Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 August 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus: UAE resident 'can't wait' to return as Etihad restarts flights

Lucky passenger due to be reunited with wife in Abu Dhabi tells The National of his relief after securing seat

Daniel, a 37-year-old teacher in Abu Dhabi, had only planned to return to the UK for a week when he left the UAE two months ago.

But as the coronavirus tightened its grip on the UK – Europe’s worst affected country – and the UAE stopped issuing entry visas, his brief spring break trip quickly became a nightmare guessing game of when he could return to Abu Dhabi to see his wife.

He is one of the lucky few to secure a seat on the Etihad flight from London Heathrow to Abu Dhabi, his home of just over a year, on Saturday afternoon. He woke on Friday morning to the news limited flights had been organised and, after contacting Etihad’s UK office, was offered a seat on the flight.

I’m surprised I’ve kept it together as long I have, I think yesterday was the first day that I got properly frustrated with the whole thing, which is ironic because I got the flights this morning

In theory it brings an end to a frustrating period of time full of “lots and lots of false starts”.

Daniel came home to see his mother, who is sick with a respiratory problem. She suffers from a genetic form of emphysema, had a double lung transplant two years ago and is on immunosuppressants.

Covid-19 is a disease that attacks the respiratory system, meaning Daniel’s mum is the most at risk and subject to the strictest quarantine measures to keep her safe.

“Obviously I was quite worried so I thought ‘you know what, I don’t want to make assumptions and think the worst but I would kick myself if I didn’t come over and see her in case something did happen,’” he said.

“That’s a constant concern actually. I’ve been pushing her into staying indoors, not leaving for any reason, that kind of thing because it’s my biggest worry at the moment.”

Daniel says he has tried to not let himself get overwhelmed and attempted to live as normally as he possibly can.

He says he has had a since to see his mum even if the new normal means social interaction has changed dramatically and physical touching is a thing of the past, at least for now.

“We had to keep our distance, we had masks on, had to make sure she was sitting away at the other end of the room. It was kind of strange to be honest,” he said.

Daniel is also set to begin a distance-learning PhD at the University of Southampton and had to register in person.

He has been staying with friends in the countryside in southern England.

“It’s been a mixed bag. I’m lucky enough to be staying with friends, they’ve got a nice countryside house and we’re isolated. The other difficulty is obviously I don’t have my own space and I’ve had to make some adjustments for work as well.”

He has also had to contend with being apart from his wife for two months.

“It’s not been the best, I’ve got to be honest with you. I mean, we’ve been zooming everyday but obviously it’s a bit strange not being in your own house and being in limbo.

"I’m surprised I’ve kept it together as long I have, I think yesterday was the first day that I got properly frustrated with the whole thing, which is ironic because I got the flights this morning.”

Virtual teaching has had its challenges but Daniel says he has learnt to cope. “Luckily just before I came over moved everything online, so luckily I’ve had no interruptions in that sense. But I have to get up really early in the mornings to start my first class but with Ramadan hours that’s kind of taken the pressure off a little bit the last little while.”

If anything his biggest problem has been only bringing a week’s worth of winter clothes for a trip that has lasted two months.

Nonetheless, he says he “can’t wait” to return to the UAE to see his wife and drive his car, even if he concedes that transitioning from a refreshing British spring to the heat of an Abu Dhabi summer may be tough at first.

“It’ll be a massive adjustment actually going back to 36 degrees and that humidity creeping up again. It’s going to be a bit weird but I’m sure I’ll get used to it.”

Updated: May 9, 2020 09:32 AM

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