Wednesday 25 March 2020 3:23 AM UTC
LONDON March 25: British tourists stranded abroad as the coronavirus pandemic paralyses international travel will be offered emergency loans to get them home, the Government said today amid fears from some that they will be left to ‘live on the streets’.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told MPs that the UK was putting pressure on airlines to help lower the price of tickets, having yesterday advised more than a million Brits abroad to return home.
It came as a junior doctor stranded in India while visiting family pleaded for help to get her home so she can join the fight to save lives.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told MPs that the UK was putting pressure on airlines to help lower the price of tickets, having yesterday advised more than a million Brits abroad to return home
Bhasha Mukherjee, 24, has been touring the world as Miss England to carry out humanitarian charity work, after taking a career break from her job at Pilgrim Hospital in Boston, Lincolnshire, in November.
Despite her best efforts to return to the UK to resume work Ms Mukherjee has been unable to secure a flight after the Indian Prime Minister imposed a travel ban and cancelled all flights leaving the country.
Addressing the Commons Mr Raab said ‘where commercial routes are limited or prevented by domestic restrictions, we’re in close contact with the airlines and local authorities in those countries to overcome those barriers to enable people to return home’.
He added: ‘We are helping to reduce travel costs by encouraging airlines to have maximum flexibility on changing return tickets.
‘Where people are in real need, our consular teams will work with them to consider their options and, as a last resort, we offer an emergency loan.’
Ms Mukherjee arrived in India at the start of March to begin a four week trip when the spread of COVID-19 took hold globally, leaving the pageant winner feeling ‘guilty’ as colleagues back home endured 13 hour shifts to tackle the deadly virus.
She is currently self-isolating with family in Kolkata, in the country’s east.
The medic said: ‘It was last week that everything started to change very rapidly. I started getting emails from work asking me to return.
‘My colleagues were telling me they are doing 13 hour shifts seven days a week and having to do night shifts too. When I heard that I felt so guilty, I really wanted to go back to work.
‘I knew how badly I was needed so I emailed telling them I was willing to come back but now I’m stuck here and I don’t know when I will be able to come home.
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