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 the second phase of schools in 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 association 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 was launched across 25 schools in December, with more than 2,000 students examined. This phase will continue to collect samples from students in private and charter schools across the emirate. The health authorities will select schools as per the investigation's epidemiological needs 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."
According to Al-Hajri, "The saliva collection is easier and more comfortable than the nasal swab for children between age 4 and 12. The new method has been welcomed by students and parents, as well as the teaching staff who supervised students during the testing process."
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. 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."
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 Government of Abu Dhabi's efforts to confront the COVID-19 pandemic, deal with the virus, and limit its spread continue through the initiatives of the National Survey Programme, has resulted in the emirate 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 society segments and apply the highest precautionary standards and preventive measures.