Covid 19 coronavirus: New Zealand’s India travel suspension leaves Kiwi family in limbo

After a year of trying to get home from India, an Auckland man and his family were finally packing their bags for a flight that would have seen them arrive on Monday.

A. Bhandari and his wife had quit their jobs and their teenage son was looking forward to starting school here once they arrived – but now their return date is up in the air and they’ve been left feeling “depressed and disheartened”.

“I was so excited to get back to my country,” he told the Herald last night. “We are all feeling the same.”

“Everything was in place. We have already paid for everything.”

“We were about to relocate with all these things.”

The family of three are among hundreds of people affected by yesterday’s announcement that flights from India into New Zealand would be suspended from April 12 as a result of a surge in Covid cases over there.

Bhandari said his family were due leave Delhi on April 11. He initially hoped they would still be able to fly given they would have departed before the suspension came into force.

But, those hopes were crushed last night when Emirates released a statement saying passengers travelling from points in India to Dubai, and connecting to a flight to Auckland, won’t be able to travel after today.

Bhandari, a New Zealand citizen, and his wife have been living in India for the past eight years where they have enjoyed the support of their wider family as they raised their son.

They decided early last year they were ready to come home so Bhandari quit his job and booked a flight in March 2020 with the intention of flying alone and setting things up in New Zealand before his wife and son joined him later on.

Then Covid struck and their plans were derailed.

Since then the family have encountered many challenges, including trying to get an MIQ space, and surviving on one income.

In January they finally secured MIQ spots for April so they booked their flights and began making plans for their return, including sorting schooling for their son at Avondale College.

Now they are in limbo.

“We both are without jobs and (our) son left school a month back when his session (finished). We are all very tense,” he said.

Bhandari says he understands why the decision was made to put a temporary halt on flights from India but it doesn’t make it any easier for him.

“Coordinating flights and MIQ booking is not an easy task. We completely understand the concerns of New Zealand government… but please consider the cases who will have to suffer the most.”

He feels there should have been more warning so people, like his family, weren’t left stranded as they were able to start a new life.

“We almost finished everything here as were about to leave in two days time.”

He now hopes their MIQ spots will be made available as soon as flights resume so they can get home and their son can get back to school.

“We don’t want him to suffer.”

The family aren’t the only ones feeling that way.

The Herald has been contacted by numerous Kiwis who are now stuck in India or separated from loved ones who can’t get home. Many have expressed frustration at the lack of forward planning and information about things like their MIQ spots once they can travel.

New Zealand Indian Central Association vice president Prakash Birader said while New Zealand needed to remain a safe country he believed the mandatory 14 days in managed isolation or quarantine on arrival was enough.

“On one side we are opening our border to Australia but we are stopping Indians coming in,” he said.

Auckland Indian Association president Narendrabhai Bhana said he had no problem with the Government’s decision to temporarily suspend flights from India because of the large number of cases there.

“It’s for the safety of our Kiwi citizens.”

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