The story of Dania Ali has made the headlines this past week. A young student from the UK, Dania has unfortunately been in the news since she flew back from London to Pakistan. She was tested positive for Covid-19 and has suffered social media backlash as a result. In this exclusive with Scaryammi, Dania Ali’s mother Anna Ali shares her and her daughter’s experience
Introduce yourself, please
My name is Anna Ali, I live in Lahore and I am a mother of three kids. My middle daughter is Dania Ali, who recently has taken over social media for being positive for Covid-19
How old is Dania and where does she study?
Dania Ali is 22 years old and she studies fashion marketing in London, United Kingdom.
Why did you make a decision to call her back to Pakistan?
As I learnt that the UK has now become one of the epicentres of the new coronavirus my first instinct was to call my daughter back home so she could be safe here.
When did Dania reach Pakistan and was she experiencing any symptoms on her way here?
Dania reached Islamabad Airport on Monday morning as all the flights to Lahore were booked. During her flight, she mentioned that she had a headache and difficulty breathing and that she will get tested for Covid 19 when she reaches.
Was Islamabad airport equipped to check patients coming from the UK, knowing the UK is getting worse?
When she reached Islamabad airport, they only checked her fever and cleared her without any other precautionary measures.
Why did Dania still feel as it was necessary to get her tests done after being cleared?
Whoever knows Dania knows what kind of a person she is. She is always thinking about others before she thinks about herself. She called me from the car and told me that she will self isolate herself until she takes a test as she feels she could have contracted the virus. She also mentioned making sure there are no kids and elder people in the house.
What measures did Dania take for herself and others around her?
Dania reached Lahore and the first thing she did was go to her room and wait there. We did not meet her or see her. She called Chugtai lab herself and asked them to test her at her house as she did not want to step outside until she was sure of her situation.
How long did it take for the test to come and what was the reaction?
It took 16 hours for the result to come and in those 16 hours, Dania did not leave her room. She was constantly asking us to stay outside but as a worried mother, I wanted to be close to her to make sure she was okay. Once the result came positive, Chugtai lab called Health Department of Punjab and within an hour the team showed up outside my doorstep.
Did you and Dania decide to corporate with the health department?
Yes, I personally went and met them outside and told them we are willing to corporate for the safety of ourselves and others around us. They told me that the ambulance is on the way and once it comes we will take Dania to Ganga Ram Hospital. In the meantime, I decided to research if Ganga Ram Hospital is fully equipped with the facilities needed for Covid-19 patients
How long did it take for the Ambulance to arrive and what happened in the meantime?
As Dania and I were waiting for the ambulance out of nowhere the media showed up, people started gathering outside the house in huge numbers and the police showed up. There were about 60-70 people outside my house making most of a personal situation that my family was dealing with. I mentioned to them to please send the media away as this is an invasion of our privacy. It took the ambulance 3 hours to come and the minute it came we sent Dania to Ganga Ram Hospital.
Were the hospitals fully equipped for Covid-19 patients?
Ganga Ram Hospital made Dania wait for about two hours before telling her that we have no arrangements for coronavirus patients and that they could not admit her here. They told us that there is another hospital in defence phase 6 please take her there. It was 1:30 am in the morning and we then took Dania to PKLI (Pakistan Kidney and Liver Institute). After making us wait for an hour more at PKLI. The doctor told Dania that due to the lack of facilitation provided we think its best if you go home and take care of yourself during this time. In the meantime, Dania’s health started deteriorating as she had been going around for the last 5 hours and we came back home.
How did you decide to take care of Dania at home?
We disinfected her entire room and told her that she needs to self isolate herself for the coming days. I learnt that to fight this virus you need to increase your immunity. So I decided to give her vitamins and soups and just within a day we could see her she was doing better.
What happened afterwards?
Due to our house making it in the media with false information we were in the spotlight. The next night the health ministry department showed outside our house again telling us that they have made the necessary arrangement at PKLI and that we need to take her now. To be corporative I did what they told me to do and Dania agreed so we sent her.
What is the situation at PKLI where Dania is right now?
In the last 24 hours Dania has been there, she has not been given any vitamins. She is constantly asking for food and they are not providing the nutrients she needs to overcome this virus. She has been asking for one blanket which they still not have given she has been bitten by so many mosquitos as there is no arrangement for anything.
What would you like to say to all the mothers and people of Pakistan after this detailed experience?
The media shows only half of the story. They twist words, they spread fake news. The true question lies which are also my main concern is that we are heading towards tougher times due to this virus. We are a nation of 197 million people. Is the government ready? Why was Dania cleared from Islamabad airport after being positive? If Dania was not a responsible person herself and did not care to get tested what then?
Secondly, the reaction from the media and health ministry department is the reason why so many people are afraid of getting tested now. They do not want to become a social media sensation. The health department could have handled the situation much better. I understand that their job is to safety measures but this just made the situation worse. I saw the news that my daughter is a doctor and that she ran away for 15 hours before going to the hospital. I don’t understand how media can spread news just for the sake of spreading the news.
I have never been this powerless as I was for the last two days. Constant phone calls, seeing my house on TV. Having no privacy for my family. I told Dania to get re-tested as maybe it was a mistake to which she replied someone might need the test more than her. My daughter did not need any of this as it can have an effect on someone’s mental health. Is this what they want from the people? To be so scared to get the test done because of the backlash. I request everyone that today it was my daughter, tomorrow it could be yours. Take the necessary precautions for your loved one because no one wants to see their child going through something like this. As a country, we can do better but as human beings, we need to a lot more than better.