COVID-19 Testing in the UAE

With two million COVID-19 tests, the UAE has carried out the highest number of coronavirus tests per capita in the world. This mass testing strategy is in line with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines to stop the spread the virus.

What are some frequently asked questions about COVID-19 testing in the UAE:

Who is eligible for free COVID-19 testing?

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Who can ask you to go through COVID-19 testing?

How do you personally request for COVID-19 testing?

What is the Stay Home app?

What is the Al Hosn app?

What happens if you test positive for a Nasal Swab Test?

How do hospitals conduct COVID-19 testing?

What happens to my job if I test COVID-19 positive?


Who is eligible for free COVID-19 testing?

COVID-19 testing is free in the UAE for the following categories:

  • UAE citizens
  • Domestic Workers
  • Pregnant Women
  • People of Determination
  • Elderly people above the age of 60
  • People showing symptoms of COVID-19
  • People in contact with COVID-19 patients

Note: For everyone else, the cost of COVID-19 testing is AED 370.


What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The incubation period of COVID-19 is 2 to 14 days. That means, a person may be infected with the virus but may not immediately show symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of Breath

High-risk populations include the elderly, people who are immunocompromised, as well as those with serious medical conditions.


Who can ask you to go through COVID-19 testing?

Arrival in any UAE Airport: Travellers have to walk through thermal scanners that detect body temperature. If a high temperature is detected, you will be sent to the airport medical staff. They in turn will decide whether to send you to a UAE hospital for COVID-19 testing.

Travel History: If you had recently travelled to a country with a high number of COVID-19 cases (endemic area), you must mandatorily self-quarantine for 14 days. The “Countries of Concern” list includes Germany, France, Italy, China, Iran, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea. This list is subject to change depending on the situation.

Your Employer: Depending on the nature of the industry, the kind of work and the circumstances of the employee, an employer can require you to go through COVID-19 testing mandatorily. If your employer asks you to undergo COVID-19 testing for the safety of the workplace and general public, then he/she should reimburse you for the cost of the test. But there is no explicit mention of such a stipulation in Federal Law No. 8 of 1980. The law only details the role of the employer in screening employees for occupational diseases and checking equipment for preventing accidents. Therefore, employees should take advantage of free government initiatives for COVID-19 testing.


How do you personally request for COVID-19 testing?

COVID-19 Hotlines: If you feel you may have come in contact with a person infected with COVID-19 or start showing symptoms of COVID-19, you can call the COVID-19 Hotlines as well as any public or private hospital for a video or voice consultation. If required, an ambulance with paramedics in protective clothing will be sent to collect you for COVID-19 testing.

COVID-19 Drive-Through Testing Centre: Residents can book an appointment through Dubai Health Authority (800 342) or Abu Dhabi’s Estijaba (800 1717). You will be part of a pre-assessment screening, which will first determine if you need to be tested. Upon booking, you will receive a confirmation text. This text message and your Emirates ID should be presented at the driving-through facility. The nasal swab test test itself takes 5 minutes. Results will be delivered within 24 – 48 hours via SMS, the SEHA app or the DHA app.

COVID-19 Test at Home: This initiative by Avivo Health Group (050 291 9005 / 055 548 8911) is available for Dubai and Sharjah residents. The Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction (rTPCR) COVID-19 nasal swab test will be performed by healthcare workers in the comfort of your home. You will receive the results in 24 hours.


What is the Stay Home app?

The Department of Health Abu Dhabi (DoH) launched the Stay Home app as a public safety measure to ensure that the conditions of the quarantine are not violated. You will also be given an electronic wristband from the testing centre for quarantine compliance.

  • Breaking home quarantine carries a fine of AED 50,000
  • Second breaking of home quarantine carries a prison sentence of upto 6 months and/or a fine of AED 100,000

The Stay Home app tracks the location and movements of people in mandatory home quarantine through the following process:

  • Every person who is asked to self-quarantine at home will be given a username and password to use the Stay Home app
  • The app can be downloaded from Google Play or the Apple Store
  • Once the app is downloaded, access must be granted to camera, media, location, audio and calls
  • The DoH will periodically send notifications requesting the quarantined user to check in
  • The quarantined user has to take a photo via the app to check in
  • The check-in is confirmed with a message “The DoH thanks you for your effort in keeping the country safe”

What is the Al Hosn app?

The Al Hosn app was developed by the Ministry of Health & Prevention (MoHAP), Dubai Health Authority (DHA) as well as Department of Health-Abu Dhabi (DoH), together in collaboration with the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA).

Named after Abu Dhabi’s historic fortress, the Al Hosn app is adapted from the Stay Home app and Trace Covid app. You will also be given an electronic wristband from the testing centre for quarantine compliance.

  • Breaking home quarantine carries a fine of AED 50,000
  • Second breaking of home quarantine carries a prison sentence of upto 6 months and/or a fine of AED 100,000

The Al Hosn app tracks the location and movements of people in mandatory home quarantine through the following process:

  • Quarantined users require their Emirates ID and mobile number to authenticate the Al Hosn app via OTP (one-time password)
  • The app is available in Android and iOS devices, in both Arabic and English
  • Every user has a unique QR code
  • Medical results are delivered directly to your phone. Al Hosn uses color codes to indicate an individual’s health status:
    • Grey: You have no test results currently available
    • Green: You have been tested and you are healthy
    • Amber: You need to be tested or retested due to possible exposure to COVID-19
    • Red: Your most recent test returned positive and you must seek the advice of the local health authority

What happens if you test positive for a Nasal Swab Test?

There are two kinds of action required if you test positive for a nasal swab test:

  • If you are asymptomatic or display mild symptoms as per medical guidelines:
    • You may be asked to self-quarantine at home
    • You may be transferred to a quarantine hotel, a facility that works directly with hospitals
  • If you show moderate, severe or critical symptoms, you will be shifted to a hospital for COVID-19 testing

How do hospitals conduct COVID-19 testing?

A COVID-19 test is more conclusive than a nasal swab. The test involves inserting a long swab into the individual’s throat to collect sputum. Sputum is a mixture of saliva and mucus from the respiratory tract. You will be held in the hospital between 24 to 36 hours till test results arrive.

If the first test is positive, you will be kept in an isolation ward for at least two weeks. If you have children, you will have to find someone else to care for them during this period.

Development of symptoms include:

  • Mild Cases of COVID-19:
    • Bad Flu: 80% of patients
    • Fatigue: 40% of patients
    • Muscle Aches: 35% of patients
  • Severe Cases of COVID-19:
    • Ventilator: 13.8% of patients
    • Intensive Care: 6.1% of patients

At the end of the two weeks of isolation, two more COVID-19 tests will be carried out. Both test results should come out negative before the patient is released.


What happens to my job if I test COVID-19 positive?

The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) and UAE Labour Law clearly outline the procedures for employees who test COVID-19 positive:

  • According to Article 27 of Federal Law 14 of 2014, it is against the law to terminate any employee suffering from a communicable disease.
  • If the employee has worked continuously for three months after their probation period, they are entitled for 90 days of sick leave:
    • First 15 Days: Full Pay
    • Next 30 Days: Half Pay
    • Remaining 45 Days: No Pay

For more information on coronavirus and the UAE Labour Law, click here.

Further Reading

Top UAE Apps to Combat COVID-19

Smart Solutions to Fight COVID-19

Coronavirus Quarantine Hotels in the UAE: All you need to know

Inside Dubai’s Largest Hospital (The Covid19 Clinic)

National Disinfection Programme and Testing for COVID-19