Sixty-five Hong Kong residents stranded in Peru finally flew back to the city on Sunday afternoon with the help of the authorities, but the city government is being urged to help residents stuck in India and elsewhere to return home.
The residents took a government-chartered flight from the Peruvian capital Lima to London, where they boarded a regular flight back to Hong Kong. After landing at 4.15pm, they were taken in coaches from the airport tarmac to AsiaWorld-Expo, which the government is using to test people for the coronavirus. Once cleared, they can return home for a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
The chartered flight came after a 64-year-old Hong Kong man last month died in Cusco, in southeast Peru, after contracting the virus.
“I believe that the government would not have arranged the chartered flight if it wasn’t for the Hong Kong man who died in Peru,” said Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho, who assisted the residents. “The arrangements to bring them home have come too late.”
According to authorities, 91 residents in Peru had sought help from the Immigration Department, with 65 confirming they would take the flight. The total cost to each traveller was about HK$30,000 (US$3,870).
Some residents had opted to leave Peru through other means, including via flights chartered by the British government, using their British National (Overseas) passports.
The Peruvian government shut the nation’s borders on March 16 to curb the spread of the outbreak, making movement in and out of the country difficult.
Tam said Hong Kong authorities needed to help residents stranded in other countries such as India return home, possibly by arranging flights with the cost borne by individuals.
Mohan Chugani, a former president of the India Association in Hong Kong, said 700 or more residents of Indian origin were stranded in the country, about 70 of them Hong Kong passport holders. But they could not leave because India was in lockdown.
“The problem is that nobody knows for sure if this lockdown, which is supposed to end on April 14, will be extended,” Chugani said. “When the flights finally start operating … will there be enough flights for everyone?”
The Hong Kong government should work with the Indian consulate to organise flights, he said, adding the stranded citizens could pay for chartered ones.
I want to return to Hong Kong as I want to be home and feel safe
Manish Suri, resident stranded in India
Among the stranded 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. “My son is 14 years old and my daughter is five years old,” he said. “I want to return to Hong Kong as I want to be home and feel safe.”
Suri originally intended to fly back last month, but then the lockdown came.
“Just a few [shops] are open which provide essentials, like milk, food, vegetables, fruit and medicine,” he said. “The rest [are] all closed. And these shops are open for some time only.”
India has recorded about 3,600 Covid-19 cases and 99 related deaths.
The Immigration Department has said 37 Hong Kong residents remained in Morocco after authorities there closed its airspace. At least three residents were also stranded in Poland after the country went into a lockdown.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Coronavirus: 600 Hongkongers stuck in India’s lockdown as lawmaker urges aid for largest group of city residents stranded overseas
- Coronavirus: Hong Kong trio stranded in Poland ask city government for help, with one kicked out of hotel following ban
- 225 Hongkongers evacuated from coronavirus epicentre in mainland China on second day of chartered flights, but more than 3,000 remain and are low on food
This article Coronavirus: 65 Hongkongers arrive home after weeks stranded in Peru first appeared on South China Morning Post