Disabled woman stranded in Indian hotel due to lockdown

A DISABLED woman who flew to India with her elderly mother and caregiver has been stuck in a hotel for almost a month due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Shallo Chand, 62, of Oxford, is stranded at the Ramada Hotel in Jalandhar, Punjab, India, with her mother Gurbaksk Kaur, 82, and her caregiver, Louise Holden, 64.

They arrived on March 4 and were due to return to the UK on March 26, but lockdown restrictions that began the day before have resulted in all flights being canceled.

Ms Chand is particularly worried about returning home, as she is a high-risk person in a wheelchair and suffering from post-polio syndrome making her vulnerable at this time.

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Her mother is also at high risk and Ms Chand believes their return has not been a priority for the UK government.

The trio are three of the nine guests who are staying at the hotel in hopes of being repatriated before closing.

Ms. Chand said, “Because they (the hotel) are in financial difficulty; I’m afraid they’ll make the decision soon and I don’t know where we can go as other hotels won’t accept tourists.

She said she took the advice of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and completed the necessary forms, but did not receive a response from the ministry.

The three have endured “unbearable” heat with limited food and supplies provided at the hotel and cannot leave due to strict lockdown rules enforced in India.

She added: “The hotel staff are very supportive and are doing all they can in these tragic conditions. We are not allowed to leave the hotel at all, there is a strong daily police presence to make sure everyone is following the lockdown rules.

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“The variety and supplies of food are extremely limited at the hotel due to availability. The heat is unbearable at times and the air conditioning is only turned on for very short periods of time.

“I am very stressed, at very low ebb and exhausted from doing daily surveys, filling out forms and contacting various organizations to find a solution to my plight.

“In such circumstances, it doesn’t feel like the vulnerable are a priority.”

Friends and family have taken to social media in an effort to educate the public and the government about their plight.

Ms Chand says that thanks to their efforts, the British High Commission contacted her last night to offer them flights on Thursday.

She said: “While this is good news, I am waiting for written confirmation and payment for the flights before I can truly believe that I will be going home.”

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The flights are organized by the travel management company CTM (Corporate Travel Management) which Ms. Chand also attempted to contact.

A spokesperson for the FCO said: ‘We know this is a difficult time for many UK travelers abroad – especially those with individual health issues and difficult circumstances.

“Our consular teams are doing everything possible, especially for those in difficulty, to keep the British informed of the latest developments and help them get back – on commercial flights where they are still available or on special charter flights. We will continue to work around the clock to bring people home.

India’s lockdown, which began at midnight on March 25, was supposed to last three weeks, but Prime Minister Modi extended it until May 3.

Christina A. Kroll

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