ABU DHABI - Hannah O'Reilly, who is six months pregnant, has been reunited with her husband in the United Arab Emirates after first getting stranded in the United States by the coronavirus outbreak and then having to spend 11 days in quarantine in a UAE hotel.
"Here we go into freedom," the 29-year-old American said as she finally left her room in the four-star Redisson Blu in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi last week, where she had been videoing her life in the hotel on her cellphone.
O'Reilly, a teacher with residency in the UAE, had been visiting family in New Jersey when the UAE suspended passenger flights as part of measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Her British husband had stayed on in Dubai.
In her cellphone video, she recalled her mounting concerns about the costs of being stuck indefinitely in the United States, pregnant and without health insurance, as the COVID-19 disease caused by the virus spread rapidly around the country.
"Once my travel insurance ended, I was in a Covid-19 hotspot with the hospitals quickly reaching capacity," she said. "I was really facing a financial crisis."
After Emirati media highlighted her case, UAE authorities put her on an evacuation flight for Emiratis being repatriated to the Gulf Arab state from Washington D.C.
Grateful for her rescue, she has discussed the experience on the Instagram account @queenquarantineuae, where she has also highlighted cases of other UAE residents still stuck abroad.
Expatriates make up around 80% of the population of the UAE, which has recorded 4,123 coronavirus infections with 22 deaths.
With most flights halted and curfews in place, many idle UAE hotels that once served tourists and business travellers have offered themselves as quarantine centres.
On landing in the UAE, O'Reilly tested negative for the new coronavirus but was not permitted to leave her hotel room due to quarantine regulations and her temperature was taken each day.
Through the spyhole in the hotel room door, she could see masked workers sterilising hallway carpets daily.
Her husband had to get a permit to leave the house to collect her from the hotel under the rules of a 24-hour curfew currently imposed in Dubai to curb the spread of the virus.
O'Reilly said she was touched by the Emiratis who messaged her to say "Welcome home ... we are happy you are here."
(Reporting by Reuters TV Writing by Lisa Barrington Editing by Gareth Jones) ((email@example.com;))