UAE: Indian Expats’ Plea For Covid Tests Exemption Gains Momentum

Dubai: A plea for exemption from mandatory Covid tests by the UAE-based Indian expats before travelling to India is gaining momentum as social workers and community groups have recently joined the bandwagon.

As reported by the Gulf News, Indian expats here have raised concerns over making RT-PCR tests mandatory for all the passengers, including the infants and sought government funding for on-arrival confirmatory molecular tests.

The plea seeking government funding for the Covid tests on arrival in India and exemption for children below 12 years from getting tested twice is gathering the steam.

Since February 23, India has made pre-departure RT-PCR negative test report taken within 72 hours prior to the flight mandatory for boarding flights to India. All passengers from here should also undergo “self-paid confirmatory molecular test” on arrival in India.

Indian airports are charging different rates for the on-arrival test as per the cost capped by the respective state governments.

Expats have taken exception to paying for a second test and concerns were also raised about not exempting young children from Covid-19 tests from the UAE and India. Several expats are also seeking an exemption from both the tests for children below 12 years.

Ashraf Thamarassery, a prominent social worker and winner of India’s Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award for NRIs, said the on-arrival test cost would be an additional burden for several Indian families flying home.

“There are many people, who have lost jobs, flying back home. There are families with four or five members leaving the UAE. Also, how can people, who are leaving after staying without any documents and financial cases, pay this amount? Those who came on visit visa looking for jobs will also be affected.”

He said the Indian government should urgently address the issue and help fund the tests like its counterpart in the UAE.

“People coming to the UAE are also tested on arrival. But the UAE government is bearing the cost of testing passengers of all nationalities. The Indian government should bear the cost of testing its own citizens travelling home during the pandemic.”

K.V. Shamsudheen, who runs Sharjah-based Pravasi Bandhu Welafre Trust, said he has written a letter to Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan to stop the “self-paid” test on arrival.

He said many NRIs are financially struggling after salary cut, job loss and business failures during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It will be an additional burden for the passengers arriving from abroad with financial struggle. So, I appeal to the authorities to stop the paid PCR test in the airport.”

Meanwhile, some expats are delaying their journey to India hoping that the government would revise the rules following pressure from community organisations and social workers.