Coronavirus Pandemic

Combating coronavirus: How UAE is ensuring the safety of blue-collared workers

Dhanusha Gokulan (Principal Correspondent)/Abu Dhabi/Dubai Filed on April 15, 2020 | Last updated on April 15, 2020 at 08.37 pm
Covid-19, combating, coronavirus, UAE, ensuring, safety, blue-collared, workers

(Supplied photo)

Massive efforts are on to distribute several thousands of hot food packets and sanitisation kits to workers.

Local authorities, charities and community welfare organisations are working round the clock to ensure that food and other necessary supplies are being given to blue-collared workers across the UAE.

Massive efforts are on to distribute several thousands of hot food packets and sanitisation kits to workers who have been impacted by the Covid-19 related shutdowns. Furthermore, healthcare provider Right Health and Al Futtaim Health's HealthHub are in the process of screening 50,000 workers this month.

Safety measures in labour accommodations

Labourers at accommodations across the country are being screened twice a day as part of the precautionary measures taken by the UAE to curb the spread of coronavirus according to a ministerial resolution issued on March 29. "The resolution number 281 issued by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation in Abu Dhabi stated that screening points at entrances of labour accommodations must be provided," said Emirati lawyer Awatif Mohammed Khouri of Al Rowaad Advocates.

"This move is to check the temperature and other symptoms of the virus twice a day - in the morning before workers leave, and once again upon their return to the accommodation," Khouri noted.

She pointed out that as per the decision, transporting workers from and to labour accommodations will also be subject to precautionary measures. "The number of workers in a vehicle is not to exceed 25 per cent of the vehicle's seating capacity to ensure a safe distance between them," she explained. Mealtimes will also see fewer workers in canteens, with a minimum of two metres separating each other, the decision stated.

Dar Al Ber distributes 122,000 food packs

Juhi Yasmeen Khan, CSR and charity initiative expert at the Dar Al Ber Society, told Khaleej Times that a total of 122,000 hot meal packets were distributed to labour accommodations in the Sonapur, DIP, Jebel Ali and Al Qouz areaa over the past four weeks.

"We are distributing 9,250 hot meal packs to the workers every day. We are supplying breakfast, lunch and dinner," said Juhi. The charity organisation is also supplying sanitiser kits to the workers in need. Juhi said the charity organisation has created its own supply chain, where caterers provide the food to the supervisors of the accommodations, who then distribute it to the workers."

The charity has tied up with three catering companies who are providing food to workers. Meals are also being distributed to low-income families in the Naif and Al Ras areas.

Furthermore, hygiene kits, consisting of soaps, dishwashing powder, toothpaste, toothbrush, 500ml hand sanitiser and masks are being distributed to workers and quarantined patients in these areas. "A total of 10,000 sanitisers and masks have gone to workers so far," she said.

Wholesale traders jump in to help

Mohamad Siddique, director of Mellow Trading, has provided supply kits worth Dh250,000 to the needy in the UAE. "We are a company that is into foodstuff business, and we work in partnership with the Emirates Red Crescent and a few other charities." Siddique said with the help of the same network and through word-of-mouth, he was able to reach out to affected families and workers communities.

"We have been providing ration to families for an entire month. The ration includes - rice, two types of dals and cooking oils," he said.

50,000 workers are being screened

A massive initiative has been launched by healthcare provider Right Health and Al Futtaim Health's HealthHub to screen 50,000 workers for Covid-19 within a month.

"The chances of spread are higher among blue-collar workers as several of them stay together in one room and, therefore, are unable to practise social distancing," said Jayan Krishna Pillai, CEO of Right Health.

Out of the 58 facilities across the UAE, 33 primary health centres of the Right Health are located at the workers' accommodation areas in Jebel Ali, Sonapur and Al Qouz.

Dr Haider Al Yousuf, managing director of Al Futtaim Health, said: "This partnership is focusing on the early identification of infection, isolation and contact tracing to flatten the curve and reduce the rate of infection. This initiative will support the nation's strategy to slow down the spread of Covid-19 at a greater level."

Initiatives in Abu Dhabi

In Abu Dhabi, since late March, medical professionals are going the extra mile to create awareness about the risks of the pandemic among blue-collar workers in the industrial area of Mussafah.

Doctors at hospitals and clinics are following the guidelines issued by the health authorities and disseminating right information to every worker in their native languages.

Workers have become more hygienic, health-conscious and mindful about their surroundings, said Dr Baiju Faizal Puthenkote, specialist internal medicine, Lifecare Hospital, which is adjacent to the Worker's Village. "The workers are more aware now. Earlier, they were worried about every migraine, abdominal and respiratory problems as Covid-19 symptoms. So, we counselled workers on the actual symptoms," said Dr Puthenkote, in an earlier interview with Khaleej Times. The hospital disseminates information in Hindi, Urdu, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu languages as most workers are from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and India. 


Dhanusha Gokulan

Originally from India, Dhanusha Gokulan has been working as a journalist for over ten years. For Khaleej Times, she covers NRI affairs, civil aviation, and immigration issues among other things. She completed her BA in Journalism, Economics and English Literature from Mangalore University in 2008 and is currently pursuing her MA in Leadership and Innovation in Contemporary Media at the American University in Dubai. In her spare time, she dabbles with some singing/songwriting, loves food, and is mom to an over-enthusiastic Labrador retriever. Tweet at her @shootsprintrite.

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