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GulfNews Sports

Tennis: Alexander Zverev sees off Dominic Thiem to reach Madrid Open final

Tennis|: Dubai: Alexander Zverev produced an impressive display to beat Dominic Thiem in straight sets on Saturday and book his spot in the Madrid Open final, where he will face either Casper Ruud or Matteo Berrettini. Fifth seed Zverev, who stunned five-time champion Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals on Friday, saw off Thiem 6-3, 6-4 in a repeat of the 2018 final, which was also won by the German. Novak Djokovic withdraws from Madrid Open after a two-year absence Bek and Babic fight back to claim Nad Al Sheba Padel Championship crown England Rugby joins British sport in social media boycott Madrid Open: Alcaraz sets up dream birthday meeting with Nadal Thiem threatened a late fightback after trailing 4-1 in the second set, but had too much to do to reach a third Madrid final. The Austrian third seed will now turn his attentions to Rome next week and then the French Open which starts later this month, where he is also a two-time runner-up. The tournament has seen a welcome return to form for Zverev, who had won only two matches in his previous three events since lifting the Acapulco title in March. The world No. 6 will be a strong favourite in Sunday’s final, against either Norway’s Ruud or Italian eighth seed Berrettini. Zverev started strongly at the Caja Magica, saving a break point to lead 2-1 before breaking in the following game at the fourth opportunity. He only dropped three more points on serve as he comfortably closed out the opening set, before piling the pressure on Thiem early in the second. Thiem, the world No. 4, lost his serve twice in the first five games to put Zverev on the brink of victory. He managed to get one of the breaks back and then held serve in a marathon game to cut the deficit to 4-3. But Zverev was not to be denied and a perfectly timed ace kept him ahead before he secured a final spot on his second match point.

GulfNews Sports

Ravindra Jadeja remains the go-to all-rounder for India

Cricket|: New Delhi: All-rounder Ravindra Jadeja's skills in all three facets of the game were acknowledged again when he was picked in the India squad for the Test tour of England on return from injury. Jajeda was selected despite left-arm Axar Patel's good performance as his replacement in the Test series against England. Patel had managed 27 wickets in the three Test matches in February-March -– a no mean feat even though the pitches copped a lot of criticism due to their spin-friendly nature. However, India hope to gain additional benefits by picking Jadeja for England where they play the World Test Championship final against New Zealand and five Tests against England. Apart from his bowling is his ability to bat at the end and his fielding. There are few better fielders in the world than the Saurashtra all-rounder and he can be posted anywhere on the field. read more IPL 2021: Ravindra Jadeja goes from rockstar to all-round Super Kings superstar for Chennai IPL 2021: How Ravindra Jadeja’s one-over blitz derailed the Royal Challengers Bangalore "I love his fielding. Along with, say, a Glenn Maxwell, I think he is probably the best fielder in the world at the moment. You always separate yourself from your ability to throw the stumps down and effect those run-outs. I think that's where he is better than everybody else," former New Zealand all-rounder Scott Styris had recently said during the IPL. Jadeja, a 32-year-old from Jamnagar, hasn't played international cricket since early January when he featured in the third Test against Australia. He fractured his thumb in that game after being hit by a ball from Pat Cummins and was out of the series against England in all three formats. He missed the four Tests against England, in which Patel replaced him. He also missed the three-ODI and five-T20I series against England that followed the Tests. The Indian Premier League (IPL), in which he represents Chennai Super Kings, provided him with his first set of competitive matches since the tour of Australia. He took six wickets, scored 131 runs, including a 62 not out in seven outings and more importantly took eight catches when most other fielders were struggling to hold on to them due to dew and rustiness. Jadeja's role as an all-rounder becomes even more important in England due to the absence of Hardik Pandya, who is not fit to bowl and has not been picked in the Test squad. Jadeja will be India's primary all-rounder in England and could get to play most matches. His seniority and experience makes him important to youngsters like Washington Sundar and Axar Patel. Sundar qualifies as all-rounder, though a batting one while Patel doesn't at the Test level. Jadeja scores over Axar with his batting that he has developed over the last couple of years. Jadeja's CSK and former India captain MS Dhoni, who has backed him a lot, underlined the Saurashtra all-rounder's importance, after an IPL match recently. "Jaddu is somebody who can change the game on his own. In the last few years, we've seen significant change in his batting and it's worth it to give him that extra bit of time, extra deliveries," said Dhoni.

