Egyptian expatriate Ibrahim Shehata, a security guard at a popular park in Dubai, checks the temperature of a visitor. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Wearing face mask and holding a thermal gun in his hand, Egyptian expatriate Ibrahim Shehata, 35, a security guard at a popular park in Dubai, stood at the entrance, welcoming everyone — with a temperature check.

It was a Friday evening and a lot people took advantage of the fine weather to take a stroll and stretch their legs in the park. Ibrahim, on the other hand, remained unperturbed by the influx of visitors and asked them to line up as he checked their temperatures one by one.

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“I’m proud of my job,” Ibrahim told Gulf News. “As a security guard, I help the community stay safe from coronavirus (COVID-19). After the government eased movement restrictions and opened parks as well as businesses and shopping centres, people felt more confident to return to their normal lives. But we are not yet coronavirus free and, as a security guard, I know I have a duty to keep people safe from being infected,” Ibrahim said with conviction.

Dubai shopping centre
A security guard monitors a thermal camera at the entrance to a shopping centre in Dubai. Image Credit: Supplied

Ibrahim said security personnel have been educated about the common symptoms of COVID-19 and they’ve been trained on what to do in case they encounter suspected cases.

Careful reminders

“We also remind people to adhere to COVID-19 precautionary measures such as maintaining physical distancing when in public places, wearing face masks and washing hands regularly. As much as possible, we tell them not to gather in big groups,” he added.

Sometimes, however, there are some “hard-headed” people who prefer to defy the rules, don’t wear the masks properly and try to argue when their temperatures are taken. “In such cases, it’s important for us (security guards) to stand our ground and be assertive,” Ibrahim clarified. “If there are language problems and people would ask about the rules, we just point them to the posters printed in Arabic, Hindi, Urdu, English, Filipino and Chinese, detailing all COVID-19 precautionary measures,” he explained. “But so far, I have never encountered any violent reaction from anyone,” he added.

Extra pair of eyes

Most malls, shopping centres and hypermarkets in Dubai, meanwhile, have installed thermal scanners at their entrances to minimise physical contact and streamline the flow of shoppers. But there are still security staff members who check the computer screen and monitor minutely as people enter the premises.

Ganesh, an Indian national who works at one of the hypermarket chains in Dubai, was given this task to keep an eye on the thermal camera images flashed on the screen. He said: “With thermal cameras, individuals with high temperatures, one of the symptoms of COVID-19, are identified quickly. The thermal cameras also minimise physical contact and prevent crowding of people at the entrance.”

Ganesh also explained how a thermal camera works. First, it scans a person’s face. Then, with the help of a computer software, it locates the hottest point on the face and captures the person’s exact body temperature at that, which is then displayed along with a picture of the person on the monitor.

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In addition to measuring temperatures, the scanners also detect if people are wearing their face masks properly. “If someone is not wearing his or her mask properly, we draw their attention and tell them to fix the mask before we let them in,” Ganesh said.

Acting responsibly

Ganesh noted that although there were extra eyes (pertaining to thermal cameras), human observation was still the best way to avert violations of safety guidelines. “We make immediate intervention and we are on hand to keep on reminding people to act responsibly,” he underlined. He added: “Health experts and authorities are still looking for a cure for and prevention from coronavirus. It is therefore very important for people to remain on the guard and strictly follow the safety measures.”