India Covid crisis: Stranded UAE expats must wait patiently, says envoy

Dubai - Expats are stuck, as the UAE extends flight suspension from India till further notice.

By Anjana Sankar

Published: Wed 5 May 2021, 2:50 PM

Last updated: Wed 5 May 2021, 2:58 PM

Indians, who are currently stranded back home because of a sudden explosion of Covid-19 cases, must wait it out patiently until the flight suspension to the UAE is lifted, and “respect the government’s decision to save lives”, the Indian envoy to the UAE told Khaleej Times.

Thousands of expatriates, who travelled to India for work, holiday and medical emergencies, are stuck after UAE authorities announced an initial 10-day ban on passenger flights from India starting April 24 midnight.

The suspension of entry for travellers from India was to have ended on May 4, but the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) has extended it till further notice.

The announcement comes amid India touching a grim milestone of 20 million Covid-19 cases as of Tuesday, May 4.

“These decisions are taken by health and government authorities keeping the safety of people’s lives in mind. That is of paramount importance, and that is what governments are trying to do,” Pavan Kapoor, Indian ambassador to the UAE, told Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview.

“We certainly respect the UAE government’s decision in this regard.”

Asked whether there is an indication on when the flights from India would resume, the ambassador said he is working with the UAE government on this.

“We will continue working with them and, whenever it is time and they are adequately comfortable, I’m sure they will look at reopening flights,” he said.

However, flights are going from the UAE to India, he pointed out. “The supply chains are open. So, the air space is technically open,” he added.

Regarding the restrictions on Indians to fly to the UAE, the envoy said it is a matter of “health and safety measures”.

“They will have to be patient. As and when the situation permits, they will be heading back to the UAE,” he said.

Thousands of panic-stricken Indians returned to the UAE just before the flight suspension came into effect on April 24 midnight. Many paid over Dh5,000 for a one-way ticket — several times the usual cost.

But many still could not make it. Madhav Menon, an expatriate currently in his native Kerala, told Khaleej Times that he had gone to India for his annual leave and was supposed to return on April 28.

“I landed on March 25 and was preparing to go back on April 28. I rescheduled my flight to May 6 and rescheduled it again to May 15. With this indefinite suspension, I don’t know what to do. My job is at stake,” said a worried Menon.

Sanjeev Kumar, another expatriate who is currently in Mangalore, said he is worried about his housing rents. “It will be a huge financial strain on many if we get stuck here. We have to meet the mounting expenses here and also continue to pay rents in Dubai.”

Kumar said he flew to Mangalore on April 15 for a 10-day holiday with his family. “This was the least expected,” he said.

KT photo: Juidin Bernarrd
KT photo: Juidin Bernarrd

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