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Al Futtaim group launched a COVID-19 drive through testing centre managed by HealthHub for it’s employees at Festival City in Dubai. PHOTO:Sankha Kar Image Credit: Sankha Kar, Gulf News

Dubai: Responding to the UAE government’s call for the corporate sector to take on some of the burden of testing for COVID-19, Al Futtaim Health is rolling out six drive-thru testing centres offering five-minute in-vehicle tests for thousands of the group’s employees in the UAE and their families.

The first drive-thru station by Al Futtaim Health became operational on March 29 at Dubai Festival City (DFC). Following the screening of their employees, Al Futtaim will open all six centres to the general public where tests will be offered for Dh370, which is the cost price for the test.

All six drive through screening centres to open to general public as well

Elaborating on the centres, Dr Haidar Al Yousuf, Managing Director of Al Futtaim Health, told Gulf News: “The first centre is functional at Festival City and the other five at our Health Hub clinics in Al Ghusais, Discovery Garden, Silicon Oasis, Al Warqa and International City will be functional very soon. We want to do our part in sharing this health care burden at this time of crisis."

He added: "As of now, the Festival City testing centre and others which will open subsequently will cater only to eligible Al Futtaim employees and their families which means the group covers thousands members of the community. Subsequently all the testing centres will open for the general public as well. It is a must that all persons fulfil the online self-assessment on the healthhub website to assess eligibility as per the criteria so that these critical health services are prioritized to those who need them the most”.

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Al Futtaim Group will launch six drive-thru test centres across Dubai Image Credit: Sankha Kar, Gulf News

In addition to the drive thru testing stations the group has converted one of its facilities into a self-isolation and quarantine centre said Dr Al Yousuf.

Who is eligible for the test?

The centre will carry out screening as per the international guidelines issued by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and used by UAE health authorities.

This includes anyone who is symptomatic (Cough or fever or shortness of breath) and has had close contact with a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 case, or a travel history with in the last 14 days.

In addition to these are symptomatic vulnerable groups which include: pregnant women, older people above the age of 65 or with comorbidities such as hypertension, diabetes, cardio vascular diseases or those with a compromised immune system such as cancer and a history of taking immune-suppressants. Also included are those with severe acute respiratory illness.

Will insurance cover the COVID 19 screening test?

Sources from the insurnace industry said that as of now, the COVID-19 screening test was a new investigation and so far insurance companies had not received any communication from the insurance regulatory authority directing them to cover the test costs.

A spokesperson for a leading insurance company explained: “Any check up or investigation has to go through the General Physician and be recommended by the GP to be reimbursed under the mandatory health cover system. But any screening happening without the recommendation of a GP will be considered elective and insurances do not cover elective procedures without prior approval.” He added: “As of now the issue of coverage was still under perusal by the regulatory authority.”

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Initially the Festival City drive-thru test centre will be for employees and family of Al Futtaim staff members, it will eventually open six sites to the public Image Credit: Sankha Kar, Gulf News

Abu Dhabi government’s quick testing initiative

This is a private enterprise. In the meantime, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, has instructed the Department of Health-Abu Dhabi to set up drive-through centres across the UAE to test for Coronavirus “COVID-19,” following the launch of the first such drive-in centre at the Zayed Sports City, Abu Dhabi.

Over the next 10 days, test centres will open in Dubai, Sharjah (which will also serve Ajman and Umm al Qaiwain), Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, Al Ain and Al Dhafra, to provide fast-paced tests for citizens and residents across the UAE using the latest medical technology.

Further information regarding the contact details of the new centres and appointment procedures will be announced ahead of the opening.

The Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA), in collaboration with the Department of Health Abu Dhabi, launched the first drive-through test center at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.