Those who have tested positive too are asked to stay home as government hospitals don’t have beds & private hospitals are too costly
Migrant workers, mainly from India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), are desperately looking for vacant flats as they want to house their COVID-19 positive friends and those who have symptoms.
“As the number of patients who are getting infected is going up, here in UAE, what we understand is that there is a shortage of beds in government hospitals. Government is telling patients who have been tested positive and those who have symptoms to wait in their own flats, where others also staying,” an Indian social worker from Kerala, told The Lede over the phone from Dubai.
“So to accommodate them, we are looking for flats,” he added.
The latest statistics reveal that on Monday, the UAE has confirmed 277 new cases of COVID-19, taking the total to 2076 cases.
During a media briefing on Monday, Dr Farida Al Hosani, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Prevention, the total number of deaths due to COVID-19 is 11.
According to the Indian social worker, if somebody has a symptom, then s/he has to go to a government testing centre and provide the swab.
“After 48 hours, the results will be provided online. If the result is positive, the patient has to call the government hospital and then seek admission. The hospital will send an ambulance and pick him. This is what was happening. Now, unfortunately, citing bed shortage in government hospitals, they are telling patients to wait or stay at home quarantine,” the Indian social worker said.
“Two days ago, we had a COVID-19 positive patient. He was told to wait at home for 48 hours. But after 48 hours, when the patient called, the officials asked him to come to a point. He did it. But the officials didn’t turn up. Now, when we call, police officials are saying stay at home. A few tablets have been given that is it,” the Indian social worker said.
In the Arab Gulf countries, the accommodation of migrant workers is congested and unhygienic too. Most of them share accommodation. A room that is meant for five people has at least 10 occupants.
On March 05, The Lede had reported that migrant workers were staying in unhygienic and congested accommodation which is a severe risk factor of COVID-19 outbreak.
Meanwhile, the social worker said that private hospitals in the UAE have been roped in to admit and test COVID-19 cases.
“However, there are certain issues there. If we go to a government hospital, then we don’t have to pay for anything. But if we go to a private hospital, if we don’t have insurance, then the patient has to pay huge bills. That is why patients who are even tested positive, stay back in rooms to avoid a hospital bill,” the social worker said.
The Lede has seen a medical bill of an Indian woman who was admitted to a hospital in UAE as there was no bed in the government hospital when she had COVID-19 symptoms.
“I went to a government hospital. They didn’t have a bed. So I was sent to the private hospital. I had told the hospital they are not listed in my insurance card scheme. But they didn’t tell me anything. I was admitted and tests were done. And finally, they found that I am COVID-19 negative. But the bill was Rs 3.5 lakh. I didn’t have any money. My company told me to surrender my Emirates ID and leave the hospital,” the Indian woman told The Lede.
Emirates ID is a mandatory document required to stay in UAE.
“Now, I am running from pillar to post to get back my ID. I have requested the Indian MEA to help me,” the Indian woman said.
The first confirmed case of COVID-19 was announced on January 29 in UAE. It was the first country in the Middle East to report a confirmed case. The first patient, a 73-year-old Chinese woman, was released on February 09 after recovering. The first two deaths were confirmed on March 20. And on March 22, Dubai started an 11-day sterilisation campaign as an effort to contain the Coronavirus. A night curfew was imposed on March 26 while the country began disinfection.
After putting certain areas under lockdown, the Emirati government announced a two-week lockdown on April 05 to contain the COVID-19 spread.
The government has also announced a two-week, 24-hour sterilisation campaign in Dubai emphasising that residents have to stay at home and anyone violating the restrictions will face stringent legal action.
In coordination with the Emirati government, Asian social workers in UAE are also reaching out to migrant workers.
Unfortunately, Naseer Vatanappally, an Indian social worker who has been offering his service for about three weeks, tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday.
Naseer had been actively involved in supporting residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 and their primary and secondary contacts.
Talking to Gulf News, Naseer said that he thinks that he was not careful enough in the initial days.
“I didn’t wear a mask or gloves when I rushed to help,” Gulf News quoted him as saying.
According to social workers, if Naif, a COVID-19 hotspot in Dubai – where Keralites were residing – has been locked down entirely, other areas like Al Qusais may also be locked down as more cases are being reported from there.
Meanwhile, a Pakistani worker told The Lede that they are also affected badly.
“It is quite hard for us to get accommodation. Mainly, we are bachelors here. Only a few live here with family. 99% are bachelors. It is very hard to get a flat for quarantine,” the worker said.
The same is the case of Nepali and Bangladeshi workers too, who are mainly employed in low paid jobs.
In UAE, around 8 million migrant workers are making up more than 80% of its population, according to the International Labour Organization.
The majority of the migrant workers are low paid and live in congested and unhygienic accommodation increasing the risk of COVID-19 community transition stage.