NRI families worst-affected in the Gulf

Lack proper living space, medical care add to pandemic woes

K. Rafeek, a 42-year-old software developer in Dubai and residing in the neighbouring emirate of Sharjah, the UAE, is still convalescing from COVID-19 at his apartment. But now his homemaker wife is suspected of having contracted the disease though she had subjected herself to self-isolation in their two-bedroom flat.

Their two children, aged 12 and 8, have also been quarantined in one of the rooms. “Only after three days surviving on paracetamol and antibiotics prescribed through phone by a doctor, a neighbour took her for a test. We are awaiting the results,” Mr. Rafeek said.

The family, like other apartment residents, have been beseeched to stay indoors after an occupant tested positive for COVID-19 . “We have no option but to maintain communication via telephone or social media apps. We depend on neighbours and online stores to get groceries. Violators of preventive and precautionary measures are heavily fined in the range from Dh500 to Dh50,000,” he said.

In Saudi Arabia, offenders of quarantine rules could be fined up to 200,000 riyals and face up to two years in prison, while those found to have intentionally spread the virus could face a fine of up to 500,000 riyals and up to five years in prison.

The pandemic in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations are giving a tough time to expatriates, especially Non-Resident Indian (NRI) families with schoolgoing kids. “Online classes have resumed in the Gulf nations. But many have no choice but repatriate their spouses and children back home after companies furloughed employees,” said Sujith Nair, a resident in Bahrain, where only bars, clubs and gyms are closed.

Most GCC nations are battling COVID-19 cases. The UAE has so far reported 35,788 cases with 269 deaths, Saudi Arabia 89,011 cases with 549 fatalities, Qatar 60,259 cases with 43 deaths, Kuwait 28,649 with 226 deaths, Oman 12,799 cases with 59 deaths and Bahrain 11, 871 cases and 19 fatalities.

Non-Resident Keralites sharing bed-space in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Qatar are coping with the new normal of physical distancing. “But it is a medical predicament when a person has contracted the virus. Testing for COVDI-19 is a laborious procedure. However, many prefer to go for paid testing and get hospitalised. Only a few companies reimburse the expenses,” Tommy Rozario, a structural engineer, said.

The situation is alarming at the labour camps in the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait despite the health authorities working hard to deal with the pandemic. Oman has already cautioned its residents that loosening of restrictions did not mean the end of the outbreak.

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Printable version | Jul 10, 2020 9:27:12 AM |

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