7 May 2021

Kiwis feeling stranded and hopeless in India: 'All our whānau at home are worried about them'

6:52 am on 7 May 2021

Some New Zealanders in India are feeling hopeless about their chances of escaping the Covid-ravaged country, while the national cricketers fly out.

A Covid-19 patient arrives at the GTB hospital in New Delhi on 29 April 2021.

Photo: AFP

Covid-19 cases in India are continuing to climb, with hundreds of thousands of cases reported each day, overwhelming the health system.

Commercial flights out of India are either cancelled or heavily restricted, even as thousands of foreign nationals try to flee.

While most New Zealanders are finding it virtually impossible to leave, New Zealand's cricketers are being evacuated on private jets paid for by the Indian cricket association (BCCI) and their Indian Premier League teams.

Some New Zealanders are calling for repatriation flights, which the government has so far declined.

Leah Hiku's parents are in India for work and had to stay to see out a contract on an engineering job. And now her father of Ngāti Porou and mother of Ngāi Tahu can't come back to their whenua.

"Oh it's difficult, yep. It's difficult knowing they can't get home to their homeland, and all our whānau at home are worried about them."

Rohin Saggar is stuck in the state of Punjab after going over for his sister's wedding. The Emirates flight he booked months ago was cancelled, and the company won't be flying from India until at least next Saturday - and maybe later. He hasn't seen his wife and two children in New Zealand in two months.

He said there are so many other New Zealanders who want to come home but can't.

Saggar thinks there should be a repatriation flight.

"[To] go back to our families, they're waiting for us. I talk to them every day. I can't see any other way to come back so far."

Sajutha Selwyn and her husband got Covid-19 a few weeks ago, with her husband ended up in hospital. They are fine now but say the situation is dire for many with little hope of it getting any better.

"There are many people who are desperate to get out. So they should get a repatriation flight here and it should be priced reasonably. That would be a good thing - that would show the government cares."

Hiku said her parents need to get out. They're both over 60 and her mother has underlying health issues.

She said there are limited flights out to Qatar but it is basically impossible to get a spot.

"It's kinda like, maybe you should walk somewhere. It's like they're refugees, but it's a Covid thing. There's no way of getting them home."

The government has ruled out repatriation flights for now.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the message has always been very clear about the risks of travelling overseas. She said the lack of commercial flights was likely to be temporary, but officials are monitoring the situation.

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