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Tuesday, Jun 02, 2020

Coronavirus: 600 Hongkongers stuck in India’s lockdown as lawmaker urges aid for largest group of city residents stranded overseas

Lawmaker Jeremy Tam says many are Indian people holding Hong Kong identity cards, with around 70 to 80 of them carrying a Hong Kong passport. More than 400 of them are stranded in Punjab state, and some 100 are in Mumbai

About 600 Hongkongers stuck in India – the largest known group of city residents still stranded overseas amid the coronavirus pandemic – have called for help from the city’s government with the country in the throes of its three-week lockdown, according to a lawmaker assisting them.

The news emerged as 65 other residents stranded in Peru are set to arrive in Hong Kong by Sunday on chartered flights.

India has been grappling with the health crisis, with more than 2,900 Covid-19 cases and over 60 deaths. Its three-week lockdown will end on April 14, but authorities will assess the situation in each state to see if extensions are needed.

Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho said many of those trapped in the South Asian country were Indian people holding Hong Kong identity cards, with around 70 to 80 of them carrying a Hong Kong passport.

Tam said the residents were trying to seek help from the government, but they had not formulated a joint demand for action.

“They are not sure what they should do. They are stuck there but their roots are in Hong Kong,” he said. “Their work and businesses are in Hong Kong. They want to come back to Hong Kong.”

Last month, the Hong Kong government issued a red outbound travel alert for all places worldwide – except mainland China, Macau and Taiwan – as the virus swept the globe.

Members of the public are strongly urged to adjust their travel plans and avoid any non-essential travel outside Hong Kong as many countries have implemented quarantine measures.

Rajesh Tope, health minister of Maharashtra state which includes the financial hub of Mumbai, told Reuters that control measures might be extended in Mumbai and the urban areas of Maharashtra for two more weeks if people broke rules.

“If people don’t obey the rules seriously and cases continue to rise, then there may be no option but to extend the lockdown,” he told the news agency. But the country’s aviation minister said on Thursday that airlines would be free to take bookings after the lockdown.

Tam said more than 400 Hongkongers were stranded in Punjab state, about seven to eight hours’ drive from New Delhi, and some 100 were in Mumbai but all ground transport had stopped.

“They are worried about the extension of the lockdown in India,” he said. “Even if there will be flights going to New Delhi, they may not be able to leave,” Tam added, pointing out that around three elderly persons in the group would run out of medicine soon.

The legislator, who used to work for Cathay Pacific Airways, said the airline told him they could only consider chartered flights on government request.

Separately, 65 Hong Kong residents who signed up for chartered flights from Peru to Hong Kong had arrived in London from Lima by British Airways on Saturday. They would then board another flight back to Hong Kong and are expected to arrive on Sunday evening.

Those entering Hong Kong would be tested at the AsiaWorld-Expo upon arrival and put on home quarantine for 14 days.

They are required to cover the costs of the flights, which would be up to HK$35,600 (US$4,600) per person.

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