20200714 abu dhabi border
Abu Dhabi border. Picture for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Gulf News archives

Abu Dhabi: A rapid coronavirus testing facility designed to allow entry into Abu Dhabi emirate was closed on Wednesday as a result of large crowds.

Authorities are developing an online booking system to control crowds while also allowing commuters to take the Dh50 test, a senior health official told Gulf News.

“[On Wednesday], only families and those with medical appointments in Abu Dhabi were tested at the facility at Ghantoot on the Abu Dhabi-Dubai highway. Once the online booking process starts, we will be able to ensure that only a select number of people are at the facility at a time,” the official said.

Speed and efficiency

The facility opened this week as a means to offer quick Covid-19 tests to commuters. Unlike the nasal swab PCR test, the rapid test uses a laser-based technique that detects inflammation in the blood within seconds.

When announcing the opening of the centre, authorities said that people with inflammation will have to take the regular PCR test and await results. They will only be allowed in if they test negative.

The facility saw hundreds queueing up for the rapid test.

The senior official also said that a total of four rapid COVID-19 testing facilities are planned for the highways into Abu Dhabi. These will include two on the Dubai-Abu Dhabi highway and two on the Dubai-Al Ain road.

"Online bookings for the rapid testing centres will only be approved for families, those with medical appointments, and others with pressing family matters. Approvals will not be given for blue-collar workers, tourists or visitors," he added.

Commuters welcome test

Travel to Abu Dhabi emirate has been restricted since May, and authorities have required commuters to show proof of negative Covid-19 status before allowing them in. So far, this has meant taking a Covid-19 test at a health care facility, which is priced at Dh370 per person.

A commuter, who requested anonymity, said he wanted to do the rapid test because it was both quicker than the PCR test and cost much less.

“I need to go to Dubai for some work, but am hesitant to pay the Dh370. I was happy to hear about this cheaper screening, so I hope it will continue to be available,” he said.

Another commuter said he had managed to get the test done on Tuesday morning, but it took three hours.

How it works

The rapid test is developed by QuantLase Imaging Lab, a medical arm of Abu Dhabi-based investment firm, International Holdings Company.

In a press briefing in May, researchers at QuantLase had explained that people need to provide a blood sample for the test. The blood sample is inserted into the device, and laser light is shone onto it. When the light is scattered by cells, interference is used to create patterns on a screen in a process known as Diffractive Phase Interferometry.

Different cells have different signature patterns when exposed to this equipment. Healthy blood cells create clear circular rings, whereas infected blood cells produce a more diffuse pattern. This pattern differs from infection to infection, and can allegedly be refined through the use of AI.

How accurate is it?

Following tests on 6,000 samples in May, QuantLase had announced an 85 to 90 per cent accuracy for the test. It had also said the technology would allow for mass screenings because of its speed.