Calgarians stranded in India after a travel ban was announced in April due to the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases in that country will have to wait at least a month before they can return home.
Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra on Monday announced the extension of the ban on flights from India. The ban is now expected to end on August 21.
This is not news that families whose loved ones have disappeared wanted to hear.
Suruchi Jaitley’s husband Divesh left Calgary for New Delhi in April to deal with a family emergency and has been trying to get home ever since.
The initial ban went into effect on April 21.
“He’s been trying to come back for over two and a half months,” said Jaitley, who is at home with three children and his health-related mother.
“It has been difficult to deal with things on my own with work, schooling, household chores and then my mother has not been doing well for two months,” she said. “Sometimes it gets so overwhelming that I totally collapse.”
Jaitley says it was extremely difficult without her husband.
“It’s tough financially, emotionally, mentally, physically. It’s been too much. My kids miss him so much. My youngest, she always goes to her father’s picture and prays to God, ‘Please, let my dad come home. ‘ It is becoming overwhelming. “
She believes the federal government could have done much more to bring permanent residents and citizens back to their homes.
“I understand not to allow visitors, but they should have brought their own citizens home,” she said.
Jaitley says it was frustrating to watch the Calgary Stampede unfold last week with quick tests available to get into his Nashville North tent, wondering why the same simple test couldn’t be used by the federal government to citizens disembarking from a plane in Canada.
“I don’t know the deciding factors, but I understand the risks. If they had a flight and people could be tested here with a hotel booked, they should have allowed them to come back,” she said.
Jaitley is not alone in her frustrations.
Sanjay Sawhney’s son Umang Sawhney flew to New Delhi for a family wedding on April 1 and is still awaiting the lifting of the travel ban.
Since being stuck in India, his permanent resident status has expired, further complicating his situation.
He was also due to start school in Vancouver this month.
“He has to drop out now and will join his college now in February 2022,” said Sawhney, who says he talks to his son every day.
“He is very frustrated with the situation. Sometimes he even had suicidal thoughts,” he said.
“There has been a cascading impact for people who cannot fly home. “
Sawhney says his son will be booked on the first available flight when the ban is lifted.
India was one of the hardest-hit countries in the world during the pandemic, with a recent blood serum survey suggesting that two-thirds of the country’s population have antibodies to the coronavirus.
India reported 38,164 new COVID-19 cases and 499 deaths on Monday, according to the World Health Organization, well below the peak of a huge spate of cases that peaked in early May.