GulfNews Sports

Cricket: Zimbabwe in big trouble against Pakistan in second Test

Cricket|: Dubai: Zimbabwe were teetering on 52-4 at the close on the second day of the second Test after Pakistan declared their first innings on 510-8 with Abid Ali scoring a maiden double century at the Harare Sports Club on Saturday. The home team, one down in the two-Test series after losing by an innings and 116 runs last week, are still 458 runs behind with a mammoth task ahead if they are to avoid the follow-on. LOOK - IPL 2021: Delhi Capitals' Rishabh Pant contributes money for India COVID-19 relief effort IPL 2021: Mr. Cricket UAE Anis Sajan hosts quiz with fans from all teams IPL 2021: India’s KKR pacer M Prasidh Krishna tests positive for COVID-19 Play IPL in England in September as top players will be there, says Kevin Pietersen Pakistan’s 36-year-old debutant bowler Tabish Khan took a wicket in his first over and the top order continued to tumble cheaply as Zimbabwe lost their first four wickets inside the opening 25 overs of their reply. Regis Chakabva, moved up the order to No. 3, provided the only real resistance for the hosts and will resume on Sunday on 28 not out, along with Tendai Chisoro. Abid scored 215 not out as Pakistan picked up where they left off after being 268-4 overnight. But his knock was overshadowed by No. 9 Nauman Ali, who bludgeoned his way to the brink of a first century but was dramatically stumped three runs short of the milestone. Nauman was 93 not out at tea and smashed four runs off the first ball of the evening session before swinging at a wide one and losing his balance momentarily to allow Zimbabwe wicketkeeper Chakabva to whip off the bails. Pakistan declared immediately to put Zimbabwe into bat for almost all of the last session and the bowlers turned the screw for the touring side.

GulfNews UAE

COVID-19: Fujairah Police prepare safety plan for Eid Al Fitr holidays

UAE|: Fujairah: The General Command of Fujairah Police held a virtual meeting to discuss its preparations for the forthcoming Eid Al Fitr holidays. The meeting discussed deployment of traffic and security patrols on all the emirate’s internal and external roads, with a focus on the tourist spots and facilities in the emirate. Major General Mohammad Ahmad bin Ghanem Al Kaabi, Commander-in-Chief of Fujairah Police, discussed the security arrangements for the Eid Al Fitr holidays, with the deputy commander-in-chief, general managers, department managers and heads of comprehensive police stations. He followed-up on the public’s compliance and commitment to the preventive measures being implemented by the state to counter the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Major General Mohammad Ahmad bin Ghanem Al Kaabi Major General Al Kaabi called on members of the community to abide by the all the safety procedures such as maintaining physical distancing, leaving at least two metres of distance between individuals, wearing face masks and staying away from gatherings. The Fujairah Police General Command also urged all drivers and visitors to the emirate to follow all precautionary measures while driving in the emirate during the Eid holidays, particularly while driving in the mountainous areas and wadis. He confirmed that the Operations Room of Fujairah Police will be fully prepared to receive any call for help or inquiries on its dedicated 999 number.

GulfNews World

Immediate global ivermectin use can end COVID-19 pandemic: Scientists

Washington: A peer-reviewed research has claimed that global ivermectin use can end COVID-19 pandemic, as the medicine significantly reduces the risk of contracting the deadly respiratory disease when used regularly. The common antiparasitic ivermectin is being touted as a miracle cure for COVID-19 by doctors and campaigners the world over. Peer reviewed by medical experts that included three US government senior scientists and published in the American Journal of Therapeutics, the research is the most comprehensive review of the available data taken from clinical, in vitro, animal, and real-world studies. Led by the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC), a group of medical and scientific experts reviewed published peer-reviewed studies, manuscripts, expert meta-analyses, and epidemiological analyses of regions with ivermectin distribution efforts all showing that ivermectin is an effective prophylaxis and treatment for COVID-19. "We did the work that the medical authorities failed to do, we conducted the most comprehensive review of the available data on ivermectin," said Pierre Kory, MD, president and chief medical officer of the FLCCC. "We applied the gold standard to qualify the data reviewed before concluding that ivermectin can end this pandemic." A focus of the manuscript was on the 27 controlled trials available in January 2021, 15 of which were randomised controlled trials (RCT's). Consistent with numerous meta-analyses of ivermectin RCT's since published by expert panels from the UK, Italy, Spain and Japan, they found large, statistically significant reduction in mortality, time to recovery and viral clearance in COVID-19 patients treated with ivermectin. "Our latest research shows, once again, that when the totality of the evidence is examined, there is no doubt that ivermectin is highly effective as a safe prophylaxis and treatment for COVID-19," said Paul E. Marik, founding member of the FLCCC and Chief, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School. Many regions around the world now recognise that ivermectin is a powerful prophylaxis and treatment for COVID-19. South Africa, Zimbabwe, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Mexico, and India have approved the drug for use by medical professionals. The results as seen in this latest study demonstrate that the ivermectin distribution campaigns repeatedly led to "rapid population-wide decreases in morbidity and mortality." "We are calling on regional public health authorities and medical professionals around the world to demand that ivermectin be included in their standard of care right away so we can end this pandemic once and for all," Marik noted.

