South Asian expats in Saudi Arabia cancel home trips over virus concerns

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RIYADH: Dismayed by the surge in coronavirus cases, South Asian expatriates working in Saudi Arabia are canceling plans to visit their home countries.
Since some countries are not on the fly list, there is fear that a second or third wave could hit their countries with the risk of closures and flight bans.
Last April, India crossed a grim milestone with more than 400,000 infected in one day and more than 270,000 people lost to the deadly coronavirus so far, with a devastating surge of new infections tearing through cities and rural areas alike, overwhelming healthcare systems that are already on the brink of collapse.
India has had more than 24.6 million cases so far and broke a global record with more than 412,262 new cases on May 6.
With fears mounting amid a surge in COVID cases, Dr. Manzer H. Siddiqui, an Indian working as an associate professor at King Saud University, told Arab News: “As we know, India is badly affected by a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, I, therefore, have canceled the return flight to home for summer vacation and prefer to stay in the Kingdom.”
“Home trip cancellation will make my family depressed because most of my family members, relatives, and friends are in India and we are missing them. During this pandemic, some have lost their loved ones; I also lost my aunt. My heartfelt condolences to my extended family in India and I hope one day the whole world will come out of this pandemic, fear, and anxiety,” he said.
Dr. Kifaya Ifthikar, a Sri Lankan doctor in Riyadh, told Arab News: “Recently in Sri Lanka, there have been strict restrictions being reinstated due to rising cases. Schools have been closed after a brief opening, certain areas are under lockdown and fear has started to brew once again.”
“Not having been on Lankan soil for two consecutive years, now it is mentally taxing for me especially because of being so far away from loved ones and missing out on important life events,” she said.
“Apart from this our neighboring country India is also facing a grave dilemma, and our solidarity and heart goes out to them,” she said.

Ambreen Faiz, a Pakistani writer living in Yanbu, said: “It’s very scary and heartbreaking to notice that this third wave of the coronavirus is affecting my country very badly. Lots of my relatives and friends back home have been affected by it. My husband and I had plans to visit our family in Pakistan but we were advised by our relatives back home to cancel our travel plan.”
“I have not seen my daughter and her little child for years now. Every day I speak with her and her little princess. My daughter wanted me to travel and meet her during this Eid holiday. But the recent wave of the virus scared me a lot. I don’t want to travel for fear of falling victim to this deadly pandemic,” she said.
Another reason is the flight ban by the Saudi government for 20 countries, Pakistan is one of them, she said.
Saudi Arabia suspended entry from 20 countries effective Feb. 3 to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
“I know many families who are stranded in Pakistan due to this travel ban. And, I am also afraid of getting stranded. Because of these reasons me and my husband have decided with a heavy heart to postpone our travel until the situation normalizes,” Ambreen said.
Abdus Sattar from Jessore, Bangladesh, said that it was not advisable to go home amid rising coronavirus cases.
“The recent wave of coronavirus appears to be even more deadly and I have decided to cancel my plans to visit the home country,” he said.

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