UAE records 635 new COVID-19 cases and 2 more deaths

Saudi Gazette
June 2, 2020

Abu Dhabi, Jun 2: The United Arab Emirates on Monday recorded 635 new coronavirus cases, taking the total number of infections in the country to 35,192, the UAE’s Ministry of Health and Prevention said in a statement carried by state news agency WAM.

The new cases were detected after the health authorities conducted 30,147 additional COVID-19 tests citizens and residents.

The ministry also announced that 406 more patients have fully recovered after receiving the necessary medical care, raising the total number of recoveries in the country to 18,338.

The announcement was made during the regular media briefing held in Abu Dhabi, wherein Dr. Amna Al Dahak Al Shamsi, official spokesperson for the UAE government, provided an update on coronavirus-related developments and measures taken to mitigate its impact.

During the briefing, Dr. Al Shamsi also announced the death of two patients from COVID-19, taking the total number of deaths in the country to 266.

"The number of COVID-19 cases still receiving treatment now stands at 16,588 from different nationalities," she added, noting that more than 650,000 COVID-19 tests have been conducted over the past two weeks.

"Since the onset of the crisis, the UAE has focused on select segments of society, primarily the elderly and patients with chronic diseases, in order to ensure they survive the crisis," she added.

"We believe it is particularly morally important to support and stand by them, provide them with their daily needs, and keep them from harm’s way," she added.

Dr. Al Shamsi asserted that all precautionary measures announced, including the updated fines and penalties, will be enforced against violators, including citizens and residents.

"The law does not differentiate between citizens and residents. We are living in one homeland, which is for all of us," she continued.

"Your safety and health are a priority. We must comply with all precautionary measures. Though restrictions have been relaxed, caution must continue to be exercised."

Dr. Al Shamsi also warned, "Recklessness may undermine the efforts made by our frontline defenders. It is the responsibility of every individual to support protective efforts to ensure the safety of all."

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News Network
September 23,2020

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Sharjah, Sep 23: An Indian expatriate cannot believe that he can finally go home after 20 years, with Dh750,000 of fine waived off by Sharjah authorities.

What's in a name? Even a letter matters, says Thanavel Mathiazhaagan, an Indian worker in the UAE who is set to return home after being granted a waiver of nearly Dh750,000 in overstay fines, reports Gulf News.

The man from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu claims that he could not avail amnesty opportunities in the UAE in the last 20 years as his identity verification was not cleared from India due to a mismatch in his father's name in documents back home and that shown in his passport. As it turns out, there was a spelling error in his father's name in the documents in India.

Mathiazhaagan, 56, said he himself realised this (the reason for not getting the clearance) only after his latest request for repatriation was taken up by two social workers in the UAE after he sought their help to return home during the Covid-19 pandemic.

He told media that he had landed in the UAE in 2000 after paying Rs 120,000 (Dh6,048) to a recruitment agent for a job in Abu Dhabi. This could be verified from the stamp on his employment visa entry permit -- the only document that Mathiazhaagan has preserved, apart from a copy of the last page of his passport.

He said the agent had taken his original passport, claiming that his residence visa would be stamped in the passport once he gets the medical fitness certificate issued.

"I took the medical test and waited for my employment visa. But, the agent kept delaying it and later I got to know that the company, which was supposed to hire me, had shut down." Eventually, he said, the agent stopped answering his calls and could not be traced at all later.

"I stayed in a room with some people from my native place. I lived there for eight months with no job. After that I came to Sharjah and started doing odd jobs."

Mathiazhaagan said he illegally stayed in the UAE to feed his family by doing part-time jobs for various households and companies.

He claimed that he did try for returning home during the previous visa amnesty offers in the UAE and lost more than Dh10,000 to people who promised to help him with clearance of his documents that never came through.

Prior to the fine waiver announced till November 17 this year for people with expired visas or who had their visas cancelled before March 1 during the Covid-19 pandemic, the UAE government had granted visa amnesties in 2003, 2007, 2012 and 2018.

Gulf News could not independently verify if Mathiazhaagan had indeed applied for an emergency certificate (EC), a one-way travel document issued to Indians without a valid passport, in order to facilitate their return home, during the earlier instances of amnesty.

However, A. K. Mahadevan and Chandra Prakash. P, who helped Mathiazhaagan get an EC through the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi, said he had failed to get identity clearance from India during the pandemic. They said they found out the reason behind the rejection only after Mathiazhaagan met Mahadevan, seeking help to return home.

