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Filipina who returned to Dubai after 6 months shares experience

 

DUBAI – A Filipina expatriate who returned to Dubai after spending six months in the Philippines where she initially tested positive for coronavirus shared her experience in hopes it will help other expats returning to the emirate.

Jeng Quizon, 48, told Expatmedia.net it was a fruitful experience for her. The Filipina business investor returned to Dubai on September 3, after having to delay her return flight while waiting for a second Covid-19 test declaring her fit to travel.

“I am a frequent traveler, but that time I felt very uncomfortable. I prayed so hard to have a smooth flight and to get a negative Covid-19 test result in Dubai,” Quizon told Expatmedia.net.

Time in Philippines during pandemic

Quizon had flown to the Philippines on March 3, before the onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

Just like her other previous travels, she had planned a short family vacation, with some business on the side.

Quizon is the general manager of Al Muhairi Ships Building and other facilities management, manpower and construction companies under the Dubai-based Khalid Bin Hadda Group.

“I wanted to be with my family, and also oversee the operation of my son’s boat manufacturing business,” the Filipina business investor told Expatmedia.net.

However, she was caught in a government-imposed lockdown in her city that spanned from March 15 to May 31. Quizon was forced to extend her stay after coronavirus travel restrictions grounded flights and shut down airports in the UAE and the Philippines.

“To make the most out of it, my son and I decided to stay in the factory, with all precautionary measures in place, to lay out the production process for workers,” Quizon said.

In July, the UAE eased restrictions related to Covid-19, allowing businesses to reopen. This put pressure on Quizon to get on the earliest available flight to return to the country.

That’s when she got the shock of her life after going for what she thought would be a routine test and coming out with a positive diagnosis for coronavirus.

Testing positive for Covid-19

“My first test result was released after 24 hours and I was shocked when I saw that I was positive for Covid-19,” Quizon said after getting her Covid-19 test results from St. Luke’s Medical Hospital two weeks before her flight to Dubai.

“I couldn’t believe it since I have no symptoms of Covid-19 and I haven’t been exposed to anyone with the virus. I felt completely fine,” she said.

After getting the bad news, Quizon said she immediately told friends and relatives and advised them to go on self-quarantine for 14 days in case they were exposed to her.

“Everyday we have our video chat to check if anyone felt symptoms of Covid-19. We also felt a bit tense because we felt that some people treated us differently,” she said. “But family and friends brought us food, fruits, bread and even vitamins during our quarantine.”

“For years, I have never stayed at our home for that long. This Covid made me stay home,” Quizon said, adding that her 14-day quarantine was a “bonding moment” with her sons.

“We cleaned and disinfected all parts of our house, changed the curtains and all the beddings. We also did some gardening and played with our dogs,” she said.

Seven days into her home quarantine, she called the hospital again to report that she hasn’t shown any symptom of Covid-19 and would like to get another appointment for a second test.

“After completing my 14-day quarantine, I went for my second PCR test. I finally got a negative test result,” she said.

Getting ICA approval

Quizon said she applied twice for a permit to travel from the Federal Authority of Identity and Citizenship (ICA) in order to return to the UAE.

“The first time was on July 23, and on the same day I got the approval. The permit expired on August 25 but I couldn’t travel before this because I tested positive for Covid-19 and had to wait until I tested negative. On September 1, I applied again and got approval on the same day. I think I got easy approval since I have an investor’s visa,” she said.

ALSO READ: Red vs green ICA message – what to look for

She didn’t face much hassle with rebooking her flights either. “Thankfully, I am an Emirates Skyward member and Emirates airline was very cooperative in arranging my ticket cancellation and rebooking,” she said.

State of her visa after 6 months

Quizon said she didn’t face any issue with her visa as she is on investor’s visa that allows her to stay outside the UAE for up to 360 days.

“Those with investor’s visa can stay outside the UAE for up to 360 days, but those on employment visa can only stay outside the country for not more that 180 days or six months,” she told Expatmedia.net.

Her advice to those on employment visa but haven’t returned to the UAE within six months?

“Try to get ICA approval to return to the country so you can fix your visa status. During this time of pandemic, immigration officials will honor the ICA approval to let you travel,” she said. “Also, get your sponsor or Public Relations Officer (PRO) to apply for the ICA approval on your behalf,” she added.

Arriving in Dubai from Philippines

Quizon said that when she arrived at the Dubai International Airport, staff collected her PCR test result from the Philippines and her ICA permit. She was also told to download the Covid-19 DXB app for monitoring.

“We signed health declaration papers to say we will follow all instructions and precautionary measures. The paper was collected at one of the processing bays and our details were input into the computer system. We were also given a PCR test kit with our names on it, which we had to give to the healthcare worker assigned to give us the test. After our test, it was off to the immigration section,” she recalled.

After undergoing mandatory testing at the Dubai airport, she was asked to go on home quarantine until she received her test result.

“I am thankful for these past six months for the quality time I spent with my family. It has made me realize we should never take our family or health for granted. Now, I feel energized and inspired to go back to work here in my second home,” Quizon told Expatmedia.net.

Tips for travelers

Quizon said those who want to get a PCR test in the Philippines ahead of their flight need to factor in the appointment scheduling at hospitals or laboratories.

They also need to be mindful of the amount of time it will take for hospitals or laboratories to release the test results.

“Not all registered hospitals or laboratories can release the test result before 72 hours. Most test results are released within 3 to 5 days. Some by up to 7 days. In St. Luke’s Medical Hospital, you can got the result before 48 hours, but you have to pay P6,500 while others are charging P3,800 or less,” she said.

Step-by-step guide before traveling to UAE

1. For passengers arriving in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, other emirates: Check the validity of your travel documents on uaeentry.ica.gov.ae. Key in your Emirates ID number, passport number, passport type and nationality.

For Dubai residents: Get pre-travel approval from the GDRFA

2. Check for pre-travel approvals in your home country. Tourists must have international health insurance

3. Get a Covid-19 test at an approved centre (test must be taken not more than 96 hours prior to your flight)

4. Book your airline tickets

5. On travel date, sign a Health Declaration Form and download Al Hosn app (DXB Smart App for those arriving in Dubai)

ICA/Expat Media


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