Doctors urge voluntary quarantine for UK travellers visiting UAE this Christmas

Travellers should limit interaction and do follow-up tests to ensure they are clear of the virus

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Travellers arriving from countries where the new coronavirus strain is active should be cautious and limit gatherings where possible, doctors said.

UAE medics said a voluntary period of isolation would protect the community from the fast-spreading Covid-19 variant strain discovered in England.

Government officials recently cautioned against gatherings at home in view of the influx of tourists over Christmas and New Year.

Dr Maan Jamal, a consultant pulmonologist at Emirates Hospital Jumeirah, predicted that testing may be increased soon.

This is real and people should not forget the virus

“People coming from England should try to quarantine themselves and see if they develop symptoms during that time, then they need to be re-tested,” he said.

“Early detection is very important to limit the spread.

“It is for the sake of people who have high risk factors that we should do everything. Please quarantine and also get tested if you have symptoms.”

UAE airports use pre-flight testing and screening on arrival to identify potential carriers, although the nature of the virus demands vigilance. Passengers from the UK, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman have the option to get tested on arrival in Dubai.

The virulent British variant triggered travel bans by more than 30 countries to block the entry of UK travellers.

Doctors in the UAE, who have treated dozens of Covid-19 patients, urged people to be on their guard to avoid a surge of cases in winter.

Dr Ramesh Bhaskar cautions passengers from the UK to restrict contact with people not living in the same home and to report Covid-19 symptoms to health authorities. Courtesy: Aster Hospital

Dr Ramesh Bhaskar, internal medicine specialist with Aster Hospital in Al Qusais, Dubai, said UK travellers visiting family should immediately report any coronavirus symptoms.

“Even if the first test when you land at the airport is negative that does not mean you are free of the virus. Symptoms may develop any time between contact and 14 days,” he said.

“I suggest restricting contact to persons living in the same house, don’t invite guests to your home.

"For people who have recently travelled to the UK on business, it is better they avoid social gatherings and keep a two-metre distance if they don’t belong to the same family."

Symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat or body pain should be reported to the nearest hospital or to health authorities, Dr Bhaskar said.

Sharjah, United Arab Emirates - Reporter: N/A. News. Health. Photo Project. ER doctor Dr Mohamad Karima at Al Zahra Hospital, Sharjah. Photo project on hospital staff that Covid-19, recovered and carried on treating patiences. Monday, July 20th, 2020. Sharjah. Chris Whiteoak / The National

“We need to follow this or the virus may emerge again and again unless we follow safe practices, like wearing masks and observing social distancing.”

Dr Bhaskar said it was critical to adhere to Covid-19 guidelines and avoid crowds over the festive season.

“The fear that was there earlier in people’s minds is gone. They know of people who got the infection and recovered, so they think they will be fine,” he said.

“But it’s prudent for them to follow all safe practices because once a person gets infected, it can be medically, financially and psychologically a great stress to the patient and the community.”

Long Covid-19 sufferer Melina Timson-Katchis appealed to travellers to be mindful of others over the holidays.

She said her family is doubly careful when her husband returns from an overseas trip.

He wears a mask at home for a few days after he returns and sleeps in a separate room.

The former triathlete, 41, still suffers from asthma and vertigo seven months after receiving the all-clear.

"One thing I have realised is that just because you are young, fit and healthy doesn't mean anything. You need to continue to be careful," said Ms Timson-Katchis, who is from Cyprus.

“If there is any doubt about symptoms, go get an extra test because the people around you are at risk.”

Dr Mohamad Karima, an emergency room doctor and a recovered Covid-19 patient, said his symptoms of shortness of breath persisted for some time.

He asked UK travellers to follow social-distancing norms.

“I have seen patients whose symptoms take a long time to subside. This is real and people should not forget the virus,” said the doctor, who works at Al Zahra Hospital in Sharjah.

“We have to worry about elderly patients and people who have chronic disease. We must keep fighting this disease otherwise after Christmas and in the new year, this will be a big problem.”