Up to a million Britons stranded abroad scrambling to return to the UK

Up to a million Britons are still stranded abroad scrambling to return to the UK after countries closed their borders without notice including 6,000 marooned in New Zealand because the government has grounded international flights

  • Brits abroad have been struggling to get home after flights have been cancelled 
  • Around 6,000 are trapped in New Zealand that has imposed a strict lockdown
  • Last night some Britons trapped in Peru were able to get a flight out of Lima 
  • Are you or your family trapped abroad? Email: [email protected] 
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

Up to a million Britons stranded abroad are still scrambling to return to the UK amid the coronavirus pandemic – including 6,000 marooned in New Zealand and thousands trapped in Peru.

The government has been urging against all foreign travel and for people to make their own way back for more than a week, but many have found it difficult to get tickets after many commercial flights have been cancelled.

New Zealand has imposed one of the strictest lockdowns of any country to battle the deadly disease, and has grounded international flights, leaving thousands of Brits, including doctors and nurses, desperate to get home. 

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has called Winston Peters, New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister, to ask for assistance in getting Brits home. 

Mr Raab is also expected to announce a huge repatriation effort today amid mounting fears over safety.

RAF voyager transport planes could be deployed to bring UK citizens home from places such as India and Peru, where conditions are thought to be deteriorating.

It comes as stranded Britons in Peru were rescued last night by a government-ordered British Airways flight from Lima, with two further flights expected today. 

Casi Cartwright and Lewis Dafydd who are currently stranded in Peru, like many other Brits

British critical care nurse Rachel Brockbank is stuck in Christchurch due to lockdown after visiting with family for sister’s wedding

A number Britons in New Zealand are using social media to call on the government, and specific airlines to get them safely home.

A user Twitter user called Fen said: ‘Waking up to an email from @EmilyThornberry is the one thing that has given me hope that I will be able to return home. I can’t thank her enough for what she is trying to do for us all.’ 

And Shannon Rickards, said:  ‘When @qatarairways have the chance to literally become THE BEST AIRLINE IN THE if they step up and get people home. Unlike who many of us will never fly with again. #britsinNZ #getushome.

Dr Marion Lynch is one of many medical professionals currently in the country and has implored the government to get them home so they can help battle the coronavirus. 

And critical care nurse Rachel Brockbank is currently stuck in New Zealand after visiting with her family for her sister’s wedding, but is desperate to get home.

She told the New Zealand Herald: ‘I want to go back. I don’t think my family want me to but I feel that’s where I should be. That’s where I’m needed.’ 

Crispian Wilson at the Foreign Office has said that commercial routes are the only practical option for many Brits stranded abroad

Reece Hall, 24, from Cornwall, fell victim to a mugging and serious assault on February 26 in north Goa, leaving him with a fractured jaw, eye socket and leg injury, now severely infected

Heidi Hawkins, 49, a carer from West Sussex (pictured with her grandchild) is stuck in south Goa and said she is afraid to go out for food due to police brutality

Twitter user Fen is one of those stranded in New Zealand and is asking the UK government for help

Labour MP Emily Thornberry tweeted today about Mr Raab’s expected repatriation plan

Nurse stranded 7,000 miles away in the Philippines pleads with authorities to get her home so she can treat coronavirus victims

A nurse is pleading with authorities to get her home so she can help treat victims of the cornavirus.

Polly Collins left town for a holiday in the Philippines at the start of the month with a friend, who is also a nurse.

As the outbreak worsened and turned into a global pandemic, countries have tightened their borders and flights have been cancelled.

Polly Collins is desperate to get back and help the effort at home

Now Polly is stranded nearly 7,000 miles away and desperate to get home to help.

She has been inundated with appeals from health agencies back home wanting her to help treat patients. 

Before the pandemic worsened Polly and her friend landed at Cebu City and went to Puerto Princessa and on to the remote island of El Nido Palawan.

They were there for eight days before the island was put on lockdown and people had to evacuate due to the virus.

The two nurses got the last flight off the island but saw many UK nationals and others stranded there.

Rescue flights were promised but didn’t happen, although the airlines just kept taking their money.

Polly, who hit national headlines when she saved the life of a man having a heart attack at a train station in London in 2015, tried to get a flight to stay with friends in Bangkok but that was cancelled.

She has sufficient food and water but is anxious to be home to her family and get working supporting the victims of coronavirus.

‘I am just taking it day by day as so many events have taken place while being here,’ she said.

