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Unilabs, Pure Health to Screen UAE Visitors for SARS-CoV-2

NEW YORK – European diagnostic services provider Unilabs said on Tuesday that it has partnered with Pure Health to screen visitors to the United Arab Emirates for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Pure Health is a large laboratory network in the Persian Gulf region.

Under the agreement, Unilabs will help test airline passengers flying into UAE to determine if they are infected with the virus. The screening is being undertaken in accordance with a new government program that requires all travelers flying into the Gulf country to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test. Travelers without such certificates will be refused entry to their flights.

Financial and other terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Pure Health is a government partner for the program. Pramodh Nandakumar, head of commercial operations at Pure Health, said in a statement that the network decided to work with Unilabs to "ensure that the screening process is of the highest quality and to ensure excellent customer service for travelers."

Alistair Hammond, head of communications for Geneva, Switzerland-based Unilabs, said in an email that the company is performing real-time PCR tests as part of the collaboration with Pure Health. "In all our locations across Europe, these tests are performed in full compliance with local regulations at accredited labs by qualified staff," he said.

The turnaround time on Unilabs' tests, which are run on nasal swabs, is typically 24 hours from collection to result, though the company commits to providing results within 48 hours as the process and logistics involved in testing can be "quite complex," he said.

Hammond declined to discuss testing volumes in UAE but said that, in general, Unilabs has ramped up capacity to offer more testing across Europe and the Middle East. "We are currently collecting samples in all of our 70-plus units meeting the 48-hour deadline, and we can accommodate growing demand," Hammond said.

Unilabs has set up more than 70 collection centers across Europe for COVID-19 testing. In some markets, the company works with local partners. Unilabs Denmark, the company's Danish subsidiary, is currently taking part in a study led by local researchers that will use antibody tests to determine whether patients have gained immunity to SARS-CoV-2, as well as the extent to which healthcare workers have been exposed to virus at hospitals in and around Copenhagen.