GulfNews World

Mild Covid-19 very unlikely to cause lasting heart damage: Study

London: Mild COVID-19 infection is very unlikely to cause lasting damage to the structure or function of the heart, a new study suggests. The researchers, including Thomas Treibel from the University College London (UCL), said that the findings should reassure the public, as they relate to the vast majority of people who had COVID-19 infections with mild or no symptoms. "Disentangling the impact COVID-19 has on the heart has been a challenge. But we're now at the stage of the pandemic where we can really start to get a grip on the longer-term implications COVID-19 has on the health of our heart and blood vessels," said Treibel. For the study, published in the journal JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging, the research team included 149 healthcare workers. They identified participants with mild COVID-19 from the COVIDsortium, a study in three London hospitals where healthcare workers had undergone weekly samples of blood, saliva and nasal swabs for 16 weeks. Six months after a mild infection, they looked at the heart structure and function by analysing heart MRI scans of 74 healthcare workers with prior mild COVID-19 and compared them to the scans of 75 healthy age, sex and ethnicity matched controls who had not previously been infected. They found no difference in the size or amount of muscle of the left ventricle - the main chamber of the heart responsible for pumping blood around the body - or its ability to pump blood out of the heart. The amount of inflammation and scarring in the heart and the elasticity of the aorta - which is important for blood to easily flow out of the heart - remained the same between the two groups. When the researchers analysed blood samples, they found no differences in the two markers of heart muscle damage - troponin and NT-proBNP - six months after mild COVID-19 infection.

GulfNews World

India: 9 killed in blast at limestone mine in Andhra Pradesh

India|: Amaravati: At least nine workers were killed in a blast at a limestone mine in Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh on Saturday but so far only five bodies were identified, police said. Establishing the identity of the victims was proving an onerous task as the bodies lay dismembered at the site of the blast. Among those killed were from Pulivendula constituency, they said. Pulivendula is the native constituency of Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy. Kadapa district Superintendent of Police K Anburajan told PTI over phone that the blast occurred when a consignment of gelatin sticks was being unloaded at a limestone mine on the outskirts of Mamillapalli village. The vehicle was fully mangled under the impact of the explosion. The gelatin sticks were brought from Budwel. "It is a licensed limestone mine and certified operators had brought the consignment. The blast occurred when the sticks were being unloaded," Anburajan said from the accident site. The cause of the mishap was yet to be established. Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy spoke to the Kadapa district officials and enquired about the explosion. He expressed grief over the death of the workers and extended sympathies to the bereaved families, a CMO release here said. Leader of Opposition N Chandrababu Naidu too expressed shock over the mishap and demanded that the victims families be paid an ex-gratia of Rs one crore each, on par with that paid to the victims of styrene vapour leak in LG Polymers unit in Visakhapatnam last year.

GulfNews World

COVID-19: Pakistan begins formulation, packaging of CanSino vaccines

Pakistan|: Islamabad: Pakistani health officials said the country has initiated the final stage processing of the CanSino vaccine imported in bulk from China recently. The vaccine will be available for use by the end of May. “The first batch of bulk CanSino vaccine [is] being processed at the National Institute of Health (NIH) plant” under the supervision of specially trained health workers, said Minister Asad Umar, who heads the country’s pandemic response organisation National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC). The vaccine doses would be available for the public by the end of May after going through rigorous testing and quality control checks, he said. Experts hope that the move would pave the way for local vaccine manufacturing - essential for the country 220 million to speed up vaccination. Dr Faisal Sultan, Pakistan’s health affairs adviser, earlier said that vaccine technology transfer agreement with China would gradually open the way for local production and significantly reduce the country’s dependence on other countries. Process in Pakistan The final stage CanSino vaccine processing, being conducted in Pakistan for the first time, includes formulation, sterilisation and packaging, according to the minister. Pakistan recently received frozen bags of the vaccine from the CanSino facility in China which will now be processed into the finished vaccine and securely packaged in vials in Islamabad to produce nearly 120,000 doses of the vaccine. The vaccine would go through multiple tests during the process before being labelled and packed and then loaded into the freezers, according to experts. It will be tested again before the rollout. Efficacy of China’s CanSino vaccine CanSino is one of the two single-shot COVID-19 vaccines available. The vaccine trial results showed 74.8 per cent efficacy in limiting symptomatic cases and a 100 per cent success rate in preventing severe disease among Pakistanis, according to Dr Sultan. The single-dose CanSino which requires normal refrigeration raise hopes for faster rollout in developing countries where it might be hard to convince people to show up for the second shot. CanSino approval The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) emergency approval to the first Chinese COVID-19 vaccine Sinopharm has raised hopes for other Eastern vaccines. The Tianjin-based CanSino Biologics Inc. has started submitting data about its immunisation to the health agency on a rolling basis, according to reports. Urge for local production of vaccines Pakistan has so far administered more than 3.3 million vaccine doses since February. Experts have urged the government to initiate local production of the vaccines to speed up the vaccination process. Health professionals believe the pandemic has opened the way for health transformation in Pakistan and offers the country the opportunity to develop domestic biomanufacturing capacity to make the country self-sufficient and better prepared for the future. In April, Pakistan’s Searle Company signed an agreement with a Chinese firm Livzon Mapharm for the manufacturing transition, licensing and supply of the V-01 vaccine after the completion of phase III trials.

