Arun KUmar
Arun Kumar and family Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: After the long wait for flights, many Indian expats stuck back home are now finding it difficult to get the COVID-19 test done ahead of the special flights to the UAE from July 12 to 26.

UAE residents stuck in different parts of India told Gulf News that they are facing different types of issues in getting a coronavirus test done to produce the negative certificate which should be issued not more than 96 hours before the flight.

From hospitals refusing to test people without prescription referrals from doctors or coronavirus symptoms, to delays in getting results and travel hurdles in view of lockdowns in areas where centres authorised by the Indian Council of Medical Researchers are located, Indian expats are concerned about various issues that is having them worried about whether they will manage to get the test result in time for their flight.

Khusboo and family
Khusboo and family Image Credit: Supplied

Urging the authorities to be lenient with expats wishing to return back to their country of residence after months of waiting, some expats requested for exemption from prerequisites like separate prescription and COVID symptoms for availing the tests.

While some parents called for exemption of pre-departure tests for small children and students stuck in hostels, some others requested special arrangements to ensure safety of small children such as home testing or separate sampling areas away from those meant for adults.

Long wait, travel hurdles

As per the UAE regulations, residents returning from India must produce a COVID-19 negative report after doing the RT-PCR (real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) test on their arrival.

Arun Shivakumar, who has been stranded in Karnataka with his family since March said the test results are not guaranteed to arrive within the stipulated time put up by the UAE government owing to a massive load of tests being conducted at Indian centres.

Vidya and her husband Ashwath Chakkur, who have been stranded in Mysore since March with their two children, said: “There are two district hospitals where tests are being conducted. But in these centres there is a long queue in wait for people to get their tests done. I am afraid to get my children tested at these centres as there are others with symptomatic COVID-19.”

Vidya with her family
Vidya with her husband and children Image Credit: Supplied

“Some hospitals are asking referral from local health officers and confirmed tickets for the test to be done in asymptomatic patients. I tried to contact the district health department, they don’t even pick the call,” she lamented.

Divya Raj, whose daughter is in stranded in Bangalore, said students like her daughter are finding it difficult to go to the testing centres alone.

“Many of them are stuck in hostels. Students, especially girls, are finding it difficult to travel to testing centres because of the movement restrictions in some areas that are under strict lockdown. It would be great if the authorities can exempt students facing such issues from taking the pre-departure test and allow them to be tested on landing.”

Another Indian expat, Khushboo. P was concerned about taking her child out to a testing centre lest he contracts the infection. “My son is eight and it will be risky to take him out for the test. It is a challenge getting the PCR test done without symptoms.”