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Naseer Vatanappally in hospital Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Indian community members are offering prayers and wishes for the speedy recovery of a popular social worker who has tested positive for coronavirus after being on the frontline of volunteering in Dubai.

Naseer Vatanappally, who has been offering his service for about three weeks, tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday.

As reported by Gulf News earlier, he had been instrumental in ensuring extensive support for several residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 and their primary and secondary contacts.

Working closely with Dubai Police and Dubai Health Authority, Naseer and friends had initially helped several residents with symptoms to be shifted to hospitals and other quarantine facilities.

He has also been actively participating in distribution of food and personal protection supplies to hundreds of residents in the area and coordinating medical screening efforts.

Thanking him for his services, the Indian Consulate in Dubai recently said in a tweet, “We thank Naseer Vatanapally and others from the Indian community for their great work in the time of this pandemic.”

Messages about Vatanappally testing positive and getting hospitalised on Monday night have gone viral on social media, with community members from all walks of life offering prayers and wishes for his speedy recovery.

Self to blame

Speaking to Gulf News over phone on Tuesday morning, Vatanappally blamed himself for catching the infection.

“I don’t think I was careful enough in the initial days. I didn’t wear a mask or gloves when I rushed to help,” he said.

He said he never went home ever since he started volunteering for the COVID-19 patients and their contacts and stayed at a hotel.

However, he said the government has been taking good care of volunteers.

He said he was asked to go for a test by government officials who have been engaged in the massive screening and disinfection programmes.

“I didn’t have major issues. My voice had changed for almost two weeks. But I didn’t think it was a symptom.”

He said he currently has a mild headache and throat pain, but no fever or difficulty in breathing.

“I have been flooded with calls from officials from Dubai departments, Indian Consulate and private healthcare groups involved in screening programmes and media friends. Everyone has been offering me full support and wishing for my speedy recovery.”

Volunteers cautioned

He said the incident has also resulted in a mass screening programme of hundreds of volunteers from organisations like Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre and others.

“Everyone is getting checked now. I don’t want them to panic. I just want volunteers to be more careful and strictly follow the rules of social distancing and wearing masks and gloves properly and washing or sanitising hands as and when necessary. This [he testing positive] should not discourage them from offering their invaluable service to the community.”

He said apart from restaurant groups and Dubai Police who were providing food for people in the Al Ras area, Awqaf has started giving about 10,000 meals.

“The government is doing its best. We, volunteers, need to do our best too, but by taking good care of ourselves.”

He said his wife and three children are being taken care of by family members living nearby in Al Ghusais.

“I don’t want them to panic. By God’s grace, I don’t have any other health issues. I am sure the doctors here are providing the best treatment. I will be fine soon.”