testing facility on Dubai-Abu Dhabi border. The procedure, known as Diffractive Phase Interferometry, or DPI, uses lasers to identify Covid-19 infections in less then 5minutes. 3rd August 2020. Photo: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

The laser-based Diffractive Phase Interferometry (DPI) test was introduced in July by the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP) to detect COVID-19 cases. The DPI technology allows authorities to conduct mass testing, as the results come in within seconds and help detect suspected cases of infections. The DPI test looks for specific inflammation markers caused by COVID-19 infection in a sample. If you go for a DPI test, you will be required to give a blood sample, similar to a blood test done to check for blood sugar. The blood sample is smeared on a slide, which is then inserted into a DPI machine, which searches for any markers caused by COVID-19. The results are sent within seconds through an SMS to your phone.

What is the cost of the test?


How long does it take to get the results?

The test results come in within seconds and are sent to you via SMS.

Where can I use this test?

You can use this test if you wish to travel to Abu Dhabi. Entry guidelines issued by the emirate allow visitors to show a DPI test at the border, valid for 72hours. However, if you wish to stay in the emirate, you would need to take a PCR test on Day 6. Read the latest guidelines here.

Saliva test

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Picture used for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Supplied

The saliva test was recently launched in Dubai, as an alternative way of testing for COVID-19 among children. As mentioned earlier, the PCR swab test can cause minor discomfort and may be stressful for children to take. Keeping this in mind, Dubai Health Authority introduced the saliva test for children aged 3 to 16.

Instead of the nasal swab test used during PCR tests, the saliva test takes the specimen from the mouth.

How long does it take to get the results?

The test results are available within 24 hours of testing.

What is the cost of the test?


Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre, too, has conducted saliva tests for schoolchildren, aged four to 12 as a more comfortable alternative to the nasal swab.

Where can I go to get tested?

RT-PCR test

The cost of the test, as well as requirement for booking an appointment will depend on the testing centre you visit and the health authority operating it.

Dubai Health Authority

Cost: Dh150

Call: 800 342

Seha Abu Dhabi Health Services Company

Cost: Dh85

Call: 800 1717

Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP)

Cost: Free

Call: 800 11111

Test centre locations


• Al Ahli Club

• Al Nasr Club – Oud Metha

• Hamriya

• Majlis Al Rashidiya

• Majlis Al Jumeirah

• Mall of Emirates

• Mirdif City Centre

• Deira City Centre

• City Walk (Seha screening centre)

Some DHA public health centres also provide an RT-PCR test.

However, you would need to contact DHA on 800 342 to find out if the public health centre close to your residence offers the service.

Abu Dhabi

• Zayed Sports City

• Al Wathba Screening Centre

• Al Bahia Screening Centre

• Al Shamkha Screening Centre

• Abu Dhabi Corniche

• Al Ain – Asharij Screening Centre

• Al Dhafra – Madinat Zayed

• Al Dhafra – Ghayathi

• Al Dhafra – Al Mifra

• Al Dhafra – Al Silla

• Al Dhafra – Liwa

• Al Dhafra – Delma


• Golf and Shooting Club

• Al Sajaa Shopping Centre

• A tent in Al Qasimia area, near Al Gharb Police Station and Africa Hall

• Wasit Health Centre

• Sharjah Health Centre

• Lou Aluoayyah Health Centre

• Al Dhaid Health Centre

• Al Qassimi Hospital

• Kuwait Hospital


• Al Jerf 2

• Al Bait Metwahid Hall

Ras Al Khaimah

• Dafan Al Khor centre, near the corniche

• Al Mairid Health Centre

• Al Jazerah Health Centre

• Al Digdagah Health Centre

• Al Rams Health Centre

• Ebrahim Obaidullah Hospital

• Saqar Hospital

• New Abdullah Omran Hospital

• Shaam Hospital

Umm Al Quwain

• Defence Camp

• Al Salama Health Centre

• Falaj Al Mualla Health Centre

• Al Khazan Health Centre

• Al Rafa Health Centre

• Preventive Medical Centre

• UAQ Hospital


• National testing centre, near Fujairah Hospital

• Exhibition Centre

DPI test

Cost: Dh50

Abu Dhabi

• Zayed Sports City

• Abu Dhabi Corniche

Drive-through Laser Screening Centre – Al Fayah Road (Before Ghantoot)


• Port Rashid

• Al Khawaneej


• Sharjah Golf and Shooting Club


• Emirates Hospitality Centre

Ras Al Khaimah

• Dafan Al Khor, near National Screening Centre


• Fujairah Centre, near Fujairah Mall

Al Ain

• Al Hili Wedding Hall