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Naif residents Nizam Babu, wife Nasreena C.P and daughter Nihala Parveen Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: As the UAE marks a year after reporting the first case of coronavirus infection on January 29, 2020, a group of Naif residents recounted their experience of being among the first batches of patients in the country.

Families of two sisters from Kerala and employees of one of their husband were among those who caught the infection in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, 2020.

It was on March 17, just days before the airports closed to prevent the spread of the deadly virus that Nasleena C.P, flew in to Dubai with her two sons Hami Zahan and Hadin Raz, aged eight and four years respectively.

Her husband Mohsin V.P joined her and children at her sister Nasreena C.P’s three bedroom apartment in Naif.

Mohsin, who used to live in a bachelors’ accommodation, was the first to test positive for coronavirus infection on March 22.

“He went for the test because he got to know that one of his roommates, who had gone to Kerala had tested positive after reaching there,” Nasreena told Gulf News over the phone from Kerala, where her daughter Nihala Parveen’s wedding took place on Sunday, January 24.

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Bride Nihala Parveen (second from left) with her aunt Nasleena C.P, her husband Mohsin V.P and two children during her wedding function in Kerala earlier this week. Mohsin and Nasleena were the first to be tested COVID-19 positive among the family members in March, 2020

While Mohsin had exhibited no symptoms, Nasleena had gone to a clinic the day before, after feeling weak and feverish. “But she was told it is normal fever. When they heard Mohsin had given his sample for a test, they said she would also have to test if he turned positive.”

“Since Mohsin was the first to catch the infection and spread it at home, he felt very guilty. He doesn’t want to think about it even now,” Nasleena said.

After Mohsin, Nasleena also tested positive and both were admitted to a private hospital in Al Ghusais.

“I thought I would never come back. I cried and told my sister to take care of my children,” said Nasleena.

Subsequently, everyone else went for PCR tests and Nasreena’s came out positive first. “When I was told I had to be isolated, we panicked as Nasleena’s younger kid, Hadin, needed someone to take care of him even to go to the toilet.”

Nasreena’s husband Nizam Babu then insisted that she could be isolated when the nephews’ results also came, which eventually came out positive within hours.

The family said volunteers from Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC), Dubai, helped shift all of them to different isolation facilities.

“On our request, they made special arrangement to shift Hadin to Nasleena’s room and Hami was kept in the next room,” said Nasreena.

While Nizam also tested positive and got isolated with Nasreena in another private hospital in Jumeirah, their daughter Nihala, the only one to be tested negative, remained alone at home.

Nasreena said they also thought they would never return home. “We asked my brother Finoj to come and stay with our daughter. My husband cried and told him to get her married if we never came back.”

Nihala’s wedding had already been fixed with Shamnas Moidu, who also lives in Dubai. It was supposed to be held in August 2020 after her graduation in commerce.

Since Nizam, who runs a tailoring and textile shop in Al Sabka, used to go to his shop till March 22, he had asked his staff members also to test themselves.

Four of them and three of their flat-mates who worked for another shop also tested positive. They were all taken to Dubai Health Authority’s isolation facility in Al Warsan.

Dealing with worry, anxiety

The sisters and their spouses counted days, expecting their health to deteriorate. The news about Naif getting locked down also made them more concerned.

“We were told by the doctors and nurses not to watch the news and corona related social media messages,” said Nasreena.

Being a chronic asthmatic patient, Nasreena said she faced some breathing difficulties after four days. “I was given an inhaler which I used for the next 10 days and my wheezing subsided.”

However, she was concerned again when both Nihala and Finoj also tested positive in the first week of April. “They had stayed in different rooms, But, still they tested positive. While Finoj was shifted to Warsan, Nihala was taken to a hotel.”

Though all of their symptoms were mild, it took several more days for all of them to be discharged as their test results kept coming positive.

Nasreena and Nizam were discharged on April 22.

Grateful to government, volunteers

Nasleena and family were among the first batch of Naif residents who were welcomed back home by KMCC volunteers with much fanfare. “I was the only woman in that whole group who had tested positive. There was one more woman, but she had just been quarantined because her husband was positive,” she said.

The family members and the employees have thanked the government authorities and KMCC volunteers for the excellent care offered to them at a time they feared their lives were ending.

“KMCC volunteers offered food to my daughter and staff every day. I remember how volunteer Shabeer Kizhur used to continuously follow up on all of us,” said Nizam.

“The government ensured there was no dearth of any facility in the hospitals and isolation centres. We didn’t have to pay for our treatment. We are extremely thankful for all the support we got,” he added.

Re-infected back home

Though they are grateful that Nihala’s wedding finally took place in Kerala this week, the family has urged people not to lower their guard as some of them had got re-infected with COVID-19 after travelling to Kerala.

While Nasleena’s two kids had tested positive in June, Nizam’s employee Sajid Kondeth tested positive in August. They did not have serious symptoms in the second episode of infection.

From left: Jhosim Beppari, Sajid Kondeth and Mohammed Pulikkal (Siraj) were among four employees of Nizam Babu who tested positive for coronavirus in March, 2020 Image Credit: Supplied

“In fact, I could console many others who were isolated with me in Kerala by telling them my earlier story. I had been careful but still I got it again. Nobody then believed re-infection was happening. But I had read news about it and it became real in my case,” said Sajid.

All of them now plan to get vaccinated.