Diary of a Stranded Visitor...
2020-03-04 - 11:27 p
Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): Mid February wasn't as frightening as the situation is now, after the Iranian authorities announced the deaths of two people from Coronavirus in the Iranian city of Qom. No one knows how, when or where they were infected.
Information reported the presence of a large number of infected individuals, including an Iranian official, which prompted the authorities to hold a press conference in which they said: "We think that the epidemic reached Iran through a Chinese student studying in a Hawza in Qom."
News of deaths in Iran is spreading widely via websites and social media outlets. The number increased to 4, 5 and then 6. All of the deaths are in Qom.
I am now in Mashhad and despite the far distance between the two cities, people started to take precautionary measures.
I was in continuous contact with some friends and people I know in Qom:
How is your situation?
My friend, Hawzas and schools are closed. We committed to staying home...
News continued to report that the number of casualties and deaths is increasing.
Phone rings. It is my friend in Qom:
How is your situation in Mashhad?
It is now normal, good so far.
What about you? Is there anything new?
The situation, my friend, has become unpromising; some shops have closed and the streets are almost empty. The Arab community in Qom have committed to staying indoors, except when there's an absolute necessity to leave.
It didn't stop at Qom. News confirmed that the virus had crossed the city of Qom to settle in the Iranian capital, Tehran. A large number of new infections was recorded. That's when I realized that danger was coming.
A group of Bahraini visitors arrived in Qom on Thursday (February 20). They were supposed to stay until February 23 in Qom and then head to Mashhad. The awful situation has terrified everyone. They decided to go to Mashhad on February 22 instead of the 23rd. The panic reached us, visitors of Mashhad.
A group left Mashhad to Bahrain on two flights, the first via Sharjah Airport and the second via Dubai.
As part of precautionary measures, Bahrain Airport has kept all arrivals from Sharjah for screening and ensuring that there are no infected. 24 hours later, Bahrain announced the discovery of two infected cases among those who returned from Iran, followed by the announcement of a quarantine to screen all those coming from Iran.
Within hours, the reported number of cases reached 4, then 6 and 10. We received the news with great concern, and our situation began to worsen in Mashhad as the news reported an ongoing increase of infected cases.
On February 25, Bahrain announced suspending flights from and to Sharjah and Dubai..
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced preventing citizens from traveling to Iran until further notice due to the outbreak of the virus.
The United Arab Emirates also closed their air border with Iran, while Iran closed its air borders with a number of countries.
The suffering started here. More than 1,300 Bahrainis are stranded in Mashhad. The situation became more complicated. All of us are wondering about the circumstances of our return.
Managers of religious tour groups are facing massive pressures.
Their answer to ongoing questions: We don't know. We will try to find out how to return home and answer your questions.
Flights were canceled. Religious tour groups bore the burden and found themselves involved. They treated visitors according to their ethical duty by extending their stay in hotels and providing them with their daily meals. The financial loss of some tour groups is estimated at more than 1,000 dinars per day.
News says that the number of infected cases in Bahrain has exceeded 30, all of them coming from Iran. Schools and universities were closed as a precautionary measure. Public events were suspended as well. Kuwait and Oman recorded infected cases coming from Iran as well.
The Iranian Health Ministry issued a circular banning washing clothes in all hotels and laundries.
The Bahraini Foreign Ministry informs tourist offices to register the names of its clients in Iran. We breathed a sigh of relief, expecting to be transported as urgently as the rest of the Gulf States, which rushed to evacuate their nationals in the early hours as Iran announced cases of Coronavirus.
The virus invaded the city of Mashhad amid a state of panic and terror among all. Religious events have been cancelled, and Friday prayers brought to a halt.
Hours pass slowly; they feel like days to stranded citizens. Events are accelerating. People are running out of essential things and also the medications of the elderly who suffer chronic diseases. They no longer have a place to wash their dirty clothes. Food in hotels is not enough.
Bahrain announces new cases, bringing up the total number to 41. The number then increased to 47.
We are stuck in Mashhad receiving news from everywhere. Our eyes are glued to our phones through which we follow up the situation in Bahrain. Some started to feel desperate losing hope that they will return home soon, especially as they watch sectarian videos demanding not to send us back to our country and let us face our own fate in Iran.
Many of us have refrained from going to Imam Rida Shrine to avoid gatherings.
Amid all of this, our question remained unanswered. Until when shall we remain in this miserable situation?
What awaits the uninfected amid the government's slow measures?
We, Bahrainis, are suffering from psychological warfare, anxiety, panic and fear of infection while alienated from the homeland and family. Our homes, responsibilities, and livelihood await our return, as well as our parents and children who are concerned about us, while Bahrain takes tiny steps towards resolving our situation as if we are not its citizens.
Aren't we Bahrainis?