Combating coronavirus: Meet the UAE residents who took time off work to serve at Covid-19 centre in Dubai

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Dubai - Most of the core members have left their homes and taken up staff accommodations on the premises of the facility.

By Saman Haziq

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Published: Fri 24 Apr 2020, 10:21 AM

Last updated: Fri 24 Apr 2020, 2:20 PM

A team of 25 young volunteers form the core crisis management team at the Warsan Covid-19 isolation facility, said to be the largest of its kind in the UAE.
The team members - all from the Kerala state of India and in the age group 30-40 years - have taken time off their respective businesses and work schedules to give their 100 per cent to what they said was the 'nation's call for duty'.
Most of the core members have left their homes and taken up staff accommodations on the premises of the facility in order to be present 24X7 to help or support the Covid-19 positive 'guests', as they call them. These volunteers include IT professionals, businessmen, restaurant owners, people from the logistic field, garage owners and others.
Faizal Muhammed, 32, general manager of a company, said when he received a call on March 26 from the Warsan facility, saying they needed someone to manage the team of volunteers for the crisis management team, he agreed at once.
"When I told my two brothers, who are partners in my company, about this, they initially asked me not to risk my life by exposing to people affected with Covid-19. But after seeing the situation at the facility, both my brothers Fazil and Abdul Latheef, also joined me in volunteering here," said Faizal, who is heading the crisis management team at Warsan.
He said luckily, he had sent back his wife and kids to India when the Covid-19 threat surfaced.  
Faizal said he had burst into tears on his first day at the facility when he saw people being brought to the facility in ambulances.
"Now, We have no fear as this is our duty and we are doing this to please Allah. In fact, the core team that also gets tested regularly for the virus, has decided that if any one of us tests positive, we will get admitted into the same buildings that we are working at and continue to work from inside the building."
Apart from the medical aspect, Faizal and his core team look after the day-to-day management of the Warsan facility which includes maintenance of all the buildings, rooms, catering, air conditioning, Wi-Fi, house-keeping, laundry service etc.
"Initially, when no maintenance company was ready to provide their staff, we used to wear PPE and go to the guest rooms and do all the maintenance by taking help from You Tube videos,"
Faizal said, underlining that their aim is to keep all their guests happy.   
General manager of the crisis management team, Sagheer Poyil,  HR manager with a chain of supermarkets who also owns some restaurants, has also been offering his services at the
Warsan centre for the last 25 days. Poyil has quarantined himself from his wife and children and maintains a safe distance from them after returning home from the facility.  "I have taken off from work and now am devoting most of my time at the facility."
Likening the operations of the centre to that of a five-star hotel, Poyil said: "We are the crisis management team and we don't have any work timings. We have to be present here at the facility to see that our guests are comfortable and happy. We hardly sleep as we can get calls about guests arriving at any time. Then, we have to make arrangements for their rooms and get their personal kits ready."  
He added: "All our guests at the centre have become our family. They all have our numbers and we talk to them regularly just to see they are doing well or if they need anything. We have formed a special bond with all of them and we pray and hope for their speedy recovery."

How the Warsan facility came up
When the Covid-19 pandemic struck the UAE, densely populated areas of Dubai were at higher risk. Swinging into action to help the authorities, a group of Malayali businessmen decided to team up with the Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC) and get a quarantine facility ready to accommodate the affected people.
Al Wasl Properties then donated their upcoming staff accommodation compound for the purpose and an army of KMCC volunteers swung into action, forming a crisis management unit.
A source at the Warsan facility, said: "A set of under-construction staff accommodation buildings at Warsan neighbourhood, owned by Al Wasl Properties, were transformed into a fully-furnished Covid-19 isolation centre overnight. It was the help of a visionary Emirati official Hareb Al Falasi, that made it possible to get the required approvals from the authorities."
"Furnishing 26 buildings seemed like an impossible task, but was made possible when a number of volunteers worked hard. Within three to five days the buildings were furnished with beds, air conditioning, WiFi and other fittings," the source said.
The Dubai Health authority (DHA) then moved in with their medical expertise and appointed their best soldiers to lead from the front.
A group of nine volunteer doctors along with 27 volunteer nurses, headed by Dubai doctor Dr Zakir K Mohamed, came on board to receive the first set of patients.
"Soon, an army of DHA expertise flowed into the campus with state-of-the-art medical care facilities. All buildings are managed by the DHA, that provides everything from food to medicines, from Personal protective equipment (PPE) to medical waste management systems," the source said.
Explaining how different medical teams are manning the various buildings at the facility, the source said that the medical professionals of each building are assigned to various entities under DHA supervision. 
"The volunteer doctors under the KMCC umbrella took up the first six buildings, followed by the Pakistan Association Dubai that joined hands to support one building with its set of volunteers.  Aster, NMC and Indian Consulate are managing medical care for one building each, and other buildings have sponsors from business groups like Jaleel Holdings, Malabar Gold and Madina Supermarket," he said.

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