Mark Hill and his wife Chiare Maion arrive at Dubai International Airport. WAM
A Dubai-based couple, who were away from their two-year-old baby after being stuck in South Africa over a month, flew back to Dubai on Wednesday night thanks to the special arrangements made by the UAE government.
Although they can reunite with their daughter at their Dubai home only after undergoing a mandatory 14-day quarantine at a hotel, the couple are already relaxed after reaching the UAE.
"It is nice to be back home. Dubai is my home and my children’s home," Mark Hill, a British national, who has been living in the city for two decades, said after landing at Dubai International Airport.
Mark Hill and his wife Chiare Maion arrive at Dubai Airport. WAM
He and his Italian wife Chiara Maion, a Dubai resident for 17 years, came back to the city after over a month-long desperate wait to reunite with their baby girl named Skye.
"We were counting each second during the past one month. She must be sleeping now. The first thing tomorrow morning … we will do a video call with her (from the hotel)," Hill said.
The couple went on a short vacation in Cape Town last month but unexpected border closures due to the new coronavirus, COVID-19, jeopardised their plans.
Chiare Maion receives a gift from an official at Dubai International Airport. WAM
They had decided not to take the baby along on the long-haul flight, as she was born prematurely, hence, left her in the care of a nanny and house help at home, who had the support of other family members and close friends living in Dubai.
The couple left for Cape Town on March 12, and planned to come back on March 21, but the global air travel started disrupting due to coronavirus fears soon after they landed in South Africa.
Their attempts to come back to Dubai did not succeed until March 18, because of non-availability of flight tickets. Finally, they got the flight tickets to fly back to Dubai on March 19.
However, it did not work because on the same day (March 19) the UAE suspended the entry of all its valid residence visa holders who were out of the country, as part of the efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.
The couple took up their case with the UAE government’s official channels and the UAE embassy in South Africa.
Finally, the UAE government made the arrangements for the couple to fly back and they landed in Dubai in the intervening night between Wednesday and Thursday.
"We are so happy and so very grateful to the UAE government and the respective Italian embassies and consulates," Chiara Maion, the mother, said after landing in Dubai.
Hill said he was astonished to see that various authorities of the UAE government efficiently coordinated their efforts to help them come back home.
"We don’t have words to express our gratitude to the UAE Government and Italian diplomats who helped us," he noted.
Being away from the baby was a tough time for the couple. They made several video calls to her every day. "She is a clever, little adaptable child. Children are amazing," he said.
"We were singing in the evening [to cheer her up] and tried to be with her [on video calls] during the bedtime. We created such a routine to make her comfortable," Hill explained.
Air Arabia remains committed to bring stranded citizens back home as well as supporting requests to operate repatriation flights and is working closely with UAE authorities in this regard.
Khalid Abdullah Belhoul, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, stated that following the decision to allow specific flights to pass through all UAE airports temporarily, 127 air repatriations of foreign citizens have taken place so far, including 22,900 repatriates, with 27 repatriations in the pipeline over the coming days.
The initiative aims to enable residents who work in the private sector and wish to return to their home countries to do so during the period of precautionary measures undertaken in the UAE to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19.
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