by Mariam Versyani
Living in Qatar has many positives and after 6 years here, I am so grateful for everything we have, but as we all know the biggest cost associated with the expat life is being away from family. That is why we look forward to the summer holidays each year, not just to escape the heat but to spend an extended time with family back in our home countries. With all that the last 4 months has delivered to us, including losing family and friends to the deadly coronavirus, like most, travelling back is the prospect we are all clinging onto. What does feel unfair though, is that despite abiding by all the rules that have been enforced, staying home and staying safe, the clarity of movement still seems very blurred.
I am a mother of two, over the last 120 days I have taken on more stress, more roles and more work. My mental health has suffered, my kids have barely seen the real world, and while Phase 2 had given us a glimmer of hope, in reality, children are still limited in their movements unless we opt to join the herds of people that are gathering by the sea under a sweltering 45 degree sun.
But, the question still remains for many parents like myself who need a break and some support this summer; Why should it be a struggle to plan ahead and consider travel? Why does it feel like the rules published by authorities aren’t very clear?
I have patiently watched news conferences from the Ministry of Public Health hoping for a silver lining and some real guidance about the future. But instead rules seem to be changing so often; we’ve been faced with moving dates, ‘self-paid’ hotel quarantines and most recently testing in Turkey, for COVID-19 negative travellers to avoid quarantine.
But once again, it isn’t all very transparent, do we take the risk and leave in the hope that we can return on a particular date? What if we travel via Turkey, and the test result is positive, do we quarantine there or can we return home? What if the border closes once again, do we risk the kids potentially missing months of school, or worse, gamble losing our jobs?
We know of many that suffered from the sudden change of rules, some who are stuck abroad, some who even had left due to emergencies and can’t return because of the lack of information or support available, some even chose not to attend family funerals because of the threat of losing their livelihoods here in Qatar or having to pay the unaffordable and unclear hotel quarantine packages.
The lack of information has made it harder to keep up, or worse hold on to hope. Questions have been raised, many other countries are moving forward, and paving a way for future travel, why is Qatar not following suit? Why are they not offering the option of presenting a Covid-19 test certificate before boarding flights? Why are they not offering tests at the airport to determine whether quarantine is necessary? After all, we know the resources exist, so why not put them to use. Qatar is publishing numbers on a daily basis but what are we looking for, what number is safe?
For many as we approach Phase 3 — the prospect of travelling back is becoming less and less likely, and a summer in the blazing sun is on the cards, unless we are willing to sacrifice something to see our families back home this year.