Friday, April 30, 2021

Flight restrictions frustrate stranded citizens in India

Auckland: Although the New Zealand government has lifted the ban on flights from India, inadequate, infrequent air services and suspension of flights by many airlines continue to frustrate New Zealand citizens stranded in India.

Many airlines have either suspended flights from India or restricted transit passengers at various points, contributing to longer than expected delays in the travel of eligible people from the country, characterised as ‘High-Risk.’

India has been experiencing a high rate of daily infections, reaching a record 360,960 and more than 20,000 deaths in the past 24 hours. Although oxygen cylinders, ventilators and other essential hospital supplies are coming in from various countries, the sheer volume of people needing hospitalisation and/or treatment has created a huge gap between demand and supply. Interviews and reports- through official, media and personal sources-indicate the growing desperation.

Only New Zealand citizens are allowed to enter India and according to a Radio New Zealand Report, there were only 131 people are booked into Managed Isolation Quarantine (MIQ) facilities up to Sunday, Mary 2, 2021.

“It is highly likely that many of these returnees will not arrive in New Zealand because of the widespread disruption to flight schedules, particularly from India to destinations where many returnees from there currently transit en route to New Zealand,” the spokesperson said.

It is understood that 91 of these 131 people are permanent residents or temporary visa holders, which means that they will be able to travel only if they have a partner, are a dependent child or parent of a dependent child who is a New Zealand citizen.

House of Travel Chief Operating Officer Brent Thomas said getting back from India was very difficult, even if someone was eligible under the new criteria.

“There are no direct flights and the traditional routes such as Australia are not open. Travellers may be able to by Qatar Airways via Doha but the number of seats is limited. Global travel rules are changing with just 24 hours’ notice and over time, requirements through transit countries will become more complex,” he said.

The New Zealand government has committed to giving the Red Cross $1 million to assist with the crisis.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the images coming from India as ‘absolutely devastating,’ but said that there are no plans to operate repatriation flights.

“Early on in the pandemic, we arranged charter flights to get as many citizens and permanent residents out of India as possible. However, commercial flights began operating thereafter. But flights from India have been suspended now,” she said.

29/04/21 Venkat Raman/Indian News Link

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