GulfNews UAE

One year of Vande Bharat Mission: Here's what happened to stranded Indian expats repatriated from UAE amid COVID-19

UAE|: Dubai: Friday, May 7, 2021 was a gloomy day for the family of Ramachandran. K, who lives in Kozhikode district of the southern Indian state of Kerala. The sky was overcast and there was a pall of gloom hanging over the family on the day that marked a year after Ramachandran’s his daughter-in-law Athira Geetha Sreedharan reached home from the UAE on the first day of India’s COVID-19 repatriation drive — Vande Bharat Mission (VBM). Dubbed as the largest repatriation drive, VBM saw millions of stranded Indians across the world flying home due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also saw the crash of an Air India Express repatriation flight from Dubai to Kozhikode (IX1344), that claimed the lives of 21, people including two pilots, three months after the repatriation mission began. In this past year, VBM facilitated the journey of more than 8.3 million people during the time of crisis, according to India’s Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri. As of January 21, as many as 1.3 million passengers had travelled from the UAE to India, India’s Minister of State for External Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs V. Muraleedharan had said. During his visit to the UAE, the minister added that almost 1.15 million passengers had also returned to the UAE following an air bubble agreement. Inbound travel from India has recently been suspended due to the alarming surge in the COVID-19 cases there. Though not stranded any more, Indians continue to travel home from the UAE. However, the numbers are smaller due to the reversal in the pandemic situation compared to last year. Yet, 1,665 of 3,103 passengers, who flew to India from across the world on Thursday, were from the UAE, according to the figures released by the Civil Aviation Ministry. But what happened to those who went back home during the first phase of VBM — those who had to fight for repatriation flights and wait for their turns after registering with the Indian missions in the UAE? Here is what they shared when Gulf News revisited some of the Indians whose repatriation stories were featured by us. Athira’s tragic story Athira, 27, was one of them. She had, in fact, become the face of the stranded Indian expats, who sought repatriation due to various reasons, after she hit the headlines for filing a writ petition in India’s Supreme Court, seeking help to return home for her delivery. Athira hit the headlines for filing a writ petition in India’s Supreme Court, seeking help to return home for her delivery. Image Credit: Supplied She and her husband Nithin Chandran, who stood by her in her fight to fly home, were finally relieved when she was shortlisted by the Indian Consulate in Dubai and managed to get a ticket on the Air India Express Dubai-Kozhikode flight on the first day of VBM on May 7, 2020. Though the case she had filed had no desired impact, Athira, an electronics and communication engineer who worked with an IT equipment company, had managed to get a ticket on the first repatriation flight from Dubai after the then Consul General of India in Dubai, Vipul, gave a high priority to her case since she would not have been able to travel later due to the advanced stage of pregnancy. However, Athira’s happiness of reaching home was short-lived after Nithin, an engineer who had turned 28 on June 2, died in his sleep due to cardiac arrest, exactly a month after he saw her off from Dubai International Airport. Athira giving birth to a baby girl through a caesarean section without being aware of Nithin’s passing, and then seeing him lying motionless in a coffin in an ambulance at the parking lot of the hospital the next morning, had been widely reported by media in India and the UAE, including Gulf News. “She has not recovered from the tragedy yet,” Nithin’s father Ramachandran told Gulf News on Friday. Though the arrival of her daughter Adithi, who will turn one on June 9, was a relief for her and Nithin’s family, Ramachandran said Athira has not been able to go back to her old self. “She rarely talks to people. She doesn’t attend phone calls at all. Even with her brother, she only chats on WhatsApp.” Dubai memories Friday brought back memories of Nithin bidding goodbye to her at the Dubai Airport and she was more upset, he said. “All of us are really upset today. Even the weather is very gloomy. She has been living with us and goes to her house occasionally. Today she wanted to go to her parents and I dropped her home. She might feel better there,” said Ramachandran. Nithin and Athira on their way to Dubai Airport on May 7 last year. Image Credit: Supplied/Gulf News Archives Memories of