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Paramedics collect swab samples at a coronavirus drive-through screening station in Dubai. Picture for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: In terms of efforts to combat COVID-19, the UAE is known for its testing record. More than six million tests have been conducted till date, with multiple screening centres established across the country since the outbreak.

The country also leads efforts in mass testing, and Abu Dhabi launched a home screening initiative as early as June 17. In an announcement on social media, the emirate’s public health provider, the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha), and the Abu Dhabi Department of Health, said the aim was to provide people with easy access to screening while also supporting vulnerable residents and the elderly.

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On Tuesday evening, my family and I, like many other Abu Dhabi residents, had the opportunity of being tested in our own home.

Neighbourhood testing

We live in a busy neighbourhood in downtown Abu Dhabi, but have been very careful since the start of the outbreak. We’ve stayed home for the most part, only venturing out to open venues in recent weeks.

The caution is justified, given that my children are still very young — the older turned five this summer, and the younger one turned two last week. We also do not want to risk the health of my parents, who live in the same building and come by every day.

With that being said, my husband, father and I have also gone out for work regularly. And as a result, both the men have been tested for COVID-19 more than once in the past.

Advance notice

We were aware that testing was ongoing in the neighbourhood, and had seen the medical teams at nearby buildings. So it wasn’t surprising when our watchman came by in the late afternoon and told us that our building had been designated for mass testing in the evening.

A short while later, a pair of volunteer workers, accompanied by a member of the Abu Dhabi Police, rang our doorbell and asked how many adults were in the house. We were able to confirm with the policeman that children below 12 years didn’t have to be tested, and were then handed a number of forms to fill with our personal details, including our Emirates ID numbers and passport particulars.

The form also included an undertaking that we would stay in quarantine for 14 days in case we tested positive for COVID-19.

The policeman told us to expect the medical team within the next two hours. This advance notice was indeed helpful, as we were able to get dinner and other evening activities out of the way.

The actual tests

When the doorbell rang again about an hour and a half later, the forms were filled out, and we were ready.

This time, a volunteer collected our Emirates IDs and matched them with our forms. He then directed us to place a chair outside the door, and to wait for the medical personnel to come over. And yes, we were asked to put on face masks.

A medical professional swathed in PPE arrived about 15 minutes later, and asked us to make sure that we were wearing masks. The procedure appeared very simple: we had to sit on the chair, lower the face mask below our nose, close our eyes and tilt our head back. A plastic bag was also handed to each of us, from which the health care worker would extract the personal testing kit.

My husband took the test first. The swab went in and was pulled out, then placed in the plastic bag and kept aside. Then my father went forward.

I was next. As my first COVID-19 nasal swab, it was quick, and offered only the barest tingling sensation.

My mother was tested last, and then we were told to dispose carefully of our masks and to also sanitise the chair that had been used during the testing. And that was it.

Convenient screening

The entire process was over in a matter of minutes, and done in an extremely professional, organised manner. Personally, I was grateful to have had access to free tests in the convenience of my own home.

I am also supremely aware of the efforts of the volunteer teams, and indeed the authorities, who have made testing and staying safe, so easy for us all.

It is Wednesday as I write this. I do not know the test results yet, but am expecting the notification any minute on the Al Hosn app on my phone. And as I think back, I am increasingly more assured that the UAE will soon beat COVID-19 with its valiant efforts.