20200902 covid tests
A COVID-19 testing centre. Picture for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: WAM

Dubai: Several healthcare facilities in the UAE are bracing to meet the rush for testing by home-bound Indian expats after India made pre-departure negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test report mandatory for all passengers, including infants.

The new rule came into effect on Tuesday.

According to figures released by the Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation, around 2,500 to 3,000 passengers are currently flying daily from the UAE to India.

Aster to open drive-through testing centre

Dr. Sherbaz Bichu

Dr. Sherbaz Bichu, CEO, Aster Hospitals and Aster Clinics, UAE, said, “We are increasing the capacity in each centres. We are planning to have 24x7 COVID test facilities and we are also opening a drive-through facility in our hospital Aster Cedars in Jebel Ali in a couple of days.”

He said the group had already planned to set up the drive-through testing facility in view of the increase in testing requirements in the country. “We were expecting it because the [requirement for] test was increasing. The India rule has made it much faster. It is going to decongest the rush. We wanted to avoid crowding. When people don’t have to get out of their car for testing, it is also more convenient for them. There is less risk for exposure,” said Dr Bichu, who is also a specialist anesthetist.

He said the group continues to offer PCR test at Dh150, the testing cost capped by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) for both adults and children including infants.

NMC to offer discount for kids

Another healthcare group in the UAE, NMC Healthcare, said it would be offering a discount for testing kids below 16 years as India has made it mandatory for all the passengers including infants to be tested negative within 72 hours before their journey.

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“NMC Medical Centre, Sharjah with over nine branches spread across the emirate has the largest testing facility, with expert doctors and staff members to do PCR tests for all age groups. We are open seven days a week from 9am to 9pm and deliver reports in 24 to 36 hours,” the group said in a statement to Gulf News. Pointing out that the PCR test done with nasal or oral swab is sensitive for children, the group said all NMC branches have kept specialist pediatricians who can deliver expert care.

“Beyond the expert care and service, NMC Medical Centres in Sharjah are also offering a special PCR test price of Dh120 for children under 16 years of age. The service and offer are valid at NMC Ajman and NMC Ras AL Khaimah branches as well. People can call 600555669 for more information,” the statement added.

Medeor to extend timings

Dr Rohit Kumar, medical director of Medeor Hospital in Dubai, which is under VPS Healthcare, said the number of COVID-19 tests done every day has increased tremendously in the last few months.

Dr Rohit Kumar

“There have been many reasons. Firstly, more people have been visiting hospitals to get tested for COVID-19. Secondly, many organisations have asked their employees to get a COVID-19 negative report every two weeks. This has been initiated by various companies to check the spread of infection within the organisation. Now, with the Indian government making it mandatory that all people flying to their home country should get a COVID-19 test, the demand is likely to surge by considerable numbers. However, all our hospitals across the emirates are fully equipped to handle the situation. We have been conducting hundreds of tests daily and providing the result before 24 hours.”

On the manpower front, he said the group has hired a number of nurses in the last few months to meet the current requirements.

“There are staff who have been hired for the smooth functioning of the vaccination drive. Similarly, we have a team of nurses at our hospitals to facilitate COVID-19 tests. Also, the hospitals have increased the timing of COVID-19 test centres. We will be functioning for a couple of hours more than the usual timings,” he added.

Both Aster and NMC said their testing centres are testing infants as young as two to three months old. Medeor is yet to start the service for testing infants.