"His name is Thanavel Mathiazhaagan as per the copy of the last page of his lost passport and the UAE entry permit," said Prakash, the Vice-President of Indian People's Forum, a community organisation that also pitched to get a travel clearance for Mathiazhaagan.

"Unfortunately, the documents sent by Trichy Regional Passport Office to the Senthurai Police Station for his identity verification showed his father's name as Thangavel whereas his father's actual name is Thanavel -- according to all other records. The additional letter 'g' in the name created the problem," said Prakash.

The duo said they approached the Indian Embassy and the local departments in Mathiazhaagan's village to rectify the mistake and process his documents. "Indian Ambassador to the UAE Pavan Kapoor took special interest in solving this case after the issue was taken up with him," said Prakash.

Mahadevan said he was happy that Mathiazhaagan would be flying home soon and meeting his youngest daughter, who had not even been born when he left India for the UAE.

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News Network
September 30,2020

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Dubai, Sept 30: An Indian expat who had suffered a stroke five months ago and since been bedridden in a hospital, was flown home earlier this week.

Ramachandran Kottakkunnu, 60, left for India in a wheelchair - in a condition far from the life he had lived in the UAE. He had been a UAE resident for over 30 years and used to run a successful business until he lost it all, said Praveen Kumar, the social worker who managed his repatriation in collaboration with the Consulate-General of India in Dubai.

After losing his business, he started working for a small textile shop in Deira's Naif district, earning a salary of Dh2,500. He struggled but he kept going because his wife and daughter are both ill, Khaleejtimes reported.

"His wife has cancer and his daughter has heart disease. That is the only reason he was still living here in the UAE, to pay for his family's medical bills," said Kumar.

Then, he suffered stroke, and the small store he was working with could no longer pay for his hospital expenses. He stayed in the hospital for nearly five months, with his bills reaching almost Dh1.6 million.

"Ramachandran was in a deplorable state. He was in a vegetative, coma state when he was admitted to the hospital five months ago. He still cannot speak; however, thanks to the hospital where he was being treated, he was able to get on a wheelchair and fly home," Kumar said. A wheelchair and an air ticket were provided by the consulate.

"Thanks to the Consulate-General of India and intervention from social workers and volunteers from the mission's medical team, Ramachandran was finally repatriated to his hometown in Kasaragod district in Kerala. He is now admitted for palliative care at a major hospital in Mangalore, Karnataka," Kumar said.

Though he is still unable to speak, the social workers thought it best that he avail of treatment in India instead of staying in the UAE with no means to pay the mounting medical bills.

Jitender Singh Negi, consul for labour, consular and Madad, told Khaleej Times: "I can confirm that Ramachandran was repatriated to India with our support. He had an outstanding bill of nearly 1.6 million. However, the hospital was kind enough to release him.

"He was working for a very small company that was in financial distress amid the Covid-19 crisis, so they were not in a position to support him. Our volunteers worked with him towards his repatriation."

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News Network
September 16,2020

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Tbilisi, Sept 16: The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has approved the setting up of a regional office in Riyadh to support the growth of the Middle East’s tourism sector as it recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb said the UNWTO’s Executive Council members have approved the move to establish the office during a session in Georgia. The office will cover 13 countries within the region, and will serve as a platform to build long-term growth in the travel and tourism sector of the Middle East.

“International cooperation and the role of the UNWTO are more important than ever. I am therefore very excited that Saudi Arabia will become home to the first ever UNWTO Regional Office, which aims to support growth at a national and regional level,” Al-Khateeb said.

“In Saudi Arabia, we are very aware of the transformative power of tourism on the economy and people. We may still be a young destination, but tourism is at the forefront of Saudi Arabia’s vision for the future,” he added.

Recently, Al-Khateeb revealed that the Council of Ministers has given the Ministry of Tourism the go ahead to open a regional office of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in Riyadh as well as to establish a global academy for tourism training.

Al-Khateeb pointed out that the ministry, in cooperation with UNWTO, would work to lay the foundations and standards that enable the proposed academy to be among the best tourism academies in the world.

It is noteworthy that that the UNWTO secretary general praised the Saudi Summer season during a recent visit to the Kingdom during which he toured a number of Saudi summer destinations. Al-Khateeb hoped that the Kingdom, together with UNWTO, would launch a set of initiatives to develop the tourism sector in the region.

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