“All we knew is that he had gone to the hospital and had been admitted. Eleven days later, we were informed that he had passed away, and even then, we thought it had been simple cardiac complications"
The family and friends of a Bangladeshi worker, who died in United Arab Emirates, had discovered the deceased had been infected with the novel coronavirus after death.
Suffering from chest pains, Mahabul Alam, 52, had gone to a hospital for what he thought would be a routine treatment, reported Gulf News.
"All we knew is that he had gone to the hospital and had been admitted. 11 days later, we were informed that he had passed away, and even then, we thought it had been simple cardiac complications," Islam, a friend, told Gulf News.
"It was only later when I went to collect his death certificate that we found out he had contracted COVID-19," Islam added.
Alam's family and friends are now using this opportunity to warn others to heed the government's 'Stay Home, Stay Safe' advice and to take precautions, because you could have the virus without knowing and unwittingly pass it on to others.
Alam is one of 10 people who have died from COVID-19 in the UAE. His death was announced by the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention on Friday, which added that he had suffered from chronic conditions and kidney failure.
A representative at the Bangladeshi Consulate in Dubai confirmed that Alam is the first Bangladeshi COVID-19 fatality in the UAE.
Alam had been employed as an electrical and plumbing technician, and had been a Dubai resident living in shared accommodation. He had hailed from the southern district of Fotikchori in Bangladesh.
He is survived by three sons, the oldest of whom is in high school, a wife and an elderly mother.
"I knew him because we belong to the same village. Everyone back home speaks of him as a very cheerful person with a lovely sense of humour. He had a jolly word for people of all ages," Islam said.
According to Islam, Alam had suffered two strokes in the past. He had been complaining of chest pain for a while, and had visited a hospital in Dubai on March 19.
"The authorities had already informed Alam's family of his death by the time I came to know of it on March 30. I spoke to his son and brother, and they were grieving his death. But even then, we were not aware of the COVID-19," he explained.
There were other unexpected changes necessitated by the coronavirus infection.
"I thought initially that his body would be repatriated, and was ready to complete the required arrangements. But when I collected his death certificate, I was informed that he will be buried here," Islam said.
Alam will be greatly missed by his family back home, but also by the many friends he had made during his stay of more than a decade in the UAE.
"He had been set to travel back home in February or March. As it happened, this was not to be," said Islam.
Workers in need
Bangladeshi workers in the UAE who are unable to secure essential goods or treatment as a result of coronavirus-related restrictions have been urged to contact the Bangladeshi Embassy in the capital, or the Consulate in Dubai, for assistance.
Fatima Jahan, labour counsellor at the Consultate, said the Consulate is working with UAE-based Bangladeshi associations to provide food and necessities to those who are unable to buy supplies due to loss of employment.
The Consulate has already reached out to workers to inform them of UAE-wide measures to limit the outbreak. In a recording circulated via social media, Iqbal Hossain Khan, consul general, advised Bangladeshis to stay home as much as possible, and to maintain social distancing when outside. He also advised the use of masks and gloves in public, and adherence to the regulations of the National Sterilisation programme.