As many as 87 natives of Central Gujarat, who were stranded in UK due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reached Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport in Ahmedabad after a 27-hour-long journey on Thursday and were sent to institutional quarantine at Swaminarayan temple in Vadtal in Kheda district.
The temple, midway from Vadodara and Ahmedabad, has been turned into a government isolation centre for those returning from foreign countries. Some passengers also opted for paid quarantine facilities.
A few among those who returned, however, said that the long wait to get home has left them distressed.
Anand Vidyanagar resident Sonal Panchmatiya, who is a homeopathy practitioner, returned from London after being stranded for over 50 days and has checked into the free institutional quarantine at Vadtal temple, which is barely 10 kilometers away from her residence. Her 10-year-old twins –a son and daughter– have been calling her every few hours to check on her. “It feels like so near yet so far. I have been yearning to see my children. Even after returning after almost 2 months, now we will have to wait for another week before we can be united. They are calling me up to check if the institution can allow visiting hours for families so at least we can see each other,” she says.
Panchmatiya is sharing her quarantine accommodation with Vadodara resident Hetal Munshi, who has 4-year-old twin girls. The two mothers wish they can go back home sooner.
“We are hoping that the government will consider the request of mothers like us who have stayed away from young children. We are willing to quarantine for as long as they want us to but we should be allowed to go home to our children,” says Munshi, who had left for her orchestra shows in London on March 3.
While the passengers said that the arrangements at Heathrow Airport in London as well as in Ahmedabad were well placed, some of them who opted quarantine facility said that they were not allowed to choose.
“We were just asked to choose a district other than our home district as per the rules and herded into buses. Later, they told us they would stop at locations on the way where paid quarantine has been arranged,” said a student from Vadodara, who returned from London and chose a paid facility in Anand district after consulting his family.
Another 18-year-old student from Ahmedabad had opted for a paid quarantine facility in Gandhinagar. His father told this newspaper, “The issue is only about the communication. None of the passengers had any official communication about the protocol on arrival and choosing of quarantine. The government, in today’s age, should put out information on social media so that those travelling in are aware. So many senior citizens were also on the flight who did not know what to do.”
According to Kheda Collector, I K Patel, the district has a total of 173 foreign travellers in quarantine since the last three days. “These are passengers who have arrived on three flights from Philippines, Kuwait and London. They will be in institutional quarantine for 14 days. Of these, some have opted for paid quarantine while about 125 persons are in the facility at the Swaminarayan temple,” Patel said.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines