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Lockdown: Thousands of foreigners remain stranded across country

According to the Ministry of Tourism, "thousands of international visitors are confined to their hotel rooms and cannot fly out due to the nationwide lockdown”.

Written by Divya A | New Delhi | Updated: April 11, 2020 8:49:16 pm
india coronavirus lockdown, tourists stranded in india, india lockdown tourists, covid 19 cases, coronavirus news, latest news Foreign nationals being evacuated on special flights (File/Express Photo by Partha Paul)

Even as the government informed Friday that it has evacuated 20,473 foreign internationals till date, there are thousands others who remain stranded in various parts of the country. According to the Ministry of Tourism, “thousands of international visitors are confined to their hotel rooms and cannot fly out due to the nationwide lockdown”.

On March 31, the government had launched a portal for such visitors — strandedinindia.com — which aims to identify, assist and facilitate foreign tourists stranded in the country. As per data shared by the Ministry of Tourism with The Indian Express, more than 1,200 foreigners have registered their grievances on the website in the first 10 days.

In a written reply to a questionnaire on the nature of complaints, the Ministry explained that their concerns vary from expired visas; help with curfew permits to travel to airports to take rescue flight; any information on the scheduled flight operations, or rescue flights. Some of them are also seeking help about their depleting medicine stocks or help with food supply. For this, the government is working actively with the state officials to provide a solution for the same. Emergency requests like need for food, medicine and care for elderly tourists are being expedited.

Monalisa Sethi, a US citizen stranded in Bhubaneswar along with three family members, had requested for transit permit to travel to Hyderabad and the same was arranged through centre-state coordination, the Ministry said.

Citing another instance, the Ministry said, an American woman, who wanted to reach Delhi to be with her son undergoing surgery but was stuck in Bihar’s Supaul, was facilitated a special transit-permit. “She has safely reached her destination.”

An Australian tourist with a history of epilepsy ran out of his medicines in Ahmedabad. The portal alerted the office of the District Collector, which not only arranged mediation but also food and local transportation. “Now, they are comfortable and safe,” the Ministry informed.

The portal is also helping the Indian authorities in return, to keep a tab on the movement of foreign nationals. For instance, lists of passengers from countries which were COVID-19 hotspots have been circulated to the regional offices. They were asked to track and monitor their movement and hotels were advised to take safety measures as per the advisory of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for separation and quarantine of the susceptible individuals.

Many foreign guests are also requesting for accommodations suitable for their depleting budget. Hotels are also being requested to follow the protocol and extend their support till the departure of such guests are arranged by the embassies, says an official from the ministry. For instance, Mir Rezaul Tonoy Tarique, an Australian tourist stranded in West Bengal, had requested for accommodation. The SDOs of the state government met him and relocated him to a comfortable hotel at his budget upon request of the Ministry of Tourism.

Tourists in trouble would need to provide some basic contact information and the nature of issues being faced by them. Once a request is received, the five regional offices of the Ministry get in touch with the nodal officers appointed by states and union territories to assist such tourists and provide them ground support.

Incidentally, the Ministry also said that there have been cases where foreigners have expressed a desire to come to India or extend their stay since their own countries are worse-affected. They cited the case of British national Sharon Chawda, who wrote: “I wanted to know what should I do to extend my stay period for a few months. I feel India is safe for me as the virus in UK is spreading very rapidly.” The portal has also received a query from a Russian national who is keen to travel to India.

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