Join the Nation Festival for four days of essential conversation and commentary in the wake of the 2020 election. REGISTER began her day as usual. She awoke in the room she shared with nine other employees of Transguard Group, the United Arab Emirates–based company that had placed her in customer service at the Dubai International Airport nearly three years prior. The room was one of many, packed and utilitarian, that made up the Al Quoz 10 labor camp, one of many such camps in the industrial zone south of the city center. Before long, Gurung’s routine was brought to a sudden halt by her supervisor, who informed her that her employment—and salary—would be suspended indefinitely because of the rapidly deepening Covid-19 crisis. Overnight, Gurung found herself stranded without income, nearly 2,000 miles from her husband and 7-year-old daughter, as the world descended into a pandemic. “We were all very scared,” she recalled to me in a phone call, describing the swift lockdown that followed, adding that the company’s Covid-19 protection measures were minimal. “They put hand sanitizer out and gave each person just one mask that we had to keep washing and reusing for months. But they weren’t testing us.” Some of the workers were still required to report for duty, leaving Gurung terrified that they’d “bring the virus back with them” and spread it around the camp. She recalls that these workers were given temperature checks upon return —a measure that detects only those cases in which a fever is present, but can miss many others. She started to hear rumors of infections breaking out in the camp, and her apprehension grew. “We were sure we’d get sick.”

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