Nithin, who was immensely popular back home and among the Keralite expat community due to his selfless volunteering work especially in blood donation and during the pandemic, will be etched in the minds of people who knew him. For the very reason, his father said, Athira finds it difficult to face people in the locality. “I honestly feel that going back to Dubai will help her overcome this depressive state. I hope she can fly after this pandemic situation and she would get some good job over there. I want to see a bright future for her and my granddaughter,” Ramachandran added. Ambily is back with baby Ambily Babu, 27, was another pregnant woman who flew on the first day of VBM from Abu Dhabi to Kochi, which became the first COVID-19 repatriation flight to land in India. Though hers is an entirely different story, Ambily was also feeling low on Friday, thinking about Athira, Nithin and their child, she told Gulf News. “When I think about our repatriation, I can’t forget Athira’s story. Also, I happened to see a Facebook post about Nithin last night. I was restless and couldn’t sleep properly thinking about them,” said Ambily who is now back in Abu Dhabi. Ambily Babu and her daughter Isha Manu at their home in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Supplied Athira and Ambily were among thousands of pregnant Indian women who applied for repatriation for delivery back home. On May 16, a record 75 pregnant women in the final stages of their pregnancy were flown on a repatriation flight from Dubai to Kochi. Like Ambily, several of them have flown back with their newborns to the UAE months later. “I delivered on August 7 and came back to the UAE on September 28,” said Ambily. Her daughter Isha Manu is nine months now and also gets the care of Ambily’s mother who also came along with them. Flying with baby amid pandemic Flying with the baby during the pandemic, however, was not a great experience, said Ambily. “Since my mother was on a visit visa, we had to fly to Sharjah and then travel by road to Abu Dhabi. My baby also had to take PCR test on arrival. My husband came to pick us up. At the Ghantoot border, we were tested again and the three of us [passengers] were taken in a bus to the quarantine centre at the [Emirates] Humanitarian City in Mussafah.” During the three-day quarantine period, she said the child developed high temperature. “The facilities there were excellent. Doctors were available for phone consultation. She was cured with paracetamol.” Ambily, a former teacher with a postgraduate degree in IT, is now looking for an employment opportunity as her job with an Abu Dhabi school was made redundant after classes moved online due to the pandemic. One of the first families to fly home Sharjah resident Muneeruddeen K.P, his wife and three of their four children were among the first families who flew home on the first day of VBM. Muneeruddeen had to take the tough call of leaving the UAE, which he called home for 26 years, for good, after he consecutively lost two jobs in one year. However, after spending some months back home, Muneeruddeen realised that his future would still be better back in the UAE. “My visa was not cancelled. December 31 was the deadline [which eventually got extended to March 31] for people who stayed outside for than six months to return. So, I came back on December 29,” said Muneeruddeen, who once again made Sharjah his home. Chasing new dream Around two months back, he started his own business venture in Dubai’s Oud Metha — a luxury laundry service using wet cleaning technology and targeting upper class clientele. “I didn’t look for any jobs in Kerala. I enjoyed the time back home after we finished our 14-day institutional quarantine. It took time to get closer to people, who didn’t know me well, because back then they were all concerned about expats spreading the coronavirus though we had tested negative after the quarantine period.” Muneeruddeen K.P and family in Kerala before he came back to the UAE on December 29, 2020. Image Credit: Supplied “Anyhow, I went out regularly and made people feel comfortable. I enjoyed playing badminton, gardening and reading and had a good break back home after 26 years of expat life.” He wishes to bring his family back here once his business is on track as his young children still want to study here though they are happy with everything else back home. “I still remember the frantic calls that people had to make for flying back to India when we were seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases here. But, the situation is worse over there now. Now people want to bring their families here. I never expected this pandemic to become worse. I thought we would live with it with the new normal in place and would soon overcome it with