Coronavirus: Indian consulate in HK poised to work with government to fly home 700 residents stuck in South Asian country

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

The Indian consulate in Hong Kong has said it is poised to work with the city’s government to fly some 700 stranded residents out of the South Asian country, even as the administration remains non-committal.

The consulate’s comments came as Hong Kong recorded 24 new coronavirus infections on Monday, bringing the tally to 914 amid strained medical resources and quarantine facilities.

“Some foreign governments have requested the government of India for permission to arrange special flights to bring back their nationals,” consul Ajith John Joshua said.

“If the government of Hong Kong… sends a similar proposal to the consul general of India in Hong Kong, we will process the proposal for obtaining necessary approvals from the government of India.”

As Covid-19 swept across the globe, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi last month ordered a three-week nationwide lockdown set to end next Tuesday.

The Hong Kong Security Bureau did not answer directly queries from the Post if it would arrange flights, saying only that the Immigration Department had provided “relevant information”, as well as “proper advice and practicable assistance” to those stranded in India.

The department would continue to provide help accordingly, a bureau spokesman said, urging residents to avoid non-essential travel outside Hong Kong.

Mohan Chugani, a former president of the India Association in Hong Kong, said 700 or more Hong Kong residents of Indian roots were stranded in the country, with about 70 of them holding the city’s passport.

“If you’re a Hongkonger, you’re a Hongkonger. Period,” Chugani said. “The government has always said that the ethnic minority groups in Hong Kong are part of the city. It needs to come up with a plan to bring them home.”

He claimed stranded city residents in the mainland Chinese city of Wuhan were brought home on government-chartered flights much earlier because they were Chinese, accusing the government of “double standards” for dragging its feet over those in India.

Chugani said he feared the lockdown in India would be extended.

If the government was worried that the city’s quarantine facilities could not accommodate such a big number of returnees, then authorities could send them back in batches, he said, adding that the evacuees should also be required to pay for the cost of the chartered flights.

Among the stranded in India is 41-year-old Manish Suri, who has been working in Hong Kong since 2013. He went to India to visit friends in January, with his family members joining him later.

Stuck in his friend’s house, he said he had avoided going out for fear of getting infected.

He was willing to pay the cost of the flights back to Hong Kong if it was not too expensive.

As of Monday night, India reported more than 4,000 coronavirus infections, with 109 deaths.

Also on Monday, five of the 65 Hong Kong residents who returned from locked-down Peru with the assistance of the government were confirmed to be among the city’s new infections.


Category: Hong Kong

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