Coronavirus: HK government contacts 2,900 residents stuck in India to pinpoint their locations amid pleas to airlift them home

27-Apr-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Officials say they have contacted thousands of Hongkongers stranded in India under the world’s biggest Covid-19 lockdown to pinpoint their locations as a community leader urged the city’s chief executive to help bring them home.

With the South Asian nation in the grip of the health crisis, prime minister Narendra Modi has extended the drastic restrictions initially imposed in March for three weeks until at least May 3.

Hong Kong’s Immigration Department said it was in touch with 2,900 Hong Kong residents trapped there and had collected personal information, including their whereabouts.

“The department will continue to contact other residents requesting assistance and will follow up the matter,” a spokesman for the authority said, adding it had also contacted 1,500 Hong Kong residents stuck in Pakistan.

Earlier, former president of the India Association Hong Kong, Mohan Chugani, said most of those stranded were Indian nationals, and that about 1,900 of them were permanent Hong Kong identity card holders, while nearly 220 had city passports.

Chugani said last week the Indian consul general told him he wanted to help but could only do so following an official request from the city government because of the Hong Kong status of those trapped in India.

“I wrote to the chief executive [Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor] yesterday night, I believe she will reply to us,” Chugani said on a radio programme on Friday, adding he heard the lockdown could be extended by another month as the country struggled to control the pandemic.

“[People] would rather get infected in Hong Kong than in India to be honest, as the medical service in Hong Kong is many times better than in India.”

As of Friday, India had recorded more than 700 coronavirus deaths and 21,000 infections.

Last month, the Hong Kong government issued a red outbound travel alert for all places worldwide except mainland China, Macau and Taiwan as the virus swept the globe.

Members of the public are strongly encouraged to avoid any non-essential travel outside Hong Kong, with many countries imposing quarantine measures on arrivals.

Chugani said the Indian nationals went there to visit family or travel. The group was scattered around but mostly based in Mumbai and New Delhi.

Some who were staying in hotels were starting to run out of money, while others needed medicine.

Hong Kong’s lawmakers from across the political spectrum have also requested the government stepped in.

Chugani met with John Lee Ka-chiu last Thursday and said the security minister remained non-committal by citing the technical difficulties associated with the airlifts, including finding an airline willing to arrange a chartered flight, the paralysis affecting much of the country’s land transport and the health risk the returnees might pose to Hong Kong.


Category: Hong Kong

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