Ramadan 2021

Ramadan in UAE: How this PCR-testing nurse who beat Covid is fasting during the holy month

Dhanusha Gokulan (Principal Correspondent)/Abu Dhabi
dhanusha@khaleejtimes.com Filed on April 28, 2021
Supplied photo

An OTP nurse, Shifa S Hameed, doesn’t let the pandemic interfere with her cheerful disposition.

An outpatient nurse with nearly 12 years of experience under her belt, Shifa S Hameed, said she could not fast last Ramadan as she was diagnosed with Covid-19. This year, however, she has been taking multiple diligent steps to ensure that she can fast during the Holy Month as she thanks God for keeping her safe.

Thirty-three-year-old Kerala native, Shifa, has been a registered nurse in the UAE for seven years. However, over the last two years, Shifa’s primary responsibilities have been to collect samples for RT-PCR testing and administering the Covid-19 jab.

An employee of the Burjeel Medical City, Shifa, who always has a cheerful disposition, says she loses count of the number of samples she collects daily. Moreover, being a sample collector for PT-PCR testing means nurses like Shifa are constantly putting themselves at risk. “Our drive-thru centre collects 400 to 500 samples every day. It is hard to keep track of how many samples I collect every day,” she said. For patients who are showing apparent symptoms, samples are collected from an isolated area in the hospital.

The Malappuram-native who is a mother to a daughter studying in Grade 1 and a two-year-old boy, says though the nature of her job poses a severe risk to her family’s health, she remains committed to her profession.

“Our OPD is open from 9am to 10pm. We work in eight shifts. Some days, I work from 8.30am-5pm. During Ramadan, we work for six hours,” she explained. Immediately after her shift, Shifa returns home to start preparing for iftar. “My brother stays with us, and my husband helps me cook. We prepare some things for iftar and break our fast together as a family,” she stated.

“We make snacks, cut fruits, and have juice to break our day-long fast,” she said.

Even before Covid, Shifa has been unable to spend Ramadan with her family. “While studying nursing, I was in the hostel for four years. After that, I worked for another two years while being away from family. It has been 13 years since I spent Ramadan with my family,” she explained.

She hoped to be with family last year as her parents were visiting Kerala; however, the pandemic posed a challenge. “I was diagnosed with Covid during Ramadan last year. Also, my parents were staying with me to help take care of our small children. My husband and I moved out to an alternative apartment. Only once I’d fully recovered, I moved back into my apartment,” she stated. “Fortunately, I only had a fever. Nothing too serious,” she added.

However, this year, Shifa has been diligently undergoing sanitisation routines after her time at work to ensure the limited spread of the virus and observe Ramadan. According to Shifa, the hospital also takes great care to ensure the staff’s Covid-19 exposure is limited.

“We are wearing PPE kits at all times. If a staff shows even the slightest symptoms, we are asked to take a day off work. This limits staff exposure,” she explained.



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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