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As I was in the process of renewing my UAE residency visa online, I got a call from my company's HR department telling me that the medical fitness test had been reinstated on Sunday and that I needed to go down to a medical fitness centre in order to process my papers.

HR also told me that out of 18 medical centres in Dubai, only three are offering the physical test: Knowledge Village, Muhisnah and JLT.

At the time I didn't really understand the gravity of his statement; that only three medical centres were doing the fitness test. I never could have imagined just how crowded these testing centres would be until I went to my first one.

Crowds outside medical centre
Little did I know that i would be at the back of a 80 person line of people waiting to get inside the medical centre Image Credit: Yousra Zaki

JLT Medical Fitness Centre

The JLT testing centre was open until 8pm. I thought I would get some work done in the morning, and make my way there by 2pm, which was a good time for me workwise. I had no meetings, all my morning stories were filed.

Getting there, I struggled to find a spot to park, which should have been a telltale sign for me. But I confidently walked up anyways. At the door, the security guard spoke to me. “You should probably come back another day,” he said. “ It is so crowded and we shouldn’t be letting any more people in.”

I decided to take my chances. I came all this way, I might as well try. I made my way upstairs and the place was packed. It had only been one day since they implemented these new rules and the centre was full. I was turned away at the door and told to try again tomorrow.

I decided to go home. By then it was 2.45pm and the Knowledge Village centre had closed, while Muhisnah was too far of a drive for me. I decided I would wake up early and come back the next day to Knowledge Village. 

Knowledge Village Medical Fitness Centre

I got there at 9.30am and the line was overwhelmingly long. “It’s ok. I am sure it will move,” I give myself a positive pep-talk. Doing your medical test during COVID-19 is somewhat different. You have to wear a mask, gloves and you have to maintain social distancing. The usual amount of people are not allowed inside the centre, so the lines are longer than normal.

There were three different lines. Women, men and VIP. VIP customers were being let it first, while the line of women and men were being let in alternatively, whenever the VIP lines were cleared. 

Medical centre line
The line outside of the medical centre extended all the way down the hall Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

It was almost a two-hour wait until I was able to enter the centre and get my blood drawn. At some point, while waiting, a medical worker came out to inform us that the system was down, so we needed to be prepared for an even longer wait. People around me started to get agitated.

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Women lining up outside of the medical center in Knowledge Village

I was prepared to stick around. This was my second attempt at something that normally took me 20 minutes all in all. And I was somewhat prepared - I brought my laptop with me, so I sat on the floor and did some work to pass the time.

When it was finally my turn at the front of the line, a security guard wearing a medical gown, mask and gloves had to let us in one by one. He took our temperature and made sure everyone was wearing gloves.

Once inside, a part of me was expecting to take a COVID-19 test, but it ended up being just a blood test since I was renewing my residency visa.

Most important takeaways:

-Out of the 18 medical fitness centres in Dubai, only three are active for visa renewal, so expect a high volume of people 

-The earlier you go, the higher your chance is of finishing it on the same day. Do not go anytime after noon

- You do not have to do a COVID-19 test

-You do have to do a blood test

-Make sure you wear comfortable clothes and shoes because you will be standing for a long time

-Bring water and a snack