The earliest possible appointment for a rapid COVID-19 laser test that allows people to enter Abu Dhabi on the border without organizing a test elsewhere is on Sunday, August 23, according to the testing center’s website.

Unlike Dubai, anyone who wants to enter the emirate of Abu Dhabi must present a negative coronavirus test at the border.

To help ease the process, authorities established a landmark rapid result COVID-19 testing center on the border at Ghantoot. 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 is now 12:30 a.m. on Sunday, August 23.

That means that anyone wishing to travel to Abu Dhabi from Dubai or the five other emirates of the UAE must organize a coronavirus test at an alternative center before departing for the border.

This could present difficulties as the test must have been taken within 48 hours of the time entering the emirate.

The PCR nasal test offered by most centers is also more expensive than the laser test offered at the border, costing around 370 dirhams ($100) compared to the 50 dirhams ($13) laser test.

Only available for UAE residents, not tourists

The border test is only available for UAE residents as it requires an Emirates ID to register an appointment online.

According to an official from the center who spoke to Gulf News, passports are not accepted – effectively meaning that tourists must get a PCR test as they are not able to register for the border test.

“We do not accept passports when people register for the tests,” Ahmed al-Reyami, supervisor at the facility, reportedly told Gulf News.

Drive-thru testing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a screening centre in Abu Dhabi. (File photo: Reuters)

Al-Reyami also told the news outlet that the requirement to book a test was waived for families over the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha, which took place from July 31 to August 2.

“We are open 24 hours a day, and continue to prioritize families, who do not have to book an appointment online before coming in for the test,” he was quoted as saying.

The drive-thru testing center reportedly carries out approximately 4,000 tests a day using its pioneering DPI laser technique.

The UAE has been one of the leading countries on coronavirus testing and has managed to bring down the daily COVID-19 infection rate to around 200-350 new cases.

On Sunday, the UAE confirmed 239 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, raising the total number of cases to 60,999, of which 54,615 people have recovered.