vaccines and medicines. Anyhow, now I also want my family to be back here soon.” Settling back home In June last year, young fashion designer Jahir Mohammad Harun, who goes by the name Zaheer Mohammed at work, had spoken about his dream getting shattered after his new job in Dubai was affected due to the pandemic. His wife had given birth to their second son in April 2020 while he remained jobless here. With very few repatriation flights to Maharashtra those days, he was one of the thousands of stranded Indians from the state who were begging for more flights home back then. Jahir Mohammad Harun aka Zaheer Mohammed at his boutique in Pune, Maharashtra Image Credit: Supplied After managing to catch a repatriation flight to New Delhi in July, Zaheer is now settled back in his hometown Pune. “I started a new boutique making designer outfits in December. But due to the lockdown, my business has been affected and the workers who were associated with me have also become jobless.” However, Zaheer chose to remain optimistic even amid all the pandemic-related miseries around him. “I’m happy to see a new beginning. It was a nice feeling to work for your own label. This [peak of pandemic] is just a temporary phase. I am sure we will overcome this soon,” he said. We want to return Fazna Ikram, who returned home on a VBM flight on May 26, 2020, said she wanted to return to the UAE soon. “The UAE is my second home. I have done my high schooling there and I lived there for 15 years after my marriage,” said the mother-of-two, who owns a demolition company here. She had to fly home due to some health issues and her husband, who is a banker, also had to follow after losing his job. “My company is still there. One of my partners is handling it now. We are now hoping for the best. I want to come back when the flight suspension ends. My husband will also come along with me,” she said. Stories that went viral A few others, whose stories were published by Gulf News, preferred not to be written about again as their repatriation stories had gone viral last year. They included a stranded visitor, whose family was helped by several Gulf News readers, and a young widow, who had to fly home with her husband’s mortal remains on a repatriation flight. Pregnant woman, who moved India’s apex court to fly home, among first to be repatriated COVID-19: First repatriation flights carrying Indians from UAE land in Kerala Funeral held for Indian expat who died in Dubai a day before his repatriated wife gave birth in Kerala Send more repatriation flights or start commercial service, stranded expats in UAE tell Indian government Kerala mum lost unborn child and a leg in Air India Express Dubai-Kozhikode plane crash. She is still in hospital They were all faces of stranded Indians who rushed home during the pandemic. However, respecting their privacy, Gulf News is refraining from writing from their current details, which they shared off the record. VBM crash that can never be forgotten However, recapturing the VBM repatriation from the UAE cannot be complete without writing about the crash of the VBM flight IX1344 on August 7, 2020. The VBM flight IX1344 crashed on August 7, 2020. Image Credit: Supplied/Gulf News Archives Gulf News had done a series of stories highlighting the agony of the families of the deceased victims and the plight of the severely injured passengers including children. Once again, we spoke to Abdul Rasheed, whose wife Thajina K.P is still undergoing treatment after several surgeries following the crash in which she lost her four-month-old unborn child and a leg and sustained multiple injuries. “We have lost count of the number of surgeries she has undergone. The last one was on March 18 this year. I had gone home and had to fly back on April 3 though she was still in the hospital. She was finally discharged on May 3,” he said. Thajina K.P with her husband Abdul Rasheed her children Muhammed Hisham and daughter Hadiya. Image Credit: Supplied/Gulf News Archives Their 11-year-old son Muhammed Hisham, and seven-year-old daughter Hadiya were also severely injured in the crash with multiple fractures. “My son has slowly started walking. My daughter still has to do a surgery for removing the steel rod in her leg,” said Abdul Rasheed. The scar left behind by the crash has not been healed for the affected families. Many of them, including Thajina’s, have also come together for a legal battle for higher compensation from the airline. Abdul Rasheed said they have pinned their hopes on a UAE court where the families have filed a petition as they were concerned that Air India Express would not allot the compensation that they deserve as per the Montreal Convention. “We are also expecting the airline to come forward for a negotiation,” he added.

