OFW recalls close brush with COVID-19 in shared UAE flat


What would you do if there were 9 of you in a flat and one tested positive for COVID-19?

Arnaldo "Dino" Sindac Tumaliuan, who went through that experience, said it caused all of the housemates to have bouts of paranoia.

“The first thing we did was contact Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and seek advice on what we should do as we were sharing a flat. Natakot kaming magkakahawaan (We feared contracting the virus),” said Tumaliuan, who worked at the operations department of a finance company in Dubai.

He said things started going haywire when one of their flatmates tested positive on May 10. 

Tumaliuan said 9 people shared their flat, and 6 got infected because the first one who got the virus was not isolated right away. He said he got paranoid that he too had contracted the disease.

He said they opted to initiate an action plan on their own as the DHA apparently had all hands on deck to address the situation across the city. Tumaliuan said that they found a way to have their first virus-hit housemate confined in the hospital.

He said DHA advised them to just place their flatmate on home quarantine if he was asymptomatic but they didn't want to take the risk.

“We objected. So we decided to have everyone checked up at a nearby clinic and hospitals and isolate ourselves in a nearby hotel,” Tumaliuan said.

He added that his other housemates were fetched by their company which had a designated hotel for employeesfor quarantine purposes, where they can be closely monitored by medical professionals.

House plan

Tumaliuan said he and his flatmates started a Whatsapp group chat which they all used to communicate for updates.

“We came up with a step-by-step plan: how we would get home, who among those who tested negative would be the first to go home, and what we would do next. We've set our own protocol at home wherein anyone going back home should have tested negative first.  We shared the results of our tests with each other," Tumaliuan said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Tumaliuan, who has been based in Dubai since 2007, has no immediate family in the UAE. He has in-laws living in neighboring Abu Dhabi.

After getting a swab test, Tumaliuan said he informed the human resource officer at his company that he had been in close contact with a coronavirus carrier.

“They also advised me to immediately isolate myself and have myself tested,” he said.

He said he booked a 3 nights’ stay in a hotel at Dh140 per night. “Awa ng Diyos lumabas ang test result ko na negative on May 14 (By God's grace, my test result came out negative on May 14),” he said. 

He said he spent nearly 3 weeks in the hotel while waiting for his test results, amounting to Dh2,380 from May 11 to 27. He since needed to get a second negative test result which cost him an additional Dh370 since this was no longer covered by his health insurance.

As of press time, Tumaliuan said there were just two other flatmates waiting for their COVID-19 test results.  

“Seven of us got home after having our flat disinfected.  We left the flat vacant for 4 days)” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Be extra careful

Tumaliuan, who lives in the Muraqqabat area in Deira, north of Dubai, said people should bear in mind that they should remain vigilant against the virus. Dubai has finally started opening up to revitalize the economy, following months of strict COVID measures, including 3 weeks of 24-hour curfew.

Tumaliuan said this doesn’t mean the threat is gone; it actually requires people to be extra careful and to strictly follow protocols like social distancing and wearing face masks.

 “I am sharing this po na sana 'wag maging kampante and lahat. Most of us po ay working at home. Kahit sino puwede kapitan ng virus. Always keep the positive attitude lang kapag nahawaan ka. Kasi ang worry ang magko-cause ng stress kapag nag-isolate ka which will make your immune systems deteriotate at mas magiging vulnerable ka,” Tumaliuan said.

(I am sharing this to encourage others not to be complacent. Most of us are working at home. Anyone can get infected. Always keep a positive attitude if you get infected. I worry that one gets stressed when you self-isolate, which will make your immune system deteriorate and make you more vulnerable.)

“Kailangan talaga malaman ng mga kababayan natin kung gaano kasersyoso ang sitwasyon. Dami pa kasi umiistambay sa labas na akala nila walang pandemic (Our countrymen neeed to know how bad the situation is. Many loiter outside their homes as if there's no pandemic),” he added.

As of last count in May, 48 Filipinos have died of COVID-19 in Dubai. Tumaliuan said two of those who died were his acquaintances. 

According to the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP), there were 596 new COVID cases on June 2, bringing the total number at 35,788 in the UAE. Of this figure, 18,726 have recovered. There were 269 deaths so far as of the same date, MoHAP said. – Rappler.com