Coronavirus: UAE launches emergency online service for residents stranded abroad

The UAE embassies across the world will assist those with valid UAE residence visa

FILE PHOTO: A traveller wears a mask at the Dubai International Airport, after the UAE's Ministry of Health and Community Prevention confirmed the country's first case of coronavirus, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates January 29, 2020. REUTERS/Christopher Pike - RC2JPE94N0K9/File Photo

A service has been launched to assist UAE residents who are left stranded abroad when the Emirates closed its borders to contain the spread of Covid-19.

The country took the unprecedented step of sealing all its ports of entry to everyone but Emiratis on March 19.

The move, which has been replicated by numerous other countries across the world, left dozens of people stranded out of the UAE.

Only Emiratis are permitted to return to the UAE during the two-week period, which could be extended, according to authorities.

The government initially encouraged residents overseas to contact the closest UAE diplomatic mission for advice and help on how to return.

It has now also extended its Tawajudi service to residents, which was primarily for citizens.

The service makes it easier for Emiratis to contact embassy officials during emergencies.

“This unprecedented step spurs from the keenness of the UAE and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation to ensure the health and safety of residents on its land and facilitate their return to the country in emergency cases,” read a statement from news agency, Wam.

Residents must apply online, upload their personal details, including their Emirates ID number and location to help authorities in contacting them within 48 hours.

Residents waiting for updates on how they will be able to return include an intensive care unit nurse who works in Abu Dhabi and is eager to get back to work to help her colleagues fight the virus.

"I travelled home to Australia late February to visit family and was to return tonight. I am desperate to return to Abu Dhabi and my work. As a critical care nurse I am feeling quite helpless not being at work," she told The National without wishing to be named.

“The gentleman on the hotline took all my details and advised me that the information given would be passed on to the officials and to expect to be contacted within 48hrs, he insisted I keep my phone on at all times. That 48 hours’ will be up in 12 hours.”

Cassie Destino, a cancer patient, is currently stranded in the UK and eager to return to the UAE to continue her treatment.

“I’m running out of my medication and feeling very anxious about it,” she wrote on a discussion on the Abu Dhabi Q&A Facebook page.

“I don’t feel very comfortable here in the United Kingdom. I don’t have health insurance here. I will be out of my medication pretty soon. I’m feeling quite desperate,” Ms Destino said.

She called the hotline on Friday and was told she would receive a call back in 48 hours.

Two days passed by so she applied through the website yesterday.

“The [UAE] embassy workers are very helpful but they are not able to give me much information. I had to send evidence of my cancer diagnosis and treatment to the embassy in London,” she said.

“I did that on Friday but haven’t heard anything else. Their offices are closed until tomorrow and no one answers the phone over the weekend, it seems.”

Other residents took to social media to say they had also applied and were waiting to hear from the authorities on the next steps to be taken.

“Literally used it this morning. Had to complete EID details and residency details. All that then came up is a notification that application was successful. Let’s see what the next stop is,” wrote one member of the British Expats Dubai Facebook page.