Coronavirus: Entering Abu Dhabi now requires COVID-19 PCR test before reaching border

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Entering the UAE emirate of Abu Dhabi now requires a COVID-19 PCR test taken within the previous six days in a tightening of restrictions that previously allowed motorists to take a laser DPI test on the border.


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The change means that anyone traveling from Dubai or the UAE’s five other emirates to Abu Dhabi must now prearrange their coronavirus test and plan ahead to ensure the results are valid within six days of visiting the capital.

Read the latest updates in our dedicated coronavirus section.

Abu Dhabi’s Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee announced the new regulations on Tuesday, following a rise in the number of coronavirus cases in the UAE.

Volunteers taking part in the Phase III trials of an inactivated COVID-19 vaccine are exempt from the new requirements and are authorized to use emergency vehicle lanes to ease their travel.

The UAE has generally received praise for its testing program, which frequently tests more than 50,000 people daily in a country with an estimated population of around 9.6 million.

Only 378 people have officially died from the coronavirus in the country, but the daily increase in cases began to rise again in mid-August, reaching 399 new cases on Wednesday.

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The end of Abu Dhabi laser border testing?

Motorists wishing to enter Abu Dhabi can still take a laser DPI test at the border, but only if they also have a PCR test from the previous six days.

The new regulations therefore seem to signal the end of the innovative laser DPI test as a standalone method of screening UAE residents for coronavirus.

Authorities had established a landmark rapid result COVID-19 testing center on the Abu Dhabi border at Ghantoot in July to help ease entry to the emirate.

A drive-thru screening center in Abu Dhabi. (File photo: Reuters)
A drive-thru screening center in Abu Dhabi. (File photo: Reuters)

It was originally possible to be tested on arrival without appointment, but high demand led authorities to change the rules so that a test required pre-booking an appointment via the Ghantoot website, accessible at:

The website quickly became inundated with requests, and by Monday, July 27, the earliest available appointment was August 14. As of Monday, August 3, the earliest available slot had been pushed back to 12:30 a.m. on Sunday, August 23.

The DPI test is far less common than the PCR nasal swab test, which is used globally.

However, the PCR test is significantly more expensive in most centers in the UAE, costing around 370 dirhams ($100) compared to the 50 dirhams ($13) laser test.

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