UAE fights coronavirus with largest detection lab outside China

The health ministry has carried out over 220,000 tests for COVID-19 across the country, the second highest test density in the world.
Wednesday 01/04/2020
A medical professional carries out a swab test for the COVID-19 virus at a drive-thru testing centre in Abu Dhabi, UAE, on March 30. (Reuters)
A medical professional carries out a swab test for the COVID-19 virus at a drive-thru testing centre in Abu Dhabi, UAE, on March 30. (Reuters)

LONDON – The United Arab Emirates has opened a huge laboratory in Masdar City, Abu Dhabi, built in just 14 days to process tens of thousands of daily coronavirus tests in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The laboratory will enable a rapid response to the coronavirus outbreak by accelerating the diagnosis and identification of suspected cases, the release of recovered patients, and the screening of close contacts and high-risk groups, according to a joint announcement on Tuesday by genomics company BGI and Group 42 (G42), the leading technology company based in Abu Dhabi.

The detection lab, which is the first of its kind to operate on such a scale outside China, will significantly help free up needed hospital beds across the Gulf Arab state and curb the spread of the deadly virus faster.

"This high throughput lab provides the scale and firepower to enable all people in Abu Dhabi and the UAE to access the most reliable PCR tests, which are also provided by G42 in partnership with BGI. We thank the UAE leadership's support in protecting the health and wellbeing of the country's residents against this pandemic," said G42 President Peng Xiao.

“In such challenging times, we feel compelled to leverage our expertise, technological resources and international partnerships to bring rapid, accurate testing capabilities on a massive scale and bolster the detection efforts led by authorities,” added Xiao.

The UAE will have the most tests in the world per capita thanks to the new processing capacity, which will initially prioritise testing within the country.

The Gulf Arab state could eventually receive samples from neighbouring regions, according to state news agency WAM.

The facility will run a type of test known as Real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, or RT-PCR.

It is the only RT-PCR test that has been approved by health authorities in China, Europe, the United States and by the World Health Organisation.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention announced Sunday they had carried out over 220,000 tests for COVID-19 across the country, the second highest test density in the world.

A network of drive-through testing centres is being set up across the country, with the first already running in Abu Dhabi, as each of them will carry out 600 daily tests.

Thousands of labourers are being screened twice a day as part of the UAE’s preventive measures and a mass COVID-19 mass screening programme to contain the spread of coronavirus, according to a ministerial resolution issued on March 29.

Health authorities said they have rolled out a mass COVID-19 screening programme for as many as 200,000 labourers across the Northern Emirates.

The UAE announced on Tuesday 53 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 664.

This article was first published on Middle East Online