In an effort to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, the UAE halted all international flights and closed all air travel to and from the country from March 26 until further notice, leaving thousands of foreign tourists and expats grounded inside the desert nation.
However, the country is flying the dead back to their home countries at the earliest, bringing relief to their bereaved families. This is only being done in the cases of natural deaths, and not deaths due to coronavirus.
Bodies of 17 Indians flown back
The UAE has a large number of expats and workers from India, most of them hailing from the southern Indian state of Kerala. Some of them die in the country. The Indian Consulate in Dubai makes arrangements in association with local authorities to fly the bodies back home.
Since March 22, at least 17 cases of natural deaths have been registered with the Indian consulate in Dubai.
The Indian government suspended the entry of all commercial passenger flights from March 22 in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
Most bodies already repatriated
With both the UAE and the Indian government's airspace suspended, it becomes impossible to get the bodies flown back to their families in India. But thanks to some selfless social workers across the country and help from the Office of the Consulate General of India (CGI) in Dubai, most of the bodies have already been sent back to India.
So far, eight bodies have been dispatched by cargo planes of Emirates Airlines and Gulf Air since the lockdown, but nine bodies are yet to be flown, according to Ashraf Thamarassery, a social worker who has so far repatriated over 5,600 bodies to not just India but across 38 countries, over the past 20 years.
All of the 17 deceased are men, and none of them died due to coronavirus. All of the eight bodies flown so far hailed from the state of Kerala.
In case of death by Covid-19, bodies will be cremated in the UAE, as per an order issued by the UAE's Ministry of Health and Prevention.