Embassies advising expats to go home rather than risk infection

Published:  22 Apr at 6 PM
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Now that the coronavirus has reached the Gulf States and Indonesia, governments are having a more difficult time getting expats to follow emergency laws.

Oman’s huge expat community comprises Western expat professionals and Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi blue collar workers in the private sector. Whilst expat professionals are either working from home or have returned to their home countries for the duration of the pandemic, those from the Indian sub-continent are living in shared houses being used as dormitories, putting them at serious risk of falling victim to the virus. Sadly, Oman is having difficulty in persuading its large expat community to obey the social distancing rules, making a severe outbreak far more likely.

Infections to date total 1,266, with 831 expats mostly from the sub-continent. Of the seven deaths so far, five are expats, causing locals in the emirate’s capital Muscat to express their concerns. Some 50 per cent of the city is now under lockdown, and travel between the southern and northern districts is now forbidden. Expats and local white collar workers are now obliged to work from home, putting a strain on professionals and causing depression in many cases. Those attempting to get physical exercise by jogging are being picked up by police and told they have to return to their homes or face fines.

At the same time, white-collar expats in Indonesia are being urged by their embassies to give up and go home. Both the Australian and American diplomatic services along with the UK’s version are urging their nationals to leave, as local healthcare services simply can’t cope with the pandemic. All three embassies believe routine health concerns could become life-threatening emergencies due to understaffing and lack of equipment.

The Canadian Ambassador’s message is simple in that it advises leaving whilst it’s still possible and suggests self-sufficiency and preparing for the worst as the only alternatives. New Zealand’s suggestion is kinder and less alarmist, advising Kiwis to ‘stay in a safe bubble’. Unfortunately, Indonesia’s healthcare provisions are far from world-class, with private hospitals geared towards the wealthy as well as well-paid foreigners, and local medical services leave a lot to be desired.
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