Coronavirus Pandemic

Covid India: UAE expats feel helpless as families back home test positive

Dhanusha Gokulan (Principal Correspondent)/Dubai Filed on April 22, 2021
Photo: AFP

India recorded almost 1.6 million cases in just seven days, bringing the total to over 15 million.

Indian expats in the UAE are worried sick for their loved ones back home as the country sinks into a tragedy of unprecedented proportions. With hospitals in several states running out of beds and the anti-viral Covid drug Remdesivir, UAE residents are frantically reaching out to local social workers for help.

“Many UAE expatriates here have elderly parents back home in India. In some cases, both parents need hospitalisation. They feel completely helpless as travelling to India in the current climate is not an option for many,” said Rahul Tulpule, a Dubai-based businessman and UAE representative of the social outreach group Rescuing Every Distressed Indian Overseas (Redio).

Redio has been flooded with calls over the past week as India recorded almost 1.6 million cases in just seven days, bringing the total to over 15 million.

“Last week, we helped out seven to eight expatriates with families back home. The most common issue is that they cannot find hospital beds, and there is a shortage of Remdesivir. We are connecting the expats with our network of social workers and healthcare workers back home,” Tulpule said.

‘I feel helpless’

One UAE resident has been losing sleep as her entire family tested positive.

“My parents, my brother and his wife are all Covid-positive. While my father is hospitalised and is in the ICU, the rest of the family is home. They all have symptoms like high fever and extreme fatigue,” said S.A., who hailed from the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

Her 64-year-old father has been in the ICU of a Noida hospital for a week now.

“My father tested positive on April 9. He was having fever two to three days before his test returned positive. Initially, the doctors said we could monitor the fever and saturation levels at home. My brother was giving him oxygen at home. However, when his X-ray report returned, it said he needed hospitalisation,” S.A. told Khaleej Times.

S.A., a mother to a baby girl, grew more despondent as she couldn’t be with her family and travelling to India in the current situation has become a challenge.

Breaking down in tears, she said: “My entire family is sick. They are exhausted and finding it very hard to cope. The hospital administration has also said that if my father’s RT-PCR report returns negative, he will have to be discharged from the hospital as they need the beds. He still needs hospitalisation; where will we take him?”

We are trying our best: Social workers

Girish Pant, a social worker in Dubai, said they had been getting several SOS messages and calls not only from the UAE but also from Oman and India. “They are in dire need of medicines, hospital admissions, and oxygen tanks.”

He said most of the calls are coming in from Bangalore, Delhi, and a few calls from other parts of the country. “People are asking for help because they are not able to access medicine and medical services easily. Though I cannot do much sitting here, I’ve been referring them to my contacts in India. The callers and the public are extremely distressed; they are anxious for their loved ones.”

Another challenge that has been emerging are inaccuracies in the information available to the public. Tulpule explained: “Though municipalities in Pune and Mumbai have created digital applications that show available hospital beds, local hospitals are not updating that information, which makes the data flow inaccurate.”

He said that because of this problem, people have to call several hospitals a day searching for a bed. The shortage of Remdesivir is another genuine issue. “We are getting several calls for it. There are only 12 drug manufacturers in India who supply the medicine. It is not enough,” Tulpule said.

A Dubai hospital group with operations in India is stepping up to provide support. Chronically ill patients — especially those requiring transplants and other high-end surgeries in various parts of the country — will be offered the facilities needed for their treatment at Aster MIIMS, Kozhikode, Kerala.

Transportation, including air ambulances services, will be arranged for patients in need, said an official statement from Aster D.M. Healthcare. “We will also provide financial assistance for the needy. The institution has arranged 900 beds for treating Covid-19 positive cases at its flagship Medical college — DM WIMS, Wayanad, Kerala,” the statement read.

The air ambulance services will also be available for patients in Dubai who have to be moved to India. Reach out to Sumesh Nair, Aster D.M. Healthcare: +971 52 9902212 for more details.


Dhanusha Gokulan

Originally from India, Dhanusha Gokulan has been working as a journalist for 10 years. She has a keen interest in writing about issues that plague the common person and will never turn down a human interest story. She completed her Bachelor in Arts in Journalism, Economics and English Literature from Mangalore University in 2008. In her spare time, she dabbles with some singing/songwriting, loves travelling and Audible is her favourite mobile application. Tweet at her @wordjunkie88

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