Scarborough man tells of his nightmare amid India lockdown chaos

A Scarborough man has told of his nightmare in India after he and his girlfriend were left to fend for themselves as a strict lockdown was ordered in the country.

Tuesday, 31st March 2020, 4:49 pm
Updated Tuesday, 31st March 2020, 5:37 pm
Lewis Kellett and his girlfriend Esther Hulme

Lewis Kellett, 25, is travelling in Anjuna, Goa, on the south west coast of India, with his girlfriend Esther Hulme, also 25, when the country was ordered into a strict 21-day lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak, with no access to supermarkets nor shops to get supplies.

Lewis, who now lives in Leeds and worked as a civil servant before setting off on his travels, described scenes of chaos after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a strict lockdown of the country in a bid to stave off the spread of Covid-19.

He told The Scarborough News: “There is a 21-day lockdown meaning no shops are open for food as no one is allowed to leave their property at all.

“We got kicked out of two hostels with no food and nowhere to stay until we saw two men who asked if we wanted to stay at their hostel.

“They granted the public access to shops for one day since the lockdown came in effect, but that one day was overcrowded with locals and tourists nearly fighting to get food.

“Some foreigners got attacked on this day by locals and also police.

“Thousands of other foreigners were kicked out onto the streets with no food, no shelter.”

Lewis, born and bred in Scarborough, has also hit out at a lack of support from the UK government after being told to “wait it out” while stranded in India.

“Then when they have rang the embassy like we did so many times, they said sort yourself out you are the responsibility of the Indian government,” he added.

“Thousands of Brits have experienced these things and pleaded to the embassy to come help but they have not been prepared to spend their money or negotiate a chartered flights to collect us.

“Other countries such as Germany, Spain, Israel and others have done so and brought back not only their own citizens but also helped UK citizens.

“How can you expect someone to wait 21 days in a foreign country with no food, no shelter and no support - it’s madness.”

Lewis and Esther have managed to source a flight back to the UK, via Finland, on Wednesday.

He added: “We’ve got a flight on Wednesday morning from Goa to Helsinki, Finland, then Finland on to London.

“The flight from Goa to Helsinki is one arranged by the Finnish government to get Europeans back as the UK have done nothing for us.

“Although we have now been given some luck, there are thousands of others who are out of luck and experiencing trauma on the streets at the hand of locals and the Indian authorities.”

Lewis and Esther have now turned their attentions to raising awareness of those who are yet to source a flight home, setting up a Facebook page called Brits stranded in India.

“We are now trying to get recognition to those who will be stranded without the help of the UK government,” he added.

“That’s why we set up the Facebook page that has attracted large numbers of desperate citizens which has now been taken further by major media outlets as this cannot and should not go unnoticed.”

Lewis was quick to thank family and friends for their help in raising awareness, as a petition to get British nationals repatriated received just under 50,000 signatures.

“Thank you to all friends and family for putting the word out online to sign that petition as it’s a step closer to the government on answering why they can’t help British nationals still stranded and to my partner Esther also, who has tirelessly helped thousandss by getting the word to the media and doing interviews with BBC, ITV, the Daily Mail and others.”

The British High Commission in New Delhi created a list of frequently asked questions by British nationals as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The government document states: “We are urgently working with the Government of India and airlines to enable returns to take place on commercial flights, and we will update our guidance for British nationals as soon as more information is available.

“Currently there is a restriction on commercial international passenger flights until 14th April 2020, and on commercial domestic flights until the end of the government lockdown on 15th April 2020.

“If anything becomes available before then, we will let British nationals know by updating our travel advice and social media channels.

“The situation is highly fluid and British nationals should be prepared for the possibility that this could be extended.

“We are in close contact with the Government of India and will update our guidance as soon as more information becomes available.”

You can sign the petition here: http://chng.it/RHBPNr8thv

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