Friday, December 03
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Expats stranded; pandemic takes ugly turn in India

19 Apr 2021 By ANIRBAN RAY

Plans to visit loved ones back in India have been on hold for several expatriates in Oman. With the latest record-breaking surge in COVID-19 cases in India, the Embassy of Oman in New Delhi has advised against travel to the host country.

India is the latest country where the double mutant virus is spreading rapidly and hundreds of thousands of people are testing positive every single day. Facing a sudden surge in coronavirus infections, India has overtaken Brazil with the second highest number of COVID-19 cases.

Lovel Balakrishnan, an Indian expatriate from Kerala, has not been home for the past two years. He yearns to meet his mother, wife and three daughters. “Two years is a long time and I am desperate to meet my family. I was planning a trip in early May, but now with the spike in cases, it is impossible to go.

“Also, I fear that like Oman suspended London flights recently, all flights connecting India may get cancelled. It is a time of severe uncertainty and taking a chance is very risky.” 

The double mutation strain is thought to be fuelling India’s deadly new wave of infections. Sixteen states and union territories – Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Kerala, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Telangana, Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal – are showing an upward trajectory in new daily cases. 

Rakesh Rajan Chavan from Mumbai had been planning for the last one year to visit his hometown, but the recent spike in cases has disrupted his plans. “I’m so disappointed about the fact that this year too I can’t make a trip home because of the lockdown in my city. Also, there are many travel restrictions including high hotel quarantine costs, which are making my travel impossible,” Chavan said.

Visiting India also requires factoring in hurdles and inconveniences associated with mandatory PCR tests and quarantine when travelling from one state to another within the country. 

Prasun Pandey, who hails from Patna in the eastern Indian state of Bihar, normally takes a flight via Lucknow, capital of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. 

“Now I hear that even for inter-state movement, one needs to have a PCR test done. This is not only financially straining but also time consuming. I have not seen my son for three years who is studying in another state,” he said. 

The Omani Embassy in New Delhi on Saturday issued a travel advisory, asking Omanis to avoid non-essential visits to India.

H E Sheikh Hamed Saif al Rawahi, the sultanate’s ambassador in New Delhi, said that India has supported Oman in its vaccination drive and the two countries have worked jointly during this pandemic to further strengthen bilateral ties.

“Omani nationals planning to visit India should either cancel or defer their visits unless it is absolutely necessary for reasons like medical or family emergency,” he said..

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