How the sudden lockdown affected stranded tourists across the world

On 31st December 2019, Wuhan Municipal Health Commission(China) reported a cluster of cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, Hubei Province. A novel coronavirus was later identified as the root cause. At this point, the threat was not clear to the authorities since information on the virus was very limited. While there were cases arising in and around Wuhan soon had the situation tagged as an endemic. Later, mid-January onwards, cases started to emerge across different parts of the world. Thailand, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom among other nations were reporting big numbers as well. The situation soon became so dire that in February, WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic and issued guidelines to control the spread of the virus.

The entire world was struck with hysteria as governments began to enact control measures to curb the virus’ spread. Entire nations went into lockdown and international borders and travel were shut closed. The suddenness of this move had thousands of tourists stranded across different parts of the globe. It also left embassies helpless. Tourists were soon running of money while there were strict implications for disobedience of lockdown guidelines in countries such as Saudi Arabia (a fine of more than £2,000 or 20 days in jail). There was so much fear propagated by the media that several tourists were forced out of the hotels, hostels and guest houses where they were stationed. These tourists would then have to look for alternative accommodation forcing them to pay inflated amounts of money.

In a recent interview with BBC, Paul Nicholas and Carina Rees and her boyfriend Oskar Field (All citizens of the UK) shared their experiences on the same. Nicholas was stuck in Riyadh, while Rees and Field were stranded in Agra, India. The situation was so bad that they had to live off instant noodles and fruits for nearly a month. The trio consistently tried to contact the Foreign Offices but there was no response in return while their funds were running out fast. There was a feeling that they had been abandoned by their government. It was later in April that the United Kingdom (and several other countries) announced the launch of a special project where they partnered with a number of airlines. The UK government allocated up to 75 million pounds as a part of the project, for charter flights in countries where commercial options aren’t available. Fortunately enough, the trio was able to return back home.

Harman Singh

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