‘Meanwhile whilst here I have developed an infection on my lower shin by a mosquito. This also has needed urgent medical treatment as I was unable to weight bear.

‘As I nurse I tried my utmost to self treat but needed appropriate antibiotics. The surgeon I saw was Filipino, very experienced with superb knowledge. He was very friendly advising me that the wound would need debriding.’

The operation was painful but successful. 

She told how Filippino police now man checkpoints nearby ensuring people follow the lockdown rules.

‘It’s becoming much the same as the UK although there are no reports of any confirmed cases as yet. I have no doubt this will soon change,’ she said.

‘Everyone has to have a health pass now and these must be shown in supermarkets etc. The authorities have given me consent to travel into Cebu City for my follow up appointment with the surgeon but this could change.’

Luckily she met a fellow Lincolnshire man who was formerly stationed at RAF Waddington and at RAF Northolt. He and his wife, who run holiday accommodation have supported Polly.

‘I am safe. I have food and I have water and that’s the main thing. My family are safe back over in the UK but I will pray for them everyday.

I will keep in contact as long as able but I cannot stress enough just how many Brits are in the exactly the same situation. There is no help, there are no flights, and the communication is practically zero.

‘The shortages for nurses back in the UK are phenomenal. The demand is unreal yet they can’t get this nurse back to her own country to help with the crisis,’ said Polly.

She added: ‘We pray and live in hope that sooner or later the

Government will intervene but I appreciate the focus is on the UK and ensuring the elderly and the vulnerable are prioritised.’

‘Unfortunately the authorities are now seeing all Europeans as a threat. The locals see us as a carrier of the virus. Food supplements are now being restricted for all non-Filipino residents.’

The Foreign Office has projected between 300,000 and one million Brits are currently trapped abroad, but there is no exact figure available as there is no method in place to be able to track everybody.

The latest effort emerged as the UK’s high commissioner in Australia, Vicky Treadell, warned there are at least 30,000 Britons in the country and a few planes ‘won’t do it’.

She tweeted: ‘Brits across Australia so no single point of departure. Keeping key airports and commercial airlines providing 1000s of seats between them is therefore our current priority.’

In the Philippines a Brit stranded abroad fears his wife and unborn baby will die because he claims the British Embassy is refusing to help the family get to hospital.

Desperate Tom Shelton’s Philippino wife Annie is eight months pregnant with his first baby.

She needs a Caesarean because their unborn son is upside down in the breech position.

But the couple, who have been running a guesthouse in El Nido, in the Philippines for the last two years, are now a six-hour drive away from hospital because of restrictions enforced to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Tom, 43, from Consett, Durham, says the British Embassy won’t help because his wife is not a British citizen.

He claims they have offered to support the family once the baby – who will be British – is born but Tom fears by then it could be too late.

The struggling family are now living in a hut to save money and depending on neighbours for food after the spread of coronavirus destroyed their livelihood.

‘My baby could die because of the lockdown,’ Tom said.

‘Annie is due on April 17 but could go into labour at any time, especially with all the stress of the situation.

‘The baby is feet first and its head could get stuck if she ends up giving birth at home with no assistance. My baby and my wife’s lives are at risk and yet no one will help me.’

British Nationals stuck in India said their plight is becoming ‘desperate’, with some claiming they have faced police brutality while attempting to get food and medical supplies.  

Reece Hall, 24, a ground worker from Cornwall, fell victim to a mugging and serious assault on February 26 in Titos Lane, north Goa, leaving him with a fractured jaw, eye socket and a leg injury, which has now become severely infected.

Unable to leave his accommodation for regular treatment due hostility towards tourists and strict government lock down measures, in place since Wednesday, Mr Hall’s open leg wound, which was caused when three muggers pushed him from his bike, is now badly inflamed.

Mr Hall said: ‘I’ve been avoid going outside ever since seeing videos of people getting beaten up and hearing stories from foreigners who have been beaten, (…) my leg is not looking good at the moment’. 

‘I’m desperate to get a plane ticket home but it’s gone past the point of trying to get one now as they are all cancelled, all we can do is contact government officials. I’m surviving off one meal of rice a day.’ 

A 21-day lock down was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday causing the immediate closure of shops, restaurants and many hotels.

Heidi Hawkins, 49, a carer from West Sussex stuck in south Goa, said: ‘The supermarket was rumoured to be open and it was heaving, no social distancing, every man for himself. 

‘The police just came along and started smacking people with their sticks. So people are too scared to go out for food. When you hear of a shop that’s open you’re too scared to go there because of the police brutality. 

