Panic grips Malayalis in Gulf countries amid coronavirus outbreak

Two Keralites died in Saudi Arabia in recent days, taking the total number of Malayalis dying in the Gulf to five.

Published: 13th April 2020 01:31 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th April 2020 01:31 AM   |  A+A-

Kerala Doctors conducting checkups at Govt Girls Higher Secondary School as part of sanitation drive against coronavirus in Kochi.

For representational purposes (Photo | EPS, A Sanesh)

Express News Service

KOCHI: Manju, a Malayali woman living in Dubai, who is into the seventh month of pregnancy with no medical insurance, has not gone to the doctors for the past two months. In an audio message, she is heard pleading with the officials of Dubai Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC), an organisation for NRIs from Kerala in the Gulf country, to inform her about the resumption of flights to India. “I’m staying in a ‘bed space’ and not with my husband. I have no means to know if flights have resumed. Please help me,” she said in the audio clip. 

Mini Thomas (name changed), a nurse in an Abu Dhabi hospital, said things are not safe. “I work in coronary care unit and there are no positive cases here. But we may be asked to work in Covid unit soon,” she said.

Adding to the panic among the Malayali community is the news on Sunday that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is considering imposing restrictions on work quotas of countries that refuse to accept their nationals who wish to leave the Gulf nation amid the Coronavirus outbreak.

The move comes after a number of nations, including India, didn’t respond to requests from their citizens for repatriation. In the UAE alone, a total of three Keralites have died due to Covid and the situation in Naif is said to be even worse.

Two Keralites died in Saudi Arabia in recent days, taking the total number of Malayalis dying in the Gulf to five. Shabeer Kizhur, chief coordinator, KMCC Help Desk in Dubai, said he gets calls from hundreds of people seeking help to come back to Kerala. He said though the government of Dubai is providing all help, including giving quarantine facilities for the Covid infected persons, no such help was coming from the Union or Kerala governments.

“In Naif alone, we are dealing with 480 Covid cases, out of which 450 are Keralites,” Kizhur told TNIE over the phone from Dubai. “The Kerala government, which went out of the way to bring Thushar Vellappally to Kerala, is only doing lip service,” he said.

KMCC has two major demands. One is to start emergency flights to take the aged, ill and those people who have lost their jobs, besides transporting bodies to Kerala. The second is to get a medical team comprising doctors to the Gulf countries from India. A Malayali doctor, who is working with a hospital in Abu Dhabi, said the Gulf city was doing extensive testing, which the health ministry has stepped up from last week. 

“Quarantine process, the next step, needs lots of infrastructure and involves logistics, which Abu Dhabi is focusing on,” he said. Though the situation in Qatar is not alarming, it’s not reassuring either.

“The rules here are getting stricter every day,” said C Krishna Menon (name changed). “Nearly 200 people are tested positive every day now and most of them are Qataris, including students and diplomats, airlifted from the US and Europe. It’s the situation in other Gulf countries too,” he added. 

Ahmed T (name changed), who is now in Sanaya, said: “I did Covid test when the authorities offered a chance for four people from our building. The result was negative. I’m confined to my room. The Qatar KMCC and Qatar Charity are providing us with all essential items.”

“But we’re all tense because there are many camps with over 2,000 inmates. They share kitchens and toilets, so you can understand,” said Ahmed. The cry for help is sure to get louder also from the other three GCC countries — Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain. Reaching out to them and extending the right sort of help is task the Central and state governments have on their hand. But it is easier said than done. (With inputs from  Abhilash Chandran)

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