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Abu Dhabi rolls out COVID-19 Saliva Test in more schools across emirate

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ABU DHABI, 3rd January, 2021 (WAM) — As part of ongoing efforts to effectively and successfully contain the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Government of Abu Dhabi has rolled out saliva testing for children to a second phase of schools in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

The steps were taken as part of the Department of Health and Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre’s strategic commitment to study and develop rapid testing methods that will supersede the COVID-19 nasal swab tests that may be uncomfortable for young school students and their families.

The saliva Polymerase-Chain-Reaction (SPCR) test is considered an innovative and reliable test, whose results are produced fast and accurately in a period ranging between 6 and 12 hours from the time of sample collection.

The Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre, in cooperation with the Department of Education and Knowledge and Biogenix Labs, a company of G42 Healthcare, completed phase one of saliva tests in October.

Saliva Polymerase-Chain-Reaction (SPCR) tests for COVID-19 were conducted in the Al Rabeeh School in Abu Dhabi for students between 4 and 12 years of age, after obtaining parental consent. During this phase, 447 saliva samples were collected, and the results of the collection and examination process were successfully verified.

The second phase has been launched across 25 schools in December with more than 2,000 students examined so far. This phase will continue to collect samples from students in private and charter schools across the Emirate selected by the health authorities as per the epidemiological needs of the investigation, and in coordination with the Department of Education and Knowledge.

Biogenix Labs is well-prepared to execute testing operations during the second phase and has the capacity to process 30,000 saliva Polymerase-Chain-Reaction (SPCR) tests per day.

The SPCR test has a high degree of accuracy and involves fewer steps, with saliva being collected in a sterile container that does not require special preservatives, temperature controls, or additional containers.

Dr. Omniyat Al-Hajri, Director of the Community Health Department – Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre, said: “In line with the continued efforts of the Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre and the Department of Health to research and apply the latest scientific developments with regard to COVID-19 examinations and responding to the pandemic, and in the interest of providing easy, comfortable and reliable services, we have been using a new method for collecting testing samples since the beginning of October, which is done through saliva collection instead of a nasal swab. Our experience has shown that saliva collection is easier and more comfortable than the nasal swab for the age group between 4 and 12 years old, and the new method has been greatly welcomed by both students and parents as well as by the teaching staff who participated in supervising the students during the testing at school.”

Dr. Tariq Al Ameri, Director of the Licensing and Education Compliance Department at the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge, added: “The health and safety of the school community in Abu Dhabi remains our top priority, and in line with our efforts to continue maintaining a healthy environment in Private and Charter schools in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, we were keen to conduct periodic COVID-19 checks for all school personnel as of the beginning of the academic year, while requiring all students over the age of 12 to submit a negative test result before returning to school.”

He added: “We cooperated with the Department of Health and the Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre to support the initial launch of a saliva test for COVID-19, as an alternative to the nasal swab test that may be difficult to perform for younger students. Parents of students under the age of 12 can now choose for their children to take the saliva test instead of having a nasal swab when they need to conduct a COVID-19 examination as part of the health screening procedures in the designated areas at the schools.”

Commenting on the test, Ashish Koshy, G42 Healthcare, CEO, said: “We are very pleased to have the support from the Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre and the Department of Education and Knowledge to provide this innovative testing service for schools in Abu Dhabi. The primary goal during the COVID-19 pandemic is to keep students safe as they return to school, and to restore the normal course of life for students and their families.”

The CEO added: “The saliva PCR test is considered child-friendly as it does not cause any discomfort. The test is very convenient and is faster than the nasopharyngeal polymerase-chain-reaction test, which makes it a good alternative to other tests. Regular COVID-19 checks have become a part of our lives, and we at G42 Healthcare and Biogenix Labs are eager to continue advancing additional innovation in COVID-19 testing for the wider community.”

The efforts of the Government of Abu Dhabi to confront the COVID-19 pandemic, to deal with the virus, and to limit its spread continue through the initiatives of the National Survey Programme, has resulted in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi successfully continuing to maintain a low percentage of confirmed cases per total tests conducted. The concerned authorities will continue their efforts to provide testing for all segments of society and to apply the highest precautionary standards and preventive measures.