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Thursday Connectors: Keep Calm And Connect To Dubai And Doha

by Farzana Hakim

This week our theme is ‘Keep Calm And..? ‘ I know, without a doubt, this is easier said than done. Especially when we take into account the state of our emotions around the new way of life we’re adjusting to.

To tell you the truth, my own emotions are all over the place at the moment. It was only this morning I had this urge to switch off from everything and just not think about all the things going on. I was actually numbed; frozen like a statue. Me feeling like this was brought on by what has been happening within my family and household. Family members are very poorly. Other than my father, it’s not definite that their symptoms are linked to the coronavirus. We don’t know anything for sure; in the UK, getting tested for COVID-19 is a test in itself. Who gets tested, who doesn’t? When and how do you get tested? When not? It’s utter chaos.

And, the chaos doesn’t end there. Getting updates on a patient’s health from the hospital is a massive challenge as well. The nurses are understandably busy, so can’t always find time to give updates that we, as a worrying family, are so in need of. I was actually told off, even though the room my father is in has no signal. All thoughts such as: Has his condition has worsened? Has something happened? come flooding in. Then my mind turns to other family members and my washing-machine head gets worse…

What about those who are poorly at home? How do we know when to call the ambulance for them? What if it isn’t COVID-19? Is it risky to send someone to the hospital in case they end up far worse? Too many questions. Too many emotions. Too much is happening. What’s even worse is, there is not much we can do, because we’re stuck in the lockdown. But there is no other choice, is there? Other than to ‘Keep Calm And…’ write something, perhaps.

With that in mind, I’d like to introduce Harun Ali, all the way from Dubai. Harun works in the finance industry and likes to write a diary whenever he feels the need to express his emotions. I wanted to connect with him because I can completely relate  to what he has shared. Writing comes in all forms and keeping a diary during this pandemic can be one of the most therapeutic ways to stay calm.

Hi Harun, let’s connect to Dubai:

Dear Diary

As I write this, I cannot help but ponder about life before COVID-19, when the mornings were busy with traffic jams and children would prepare for another day at school. I miss being able to have tea with my work colleagues, ploughing through piles of work in the office, and then facing the rush hour during my return commute home. However, since COVID-19 has emerged, all this seems a distant memory. Just a blur from a past which we no longer have the privilege of having. Life has totally changed. Children no longer go to school and all offices are closed for the foreseeable future.

Dubai now

However, one thing which life now and pre COVID-19 have in common, is that every day is a new day and, with each new day, we must face the challenges it brings. Our primary challenge at the moment is to stop the spread of this horrendous disease. So we need to stay at home and observe the social distancing laws. The government’s challenge is to lead in the fight against COVID-19 by announcing daily updates and to put measures in place that ensure people’s safety.

All I can observe from the windows of my apartment today, is the dead silence of a once-bustling outside. The only form of apparent activity coming from the heroes disinfecting every surface they possibly can. This ordeal carries through from 6am in the morning to 8pm in the evening as, for now, we are under strict instructions to only leave the house for food, basic necessities and medicine. It seems as though this will be the situation for the weeks and, potentially, months to come. All we can do, though, is wish for a healthier future after this disease has been defeated.

The world-famous Dubai Mall is completely shut down, all our beaches have been closed and even the congregational prayers have been suspended.

Deserted streets

Everything has been put on hold. It’s hard to not think about all the things that make Dubai what it is to both residents and to visitors.

Although it may seem like all aspects of our normal routines have come to a halt, we remain strongly determined to keep the country running. You may be interested to know that almost all of the Government’s employees and 80% of employees from the private sector are working from home, and our own children, who were at school, are learning through online lessons. Even the most essential workers like the emergency responders are having to apply for a movement permit through an app so they can carry on with their heroic work.

Everybody around the world can appreciate that life has completely changed.  In the fight against COVID-19 we can only do our part, no matter how small it may seem, and be hopeful for a light at the end of this tunnel.

*****

Thank you, Harun. I am glad you also took those beautiful pictures to share with us. I  am particularly impressed with the skyline! Now let’s head to Doha in Qatar, where Zayn Mohammad, an ex-pat from the UK, working in the construction industry, talks about how he’s doing.

Hi Zayn, let’s connect…

Writing from Doha, Qatar

Here the whole country is in full lockdown due to the spread of coronavirus. Gone are the bright lights of the Pearl and all extravagant buildings. Cars which on a normal day would fill the streets, have been replaced by patrol cars and workers with the task of disinfecting everything.

A view of Doha

Currently, we have around 6,000 cases and 9 deaths in the country, and there is no telling what will happen in the future. The sun is out and yet we can’t enjoy it on the beaches as we would normally do. But, although we are in lockdown, families are truly trying their best to avoid succumbing to pressures that have been brought about by the virus. My family, for example, is remaining calm by playing family games in the gardens or the living room. My personal favourite is the classic Monopoly.

Shopping is now done online and via telephone orders. The people of Qatar have abandoned their much-loved shopping centres. The same ones who would once have flocked to The Mall of Qatar and Villaggio are now stuck at home.

There are two extremes in this country in terms of how people live. On the one hand, the wealthy live in affluent, even extravagant houses but, on the other, you have the migrant workers on low wages. These are still required to work. Whether the shopping centres are closed or not is of little interest to this group of people. They have more pressing issues.

The FIFA World Cup 2021 will be held in Qatar. The aforementioned migrant workers are being used to build the stadiums where the games will be held. However, these workers, who may live in overcrowded conditions, are now having to be isolated with other people, as a vast Doha Industrial Area had been sealed off by the police. Their living conditions are a worry and coronavirus is spreading steadily in these worker camps.

In my case, I am affected by COVID-19 because I cannot work. Nor can I leave the house for normal things like going shopping and seeing friends. Video calls are blocked in the country which makes it hard to see each other. Although food is being delivered by many supermarkets, it’s extremely difficult to adjust. I believe I, therefore, speak for the whole country when I say, “We want it to be over!”

*****

I agree, Zayn. We all want it to end. But I’m so glad you are taking refuge in your writing, as well as sticking to good old board games. They don’t get any better than Monopoly.

And finally…

Last week, we put out a call for key workers to share some of their thoughts with us. It’s so important to stay connected and give a platform for the heroes running our country and taking care of us. The following comes from a prison officer who wishes to remain anonymous.

“I’m a Prison Officer. I deal with the worst of our society on a daily basis, which doesn’t normally faze me but now I am terrified to go to work! I am so scared that I will bring this virus home to my children and it is nearly impossible to social distance in a prison. However, my  job is to protect the public from people that have been deemed by the courts to be so dangerous or have done something so damaging that they should not have their freedom, so this is what I have to do. It is my job to keep the public safe and try to prevent the next victim. We are often called the forgotten service; we are not seen as first responders, but we definitely are! A Prison Officer is the first on scene to an incident of self-harm or suicide and we are the first to any medical emergency, performing CPR when needed. We put out fires and rescue prisoners from dangerous situations. We jump in to stop violent incidents. We are also role models/parental figures for people that may not have had them in their lives before, as well as counsellors. Our role is so varied but it is not seen, because we are behind big walls. Normally, I feel that I am making a difference to the world by maybe having an impact on a prisoner’s life – trying to rehabilitate them – but at the moment I am just scared, as every key worker will be, because none of us want to bring this home to our families.”

That’s it for today. Next week, we are having a European Extravaganza. We will be heading to Germany, France and Ireland.

Don’t forget to clap for the NHS later, and remember: ‘Keep Calm And…’

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However, one thing which life now and pre COVID-19 have in common, is that every day is a new day and, with each new day, we must face the challenges it brings. Our primary challenge at the moment is to stop the spread of this horrendous disease. So we need to stay at home and observe the social distancing laws. The government’s challenge is to lead in the fight against COVID-19 by announcing daily updates and to put measures in place that ensure people’s safety.