Hundreds of Australians are stuck in India, some struggling to find adequate food supplies after the entire country was locked down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On Tuesday Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced he would lock down the country’s 1.3 billion people, banning them from leaving their homes for three weeks.
Brad Humphries and his wife, Kunti, from Sydney, are stuck in Mumbai. They have tried to book flights home, but every time they’ve had one, it has been cancelled.
“It gets hard. We’ve booked various flights and they’ve said, ‘Oh yes we’ve got a flight for this date’. Then we get an email cancelling it,” Mr Humphries told The New Daily.
“It’s frustrating. We contacted the High Commission, they said to contact the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). They asked if we were safe, and said they couldn’t get involved.
“They were supportive, but it was like, I might as well ring a helpline. They really weren’t offering anything.
“There is no way to come home. And we’re scared.”
The couple has been in the country since March 10. They said the COVID-19 case numbers were low when they flew out, so they didn’t think it would be an issue.
What was meant to be a relaxing holiday visiting family and friends has turned into a desperate rescue plea.
They are now in a WhatsApp group with 120 other Australians trying to get home.
Everyone is desperate and willing to pay their own way if the government could help them arrange a flight.
Currently, the couple is burning through at least $150 on food and accommodation per day. Although their accommodation is comfortable, the cost is unsustainable.
It is not just the financial element they’re worried about, it is catching COVID-19.
“If you get sick, you want to be at home. The last thing we want is to fall sick here and end up in an Indian hospital. They have a great health system, but it will be overwhelmed,” Mrs Humphries said.
“They aren’t testing enough people. The reality is, they just don’t know the case numbers.
She called on the Australian government to follow Germany’s lead.
“What the German government did was, they found where their people were and arranged busses to Delhi or to a place where they could fly them out,” she said.
“They were working around the clock, getting the Germans, getting them out of towns.
“We don’t know if Modi will extend the lockdown. We just want someone to help us get out of here.”
Although all domestic and international travel has been banned, some countries, including Germany, France, the United States and Israel have managed to get their citizens out.
Hundreds of Australians are thought to be stuck inside the country after their ‘rescue flights’ were cancelled – they’ve been given no other option but to stay put.
Some are struggling to find bottled water, and many supermarket shelves are bare. Others need medication they can’t get.
Karandeep Singh, from South Australia, is stuck in with his wife and two-year-old daughter in Mohali, a city in Punjab.
They have been in India for two months, after travelling to the country for his brother’s wedding. Now they can’t leave.
“We’ve been here for two months. We had a flight on March 23 and it got cancelled,” Mr Singh said.
He contacted the Australian High Commission In India, who told them to ‘stay where they are’ but they are struggling to get proper food for their daughter.
“We are struggling to get food for her because she’s not used to drinking the milk over here. We’re not getting it due to lockdown,” Mr Singh said.
“And we can’t get her medication, you’re not allowed to go outside.
“I don’t know what we will do.”
Mr Singh works in mining, his wife works in a nursing home. Booking the flight home, the one that was cancelled, has already cost them thousands of dollars.
“We booked the flight a second time and it got cancelled. We’ve already paid but if we need to re-book we need to pay again – that’s what Singapore Airlines told us.”
He said he feels deserted by the government, and worried about how long the lockdown will go for.
“We’re Australian citizens, I pay a good amount of tax. I thought the government would help us out,” he said.
“We are happy to pay if they’ll take us. Like the same thing they did with China, at least then we would know we are going back.”
Another couple from Melbourne are stuck in Bhuj, a city in India’s west. They are running out of medication.
“We are in a bad situation at the moment,” said Mehul, who only wanted his first name used.
“With me being diabetic with high cholesterol. I’ve got only two days of medication left and no means to get to a pharmacy due to lockdown.”
He said he and his wife were staying at a friend’s house, where there was no water supply.
“We are meant to be on our way home to with Singapore Airlines, which got cancelled several times within a week. Now we are not getting any response from Singapore Airlines or our travel agent back in Melbourne.
“I beg the Australian government to kindly help us get back home. Like I said, my medication will only last me till the morning.”
The New Daily contacted the DFAT, asking specifically how many Australians in India had asked them for help and if anything could be done to provide assistance.
After 24 hours, the department had provided no response.