‘We just need food and water and we’ve been left with no information.

‘I went to the police station in Colva to ask for information and the police threatened to put me behind bars. I was laughed at and ridiculed.’ 

‘At home i’ve got my 22-year-old daughter who is highly anxious alone with her eight-week-old baby, her four-year-old daughter and my 19-year-old disabled daughter. She’s been stuck inside without food. While my 19-year-son, who is severely disabled is in an assisted living house and he is desperately homesick and doesn’t understand. 

‘I am desperate to get to him and take him home. I need to get home for my babies, they need their mum.’ 

British National, Lyn Davis, 60, who is also stuck in Goa and has been visiting the region for almost 20 years, claims she was assaulted by police in the area with a bamboo baton for leaving her hotel to collect medication she had ordered the day before.

Jay Vernon a yoga teacher from Brighton is currently stuck in Varkala, Kerala. He said he is yet to hear back from the Foreign Office

Mrs Davis said: ‘Went to the chemists in Candolim this morning (…) police were very aggressive at Calangute roundabout. We tried explaining that we had ordered medication but the police woman hit me hard on the bottom with her stick, had my phone in my hand and told her that was assault.

‘They carried on shouting and waved us through, also as we were coming up to them you could see her getting ready swinging her stick around. I’ve been coming to India for nearly 20 years, do I want to come back? Not so sure now.’   

Jay Vernon a yoga teacher from Brighton is currently stuck in Varkala, Kerala, after having two flights he had booked cancelled and no response from the British Embassy.

Mr Vernon said: ‘My two flights have been cancelled and no one has yet to reply from the Embassy. Locals are not wanting to associate with me because I’m from Europe. I still can’t understand why the Indian government doesn’t allow us to leave and their own citizens back in the country.’  

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab (pictured in Downing Street earlier this month) is expected to announce a huge repatriation effort as early as tomorrow amid mounting fears over safety

Since the 21-day lock down was announced on Wednesday by Prime Minister Narendra Modi thousands of people, mostly young male day labourers but also families, fled their New Delhi homes as the measure effectively put millions of Indians who live off daily earnings out of work.

Construction projects, taxi services, housekeeping and other informal sector employment came to a sudden halt.

Mr Modi said the extreme measure was needed to halt the spread of Covid-19 in India, which has confirmed 775 cases and 19 deaths, and where millions live in cramped conditions without regular access to clean water.

India’s finance ministry announced a 1.7trillion (£18billion) economic stimulus package that will include delivering grains and lentil rations for three months to 800 million people, around 60 per cent of the world’s second-most populous country.

But thousands of India’s most vulnerable, who fear dying not of the disease caused by the new virus but rather of starvation, have decided not to wait.

British National claims she was told ‘money talks’ by British embassy in India as tourists face the STREETS

Former civil service worker Esther Hulme, 25, from Leeds said she was thrown out of two hotels with her partner in Goa, India, as fears grow that tourists may carry coronavirus.

Ms Hulme, who was on a year-long round-the-world-trip said: ‘I feel completely and utterly abandoned. I am relying of the good nature of strangers to provide support that we have not been able to get from our own country.

‘We have been ask to leave two properties because of the risk they believe we pose, the latest accommodation asked us to stay indoors all times because they didn’t want to enrage the neighbours, we even had to leave our money to pay for the apartment in a separate store room where it would be collected because nobody wanted contact with us.’

Stranded: Lewis Kellet and Esther Hulme say they feel ‘abandoned’ with no help from UK authorities

‘I have called the embassy every day for the last three days. I was told ‘money talks’ on one occasion. On another occasion I explained we were to be on the street without any certainty of shelter, they responded they don’t help with accommodation… I had to spell it out to them that I was scared for my safety.’ 

Adding: ‘Now the armed police have now been deployed in Goa, it’s created further uncertainty amongst stranded tourists, we are concerned about what this may mean. 

‘I am worried that we are at the whim of authorities we are not familiar with, although we have been told we can leave for emergency supplies I am hesitant in fear of our safety.

The former civil service worker from Leeds said she was thrown out of two hotels with her partner as fears grow tourists carry coronavirus

‘Especially because of the already reported brutality of the police. I will rely on locals for guidance.

‘I have contacted the embassy for guidance but they haven’t been in touch neither is there an update on FCO site that provides guidance regarding this development.’

Ms Hulme travelling India before the lock down and coronavirus fears


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