Abu Dhabi: An American expat undergoing cancer treatment in Dubai is stranded in the UK and unable to return home.
Cassie Destino, 43, was visiting her family in California, and was due to return home on March 20 and was flying out of Los Angeles March 19. Just as she and her family checked in for their return flight via Heathrow last Thursday, they came to know of the UAE’s new travel restrictions to limit the COVID-19 outbreak.
“My husband and I had just checked in at the airport with our four-year-old twins, and we came to know that we would not be able to return to Dubai, despite being resident visa holders. We had no choice but to take the flight to Heathrow, and we thought we would be able to figure out a way to return,” Destino told Gulf News.
Upon landing from the 10-hour British Airways flight, the family rushed to call the UAE Embassy in Los Angeles, and see what could be done.
“There was a lot of confusion, given the circumstances, but we eventually understood that we were temporarily grounded in London,” Destino said.
She is now staying with family in Reading, and concerned about what happens next.
“For the moment, I still have some of my medication with me, which will last me three weeks or so. But beyond that, I don’t have health insurance in the UK, and the medical system here is completely overwhelmed amid the coronavirus outbreak. If I am not able to return home soon, I am concerned that the lack of follow-up treatment and testing will [cause my cancer to return] or affect my long-term health,” Destino said.
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She was diagnosed with cancer last summer, and seeing doctors at multiple hospitals in Dubai.
“I hadn’t seen my family for a long while, which is why I flew down to the States. I never imagined I would get stranded like this, and unable to see the excellent specialists in Dubai,” the Marina resident said.
Destino, who runs an IVF support group in the UAE, has already filled out the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation’s Towajudi form, but is yet to receive a response.
“I know there is no playbook for the current situation, but I really hope we can return home by early April, if not earlier,” she said.
Reports of other stranded residents have been flowing in to Gulf News, with family members trying to secure their return amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In a bid to limit the spread of the disease, the UAE has temporarily banned entry for all, including resident visa holders, and suspended nearly all international flights.
“We have a return ticket booked for April 5, but are no longer sure that we will be allowed on it. I really hope the authorities can help resolve our situation so that we can return home for my treatment,” Destino said.