Who cancelled flights from India: coronavirus or corruption?

Posted by Rishi In: Uncategorized No comments

Canada banned direct passenger flights from India and Pakistan on April 22 for 30 days amid rising COVID-19 cases and concerns about mutations of the novel coronavirus.

Many Canadians are stranded in India due to this cancellation of flights. Meanwhile, Hong Kong and New Zealand banned flights from India.

I was in India in February. My 80-year-old mother got a hip injury and I was there to see her. The Canadian government introduced some stricter measures for international travellers in order to curb another COVID-19 spike. Travellers must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 molecular test taken up to 72 hours before their scheduled departure time.

I contacted a friend to help me in getting a coronavirus test. He gave me a cellphone number to call. The gentleman on the other end said he would come to my place to get the swab. The actual fee for the test was 100 rupees, or less than $2. He demanded 2,500 rupees, or almost $42. On my asking why, he said if I wanted a negative report I had to pay him this amount. He gave me a plain letterhead with a stamp already there. The next day he emailed my “negative” test report and advised me to get it printed on the paper he gave me.

If I didn’t give him what he demanded, who knows if my test report would have been “positive”? I would have missed my flight.

In Punjab and many other provinces, COVID-19 tests are done at two levels, government hospitals and authorized private laboratories. The government hospitals are very busy with these tests as they are cheaper and I needed the result in 72 hours and I was left with no options but to go to the private laboratory.

I wrote to the health minister of Punjab, district health authority about this happening in Punjab, India. I got no response whatsoever.

I got the negative report because it was so, but if they changed it, I would have missed my flight. Nobody wants to miss that and they have to pay what they demand. My test at the Vancouver airport was negative as well.

Before April 22, at least 32 flights from Delhi landed in Canada carrying dozens of passengers who later tested positive for COVID-19.

It is not for nothing many Canadians are stuck in India. In my radio program, I took open-line calls from those impacted. A man is there for dental treatment, another for skin treatment, two brothers are there for the funeral of their mother. Another’s father is in ER in a Punjab hospital. I know many who are stuck for emergencies. Many still might be there for fun, but it is not the time.

The corrupt system there has further complicated the issue. When people can get a negative test report for money, this has to be faced. But whoever is suffering now might not have played with rules.

Canadians stuck there are desperate to come back. Many shared stories on air. Their jobs are at stake. Some of them are self-employed, truckers and taxi drivers. Some of them have to delay their home and business deals and it’s costing them.

Government cannot be derelict in its duty to safeguard Canadians. But stuck in India are also Canadians. It is a very tricky situation for the government. The flight ban is absolutely justified, but those stuck there should also be given a chance to come back as was done previously with the special flights.

Canadians in need of emergency consular assistance abroad should contact Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa at [email protected] or call +1-613-996-8885. Canadians must register with Registration of Canadians Abroad service and follow @TravelGoC on social media to get the latest updates, including details on government-facilitated commercial flights to Canada.


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