THOUSANDS of Brits were still stranded abroad by the global coronavirus lockdown last night – amid growing fury over the “useless” Foreign Office response.
Huge numbers of holidaymakers or business travellers were asked to return to the UK immediately by the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Monday. But many still had no way of getting home last night after airlines grounded fleets and airports across the world shut down.
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Trapped travellers yesterday accused the Foreign Office of dragging its feet while other nations sent flights to fetch stranded citizens. A seriously ill mum among hundreds of trapped at a locked-down coronavirus airport in Bali begged last night: “Get me home or I’ll die here.”
Pauline Bennett, 56, and her 60-year-old husband Steve are among around 300 fleeing Brits who found outbound flights cancelled yesterday. And the desperate mum-of-two fears she will collapse once her chemotherapy tablets run out tomorrow (Thursday).
Special needs support worker Pauline sobbed last night: “It’s all very well for the Foreign Office to say come home now – but we can’t – we’re marooned. I have a precancerous bone marrow disease which could turn to full-blown leukaemia if I don’t take medication.
“But my tablets run out on Thursday and I’ve been told there’s no way of getting home to get more. Without the drugs my blood will thicken and I might not make it.
“I’ve had to queue up alongside hundreds of other British people desperate to get home in a place where it’s been impossible to keep a safe distance from the virus. And if I get it I’ll be in big trouble because my immune system is weak. I’m at my wits’ end.”
Mum-of-two Pauline and joiner husband Steve from Bishops Stortford, Essex had been enjoying a dream holiday with daughter Olivia, 25, when corona clamps kicked in. They brought forward their return flight and paid £3,000 each for business class seats to escape – only to find their Emirates flight had been cancelled as transfers via Dubai were halted.
Pauline said: “We’ve been told we could stuck here for three months but Foreign Office have been useless – they just send links to their website.
“Hundreds of other Brits have been arriving here every hour – people with babies, old folk and families all queuing together at a time when we should be apart. Poland and Israel are sending planes to save their citizens so why can’t Britain?”
Vital British key workers were among those crowded at Bali’s chaotic Denpasar Airport yesterday, including NHS staff, a pharmacist, teachers, a prison custody officer, firefighter, a food distribution worker and an army reservist.
Mum Demi Gregson, 28, was left stranded in a packed customer services queue at Bali Airport last night with mum Kelly, 50, and daughter Amy, eight months. Demi sobbed: “Amy’s prescription milk formula will run out next week but we’ve been told we’ll be here for months – it’s a nightmare.
“We were supposed to be flying to paradise but now we’re trapped in hell. The disease is probably moving amongst us and British government must rescue us – it’s the only way we’ll get out of here now.”
Around 400 more Brits were trapped on the opposite side of the globe in New Zealand last night after the country went into lock down. Retired geophysicist and grandad-of-four Steve Meadows, 72, on holiday with 70-year-old wife Pauline said: “We’re trapped and getting more and more anxious about getting home now.
“I’m not sure we’ll make it home unless the UK sends a relief flight because commercial routes back are all shut down. We’re in the high risk age group and are having to try to keep our distance from other people while we wait for news. It’s a very worrying time.”
Rescue flights to bring back more than 500 British tourists stranded in Peru will begin this week, the Foreign Office said. The Peruvian government placed the country into lockdown last Monday, with no flights allowed to enter or leave without government permission.
Thousands of British Indians were also feared to be trapped in India last night after taking winter breaks in their Punjab Sikh homeland. Reports emerged of them being forcibly locked down by authorities and put under effective house arrest.
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A Sikh Federation spokesman said: “The Brits are being treated like criminals with the police marking the properties where they are staying with signs to report any Brits that leave these properties. Those there are unable to get flights back to the UK or get to airports. They have contacted MPs and the Foreign Office but have had no answers. They feel abandoned.”
Mr Raab vowed to redouble efforts to get Brits home last night by keeping commercial routes open, sending repatriation flights and offering loans in emergencies.
He said: “We know that there has been considerable pressure, because of the restrictions being placed by countries around the world and the rate at which it is being done with limited or no notice. We have doubled our capacity, we are now doubling it again to deal with the surge in demand.”
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