GulfNews TOP

One year of Vande Bharat Mission: Here's what happened to stranded Indian expats repatriated from UAE amid COVID-19

UAE|: Dubai: Friday, May 7, 2021 was a gloomy day for the family of Ramachandran. K, who lives in Kozhikode district of the southern Indian state of Kerala. The sky was overcast and there was a pall of gloom hanging over the family on the day that marked a year after Ramachandran’s his daughter-in-law Athira Geetha Sreedharan reached home from the UAE on the first day of India’s COVID-19 repatriation drive — Vande Bharat Mission (VBM). Dubbed as the largest repatriation drive, VBM saw millions of stranded Indians across the world flying home due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also saw the crash of an Air India Express repatriation flight from Dubai to Kozhikode (IX1344), that claimed the lives of 21, people including two pilots, three months after the repatriation mission began. In this past year, VBM facilitated the journey of more than 8.3 million people during the time of crisis, according to India’s Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri. As of January 21, as many as 1.3 million passengers had travelled from the UAE to India, India’s Minister of State for External Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs V. Muraleedharan had said. During his visit to the UAE, the minister added that almost 1.15 million passengers had also returned to the UAE following an air bubble agreement. Inbound travel from India has recently been suspended due to the alarming surge in the COVID-19 cases there. Though not stranded any more, Indians continue to travel home from the UAE. However, the numbers are smaller due to the reversal in the pandemic situation compared to last year. Yet, 1,665 of 3,103 passengers, who flew to India from across the world on Thursday, were from the UAE, according to the figures released by the Civil Aviation Ministry. But what happened to those who went back home during the first phase of VBM — those who had to fight for repatriation flights and wait for their turns after registering with the Indian missions in the UAE? Here is what they shared when Gulf News revisited some of the Indians whose repatriation stories were featured by us. Athira’s tragic story Athira, 27, was one of them. She had, in fact, become the face of the stranded Indian expats, who sought repatriation due to various reasons, after she hit the headlines for filing a writ petition in India’s Supreme Court, seeking help to return home for her delivery. Athira hit the headlines for filing a writ petition in India’s Supreme Court, seeking help to return home for her delivery. Image Credit: Supplied She and her husband Nithin Chandran, who stood by her in her fight to fly home, were finally relieved when she was shortlisted by the Indian Consulate in Dubai and managed to get a ticket on the Air India Express Dubai-Kozhikode flight on the first day of VBM on May 7, 2020. Though the case she had filed had no desired impact, Athira, an electronics and communication engineer who worked with an IT equipment company, had managed to get a ticket on the first repatriation flight from Dubai after the then Consul General of India in Dubai, Vipul, gave a high priority to her case since she would not have been able to travel later due to the advanced stage of pregnancy. However, Athira’s happiness of reaching home was short-lived after Nithin, an engineer who had turned 28 on June 2, died in his sleep due to cardiac arrest, exactly a month after he saw her off from Dubai International Airport. Athira giving birth to a baby girl through a caesarean section without being aware of Nithin’s passing, and then seeing him lying motionless in a coffin in an ambulance at the parking lot of the hospital the next morning, had been widely reported by media in India and the UAE, including Gulf News. “She has not recovered from the tragedy yet,” Nithin’s father Ramachandran told Gulf News on Friday. Though the arrival of her daughter Adithi, who will turn one on June 9, was a relief for her and Nithin’s family, Ramachandran said Athira has not been able to go back to her old self. “She rarely talks to people. She doesn’t attend phone calls at all. Even with her brother, she only chats on WhatsApp.” Dubai memories Friday brought back memories of Nithin bidding goodbye to her at the Dubai Airport and she was more upset, he said. “All of us are really upset today. Even the weather is very gloomy. She has been living with us and goes to her house occasionally. Today she wanted to go to her parents and I dropped her home. She might feel better there,” said Ramachandran. Nithin and Athira on their way to Dubai Airport on May 7 last year. Image Credit: Supplied/Gulf News Archives Memories of Nithin, who was immensely popular back home and among the Keralite expat community due to his selfless volunteering work especially in blood donation and during the pandemic, will be etched in the minds of people who knew him. For the very reason, his father said, Athira finds it difficult to face people in the locality. “I honestly feel that going back to Dubai will help her overcome this depressive state. I hope she can fly after this pandemic situation and she would get some good job over there. I want to see a bright future for her and my granddaughter,” Ramachandran added. Ambily is back with baby Ambily Babu, 27, was another pregnant woman who flew on the first day of VBM from Abu Dhabi to Kochi, which became the first COVID-19 repatriation flight to land in India. Though hers is an entirely different story, Ambily was also feeling low on Friday, thinking about Athira, Nithin and their child, she told Gulf News. “When I think about our repatriation, I can’t forget Athira’s story. Also, I happened to see a Facebook post about Nithin last night. I was restless and couldn’t sleep properly thinking about them,” said Ambily who is now back in Abu Dhabi. Ambily Babu and her daughter Isha Manu at their home in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Supplied Athira and Ambily were among thousands of pregnant Indian women who applied for repatriation for delivery back home. On May 16, a record 75 pregnant women in the final stages of their pregnancy were flown on a repatriation flight from Dubai to Kochi. Like Ambily, several of them have flown back with their newborns to the UAE months later. “I delivered on August 7 and came back to the UAE on September 28,” said Ambily. Her daughter Isha Manu is nine months now and also gets the care of Ambily’s mother who also came along with them. Flying with baby amid pandemic Flying with the baby during the pandemic, however, was not a great experience, said Ambily. “Since my mother was on a visit visa, we had to fly to Sharjah and then travel by road to Abu Dhabi. My baby also had to take PCR test on arrival. My husband came to pick us up. At the Ghantoot border, we were tested again and the three of us [passengers] were taken in a bus to the quarantine centre at the [Emirates] Humanitarian City in Mussafah.” During the three-day quarantine period, she said the child developed high temperature. “The facilities