Stranded New Zealanders still hope for India flights – two new covid-19 cases

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New Zealanders lined up for a repatriation flight from New Delhi, India, last month. Image: Kharag Singh/RNZ

By RNZ Pacific

New Zealanders left behind in India are asking for additional repatriation flights to evacuate them, after the government did not have enough capacity to return everyone who wanted to come home in the face of the covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

More than 700 citizens and permanent residents returned on the three flights from New Delhi and Mumbai, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) said, the last of which returned on April 30.

However, almost double that figure – 1360 people – expressed interest in the flights. Some people changed their mind, and others could not travel for a variety of reasons. The remainder were left behind and now have no clear path home.

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“Due to high demand for the flight, we have unfortunately not been able to offer seats to all those who would have been eligible to travel to New Zealand,” an MFAT email to registered New Zealanders said, regarding the third flight from New Delhi.

“Until such time as commercial flights re-commence or other countries’ chartered flights become available to New Zealanders, we continue to encourage New Zealanders to stay safely where they are.”

Navjot Matharu’s 52-year-old mother is in New Delhi. She registered for the flights and was willing to pay but did not receive a ticket, and is now stuck. She’ is a permanent resident, unable to return to her full-time job or home.

Matharu said it had been a stressful situation, fearing there would not be any commercial flights available for months.

‘No more flights’
“[The government] haven’t said there aren’t any plans [for future flights], but they’ve just said ‘we’re looking into it’. I think it’s a nice way of saying ‘no more flights’,” he said.

He said he understood flights were complex to organise.

“I’m already grateful that they’ve done so much. They’ve still got 700 people out which is a big number. But now half of them are saying, ‘well you got those people out, why can’t you get us out?’.

“They’ve already done three flights so they have the process. People are willing to pay for it, so I don’t see why it is so hard to put on another few flights and get the rest of the people out as well,” he said.

Other governments – such as Australia – have some flights planned which New Zealanders can apply for. Thirty-four New Zealanders took up such offers leaving from Kolkata and Chennai.

“[If it] was 20 or 30 people [left in India] then ok sure, we’ll just have to suck it up until things get better. But unfortunately what I’ve seen is that a lot of people are still there and are willing to pay for the flights as well,” Matharu said.

Two new coronavirus cases
In other developments yesterday, the Ministry of Health reported just two cases to the country’s covid-19 total and the government said it had approved the fast tracking of large “shovel ready” projects, largely bypassing the Resource Management Act.

The two new cases of Covid-19 recorded over the previous 24 hours, were both linked to the St Margaret’s Hospital and Rest Home cluster in Auckland.

The Ministry of Health’s latest information shows there have been no new deaths or probable cases, taking the total number of confirmed and probable cases to 1487.

Three more people have recovered taking that total to 1266, meaning 85 percent of all cases are now considered as recovered.

Eight people are in hospital, none in intensive care.

A total of 4634 tests were completed, taking the total to 150,223.

  • This article is republished by the Pacific Media Centre under a partnership agreement with RNZ.
  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP – don’t show up at a medical centre.
  • Follow RNZ’s coronavirus newsfeed
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