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Visitors being scanned at the entrance of Al Wahda Mall in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Samihah Zaman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The introduction of a new scanning system to screen visitors at Abu Dhabi’s malls has been roundly greeted by residents, who say the new COVID-19 preventive measure is both effective and convenient.

The EDE scanners, as they are known, went into use yesterday across a number of malls in Abu Dhabi, after a pilot testing phase at the emirate’s Ghantout border, entry and exit points to Musaffah area, and certain public locations on Yas Island. They are an addition to the rapid testing measures introduced in Abu Dhabi to ensure that residents are as safe as possible from being exposed to COVID-19 and offer an added layer of protection.

Abdullah Khamis

“I have had to get my PCR test done very frequently and these EDE scanners are very welcome. I don’t visit malls often, but my family members do. I can rest assured that their risk of exposure to COVID-19 will be reduced because every one who enters a mall has first been screened for COVID-19,” Abdullah Khamis, 60, an Emirati businessman, told Gulf News while out at Al Wahda Mall.

Khamis added that he hoped such COVID-19 screening technology would soon be available to everyone.

Risk of spread

“My wife and I both had COVID-19 earlier and we were almost asymptomatic. Given the new variants of the virus, additional protection is very good. Otherwise, it may spread very quickly and silently,” said Dalibor Mirkovic, 37, a personal trainer from Serbia.

Dalibor Mirkovic

Mirkovic has since been vaccinated and he said he greatly appreciated the multiple preventive measures implemented in Abu Dhabi.

Leena Awadh, a 34-year-old entrepreneur from Palestine, had a similar opinion.

EDE Scanners
EDE Scanners Image Credit: Vijith Pulikkal

“Honestly, everything the UAE is doing to keep us safe is very welcome. I come to the malls daily as part of the work I do, and these measures help me feel safe despite interacting with so many people,” she said.

Worker safety

Marissa Nalidong, 36, feels safer at work — thanks to the EDE scanners. “I am a customer sales representative at the mall and work closely with lots of people every day. Knowing that everyone I come into contact with is not infected is a relief,” the Filipina said.

Marissa Nalidong

D.M., a mother-of-one from Egypt, said she hadn’t been vaccinated yet. “I am expecting and cannot get the COVID-19 vaccine now. I do visit malls to shop, with my three-year-old in tow. Now I am less worried about COVID-19 risks because of the new scanners,” she said.

Easy implementation

Mayank Pal, general manager at Khalidiyah Mall, said the EDE scanners had been provided by government authorities. Mall personnel had also been trained to use them before they were introduced.

“The new scanning system is very easy to operate and provides results in a second. There is, therefore, no need to queue while entering and the first two days of operation have been very comfortable. Moreover, because we manage the device as the mall authority, there is no onus on the visitor,” he said.

At the Abu Dhabi Mall, part of the Abu Dhabi Trade Centre, more than 19,000 visitors and contractors were welcomed on Sunday.

“We were able to roll out the devices at multiple entrances and the process was very smooth. Of course, we did have to explain what was happening to some visitors, but everyone was willing to comply,” said Salim Abdul Khadir, facilities manager at Abu Dhabi Trade Centre.

Multi-pronged screening

The EDE scanners are also currently being used for screening at some residential areas and at all land and air entry points to Abu Dhabi emirate. In addition to EDE scanners, thermal scanners, DPI testing and PCR testing are also being used widely to screen residents, workers and visitors in the emirate.

Authorities have also announced that public venues in Abu Dhabi will only allow entry to those vaccinated against COVID-19 from August 20 onwards.

How the scanners work

The new scanning system was developed by EDE Research Institute Abu Dhabi, which is part of the International Holding Company (IHC).

It uses a smartphone, with a dedicated app, that is linked to a sensor. The sensor has to be placed within a metre of the phone.

The technology detects possible COVID-19 infections by measuring electromagnetic waves, which change when the RNA particles of the virus are present in the person’s body. Results are therefore provided within seconds of scanning an individual.

The screen turns green to show that the person is healthy, whereas an alert in red appears to indicate a possible COVID-19 infection. If this happens, the individual is refused entry, and asked to take a free, mandatory PCR test within the next 24 hours.

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Pilot phase

According to the Department of Health (DoH), the emirate’s health regulator, more than 20,000 people were tested during the pilot phase. The scanners proved to be 93.5 per cent sensitive, which reflected the accuracy of the device at detecting infected individuals. They were 83 per cent accurate at detecting those who did not have COVID-19.

“The use of the EDE scanning system is part of this strategy and reflects the leadership’s vision in harnessing modern technology to create solutions that turn challenges into opportunities. We are pleased to add EDE scanning technology made in Abu Dhabi to the precautionary measures, helping create safer areas and maintain public health. The EDE scanners will be used alongside other approved testing methods, such as PCR and DPI,” Dr Jamal Al Kaabi, the DoH undersecretary, said.