'Feels like Covid era abroad': How UAE travellers can stay safe as virus cases spike in India, US, UK

From wearing face masks to keeping hands clean, UAE doctors list safety measures that can help prevent infection


SM Ayaz Zakir

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Top Stories

People wearing face masks in the Indian city of Bangalore on December 20 after cases of Covid-19 sub-variant JN.1 were detected in the country. — Photo: PTI
People wearing face masks in the Indian city of Bangalore on December 20 after cases of Covid-19 sub-variant JN.1 were detected in the country. — Photo: PTI

Published: Fri 22 Dec 2023, 4:14 PM

Last updated: Sun 24 Dec 2023, 3:18 PM

Abu Dhabi resident G Sahany and his family were excited to spend the holidays in the Indian city of Kolkata, but as they explored from one place to another, they found themselves in a state of déjà vu: People were wearing face masks and frequently rubbing their hands with sanitisers.

"It feels like Covid era all over again," Sahany, 42, said. “It is kind of scary that the virus is rearing its head again."

Aware of the Covid-19 situation in India, Sahany and his family are taking all preventive measures to stay safe.

Stay up to date with the latest news. Follow KT on WhatsApp Channels.

“It’s always better to be safe than sorry and be prepared from the beginning. We hope that it is contained and people take all the precautionary measures knowing how dangerous it could be,” the expat said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently designated Omicron JN.1as a Covid-19 'variant of interest'. This sub-variant has been detected in countries including India, China, the UK, and the US. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, JN.1 may be better at evading immune systems, or it may simply be more transmissible.

Amid rising concerns over the emergence of the new coronavirus variant, the government of Karnataka in India has made wearing face masks mandatory for the vulnerable — including people over 60 years of age; those with heart and kidney diseases; and those with fever, phlegm, and colds.

Doctors urge residents to be vigilant

With many residents flying out of the UAE for the winter holidays, doctors are urging vigilance — especially if they are heading to places where the Covid threat has been detected.

“Standard measures like hand hygiene and mask-wearing — along with a focus on enhancing immunity through rest and hydration — are highly recommended," said Dr Mais M Mauwfak, internal medicine specialist at Thumbay University Hospital, Ajman.

“For those managing chronic conditions like diabetes, stringent control of these health factors is imperative in the pre-travel phase. Moreover, individuals prone to allergies, including sinusitis and asthma, should proactively address and manage symptoms to mitigate the risk of exacerbations during the trip," the doctor added.

How to stay safe

Doctors also urged residents to stay updated on the latest guidelines.

“Prioritise safety by ensuring you cover your mouth when coughing and sneezing. If you're exhibiting symptoms such as cough, cold, fever, or body pain, it's advisable to isolate yourself until you recover. If you are unwell, avoid contact with the elderly or individuals who are immunocompromised,” said Dr Rania Zein Eldien, respiratory specialist at Burjeel Hospital, Abu Dhabi.

Here are some symptoms to watch out for:

  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal problems in some cases,
  • Extreme fatigue

“Get tested if you have symptoms and isolate yourself if the test is positive,” added Dr Rania.

Even if there are no symptoms, however, isolation is a must. "Stay home and take leave for one to two weeks to monitor symptoms and keep a close eye on any signs of illness," she added.

“Despite this precaution, there is still a chance of infection within this time frame. In the event symptoms arise during the isolation period, it is wise to consult a doctor for appropriate guidance and medical assistance,” said Dr Mauwfak.

Any other noticeable changes in health, such as loss of appetite or body aches, should be taken seriously, the doctor said.

“Any noticeable changes in health should be taken seriously, and individuals experiencing these symptoms are advised to seek prompt medical attention for appropriate evaluation and intervention,” said Dr Mauwfak.

Advice for high-risk individuals

For individuals who may have pre-existing health conditions and are planning to travel to countries with high Covid-19 case numbers, crowded areas should be avoided.

“Try to maintain social distancing of at least 2 metres. Avoid close contact with those suspected of being infected. Ensure you are updated with vaccinations,” said Dr Rania.

Dr Mauwfak urged these vulnerable residents to eat healthy and stay hydrated, too. Manage stress, avoid gatherings, and get enough sleep, she added.

Children, pregnant women, senior citizens, and those with compromised immune systems should ask for their doctors' advice before travelling.


More news from UAE