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Passengers stand in a queue as they arrive at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai earlier. Many Indian expats have put off their travel plans from UAE to India in view of the current situation over the COVID-19 pandemic in India. Image Credit: PTI

Dubai: Indian expats in UAE are putting off travel to India over fear of the double mutant variant of coronavirus currently sweeping their home country.

Gulf News spoke to Indian expats about their travel plans and most of them said that they have put off their plans until the COVID-19 situation improves back home.

Anoop Bhargava was to travel in May to meet his 75-year-old mother. “I have put off travelling to India. It is a bit of a serious situation currently. I don’t want to travel catch the infection and return to UAE. As an expat, I have a responsibility towards my community here in UAE too.”

Bhargava said he will wait for the mutant rage to calm down before he visits his home. “When COVID-19 struck the world, I gave my mother a Power of Attorney (PoA) to manage my property back home in New Delhi. I sensed travelling amid a pandemic would not be that easy. I guess that is the way it is going to be now. But what I feel bad about is the fact that I have not been able to see my mother the last two years. It hurts!”

Sanjiv Purushotham, Founding Partner, Bridge DFS Fintech FZCO said his friends and relatives have advised him to put away travel to India for sometime until the mutant virus situation settles down.

Sanjiv Purushotham

“It is a bit tough because some matters require our physical presence in India especially those relating to family, general work with corporation and municipality offices.” He added: “For official work, I guess it’s possible to manage to get through it by having representatives take care of the job. What is hardest is not being able to visit loved ones.”

Baiju Ganesha said he felt safer here in the UAE than travel home to India right now. “I have pushed my travel plans as of now to May-end. The social distancing protocols in UAE is the best. I would rather stay here for now than travel.”

He added: “My wife and I had COVID-19 in UAE. We found so much support from family and friends and who were there with us through and through. I have aged parents back home in India. I don’t want to risk passing on any infection to them or catching the mutant virus and bringing it here to the UAE. It is just safe for everyone not to travel to India as of now.”

Kamlesh Rajani, living in India, he was hoping to make a quick visit to Dubai to catch up with friends but said he has put off the plan for now. “It is too much of a risk. I am not just thinking about my family and my health but that of the community too. It just feels risky travelling now.”

Indian tourists Milan Bhatia, his wife Dolly and three-year-old daughter Hrimshri were set to travel on April 22 from Dubai back to their home in Mumbai. But the family will stay back in Dubai until the virus situation improves in India. Milan, who is a popular hair stylist in Mumbai along with his wife, said: “We are extending our stay in Dubai as cases in Maharashtra and Gujrat are increasing rapidly. With the current lockdown, we felt safer staying back in the UAE. I have aged parents back home and with our three year old daughter, managing through the lockdown will be difficult. Here I am staying with my sister and brother-in-law. They are family so we are feeling good to stay back.”

Faizal Faizal Mohsin

Faizal Faizal Mohsin, managing director, Deenar Travel & Tourism, said the tourism business has come crashing down to India from the UAE. “News of the double mutant strain has scared people from travelling to India. Our flight bookings have dropped by 50 per cent. Holiday packages that we made for Kerala and other hot spots in India are finding no takers. We have to wait and see when things look up better.”

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Punit Shah

Punit Shah, general manager, City One Tourism & Travel LLC also said travel bookings to India have plummeted. “Just when we were looking up for travel to pick up, the new mutant virus has put a major strain on travel to and from India.”

Termed as B. 1.617, the double mutant variant that surfaced in India is a result of two mutations merging together of a virus strain to become a whole new mutant virus in itself. The new strain contains mutations from two separate virus variants, namely E484Q and L452R. It is said to be extremely contagious. With COVID-19 infection cases reaching well over 230,000 a day, India is in the middle of a health emergency.