there were excellent. Doctors were available for phone consultation. She was cured with paracetamol.” Ambily, a former teacher with a postgraduate degree in IT, is now looking for an employment opportunity as her job with an Abu Dhabi school was made redundant after classes moved online due to the pandemic. One of the first families to fly home Sharjah resident Muneeruddeen K.P, his wife and three of their four children were among the first families who flew home on the first day of VBM. Muneeruddeen had to take the tough call of leaving the UAE, which he called home for 26 years, for good, after he consecutively lost two jobs in one year. However, after spending some months back home, Muneeruddeen realised that his future would still be better back in the UAE. “My visa was not cancelled. December 31 was the deadline [which eventually got extended to March 31] for people who stayed outside for than six months to return. So, I came back on December 29,” said Muneeruddeen, who once again made Sharjah his home. Chasing new dream Around two months back, he started his own business venture in Dubai’s Oud Metha — a luxury laundry service using wet cleaning technology and targeting upper class clientele. “I didn’t look for any jobs in Kerala. I enjoyed the time back home after we finished our 14-day institutional quarantine. It took time to get closer to people, who didn’t know me well, because back then they were all concerned about expats spreading the coronavirus though we had tested negative after the quarantine period.” Muneeruddeen K.P and family in Kerala before he came back to the UAE on December 29, 2020. Image Credit: Supplied “Anyhow, I went out regularly and made people feel comfortable. I enjoyed playing badminton, gardening and reading and had a good break back home after 26 years of expat life.” He wishes to bring his family back here once his business is on track as his young children still want to study here though they are happy with everything else back home. “I still remember the frantic calls that people had to make for flying back to India when we were seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases here. But, the situation is worse over there now. Now people want to bring their families here. I never expected this pandemic to become worse. I thought we would live with it with the new normal in place and would soon overcome it with vaccines and medicines. Anyhow, now I also want my family to be back here soon.” Settling back home In June last year, young fashion designer Jahir Mohammad Harun, who goes by the name Zaheer Mohammed at work, had spoken about his dream getting shattered after his new job in Dubai was affected due to the pandemic. His wife had given birth to their second son in April 2020 while he remained jobless here. With very few repatriation flights to Maharashtra those days, he was one of the thousands of stranded Indians from the state who were begging for more flights home back then. Jahir Mohammad Harun aka Zaheer Mohammed at his boutique in Pune, Maharashtra Image Credit: Supplied After managing to catch a repatriation flight to New Delhi in July, Zaheer is now settled back in his hometown Pune. “I started a new boutique making designer outfits in December. But due to the lockdown, my business has been affected and the workers who were associated with me have also become jobless.” However, Zaheer chose to remain optimistic even amid all the pandemic-related miseries around him. “I’m happy to see a new beginning. It was a nice feeling to work for your own label. This [peak of pandemic] is just a temporary phase. I am sure we will overcome this soon,” he said. We want to return Fazna Ikram, who returned home on a VBM flight on May 26, 2020, said she wanted to return to the UAE soon. “The UAE is my second home. I have done my high schooling there and I lived there for 15 years after my marriage,” said the mother-of-two, who owns a demolition company here. She had to fly home due to some health issues and her husband, who is a banker, also had to follow after losing his job. “My company is still there. One of my partners is handling it now. We are now hoping for the best. I want to come back when the flight suspension ends. My husband will also come along with me,” she said. Stories that went viral A few others, whose stories were published by Gulf News, preferred not to be written about again as their repatriation stories had gone viral last year. They included a stranded visitor, whose family was helped by several Gulf News readers, and a young widow, who had to fly home with her husband’s mortal remains on a repatriation flight. Pregnant woman, who moved India’s apex court to fly home, among first to be repatriated COVID-19: First repatriation flights carrying Indians from UAE land in Kerala Funeral held for Indian expat who died in Dubai a day before his repatriated wife gave birth in Kerala Send more repatriation flights or start commercial service, stranded expats in UAE tell Indian government Kerala mum lost unborn child and a leg in Air India Express Dubai-Kozhikode plane crash. She is still in hospital They were all faces of stranded Indians who rushed home during the pandemic. However, respecting their privacy, Gulf News is refraining from writing from their current details, which they shared off the record. VBM crash that can never be forgotten However, recapturing the VBM repatriation from the UAE cannot be complete without writing about the crash of the VBM flight IX1344 on August 7, 2020. The VBM flight IX1344 crashed on August 7, 2020. Image Credit: Supplied/Gulf News Archives Gulf News had done a series of stories highlighting the agony of the families of the deceased victims and the plight of the severely injured passengers including children. Once again, we spoke to Abdul Rasheed, whose wife Thajina K.P is still undergoing treatment after several surgeries following the crash in which she lost her four-month-old unborn child and a leg and sustained multiple injuries. “We have lost count of the number of surgeries she has undergone. The last one was on March 18 this year. I had gone home and had to fly back on April 3 though she was still in the hospital. She was finally discharged on May 3,” he said. Thajina K.P with her husband Abdul Rasheed her children Muhammed Hisham and daughter Hadiya. Image Credit: Supplied/Gulf News Archives Their 11-year-old son Muhammed Hisham, and seven-year-old daughter Hadiya were also severely injured in the crash with multiple fractures. “My son has slowly started walking. My daughter still has to do a surgery for removing the steel rod in her leg,” said Abdul Rasheed. The scar left behind by the crash has not been healed for the affected families. Many of them, including Thajina’s, have also come together for a legal battle for higher compensation from the airline. Abdul Rasheed said they have pinned their hopes on a UAE court where the families have filed a petition as they were concerned that Air India Express would not allot the compensation that they deserve as per the Montreal Convention. “We are also expecting the airline to come forward for a negotiation,” he added.