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B.C. woman fears father stuck in India following coronavirus nationwide lockdown

Burnaby's Jiwan Basi with his two granddaughters.
Burnaby's Jiwan Basi with his two granddaughters. Preet Basi

A Burnaby woman is worried her father may be stranded in India after that country announced a full 21-day lockdown to fight the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus around the world: March 24, 2020
Coronavirus around the world: March 24, 2020

Preet Basi says her father Jiwan travelled to the state of Haryana on a business matter back in February, before the Canadian government advised against international travel due to the coronavirus pandemic, with plans to return on April 10.

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As the coronavirus crisis worsened, efforts to book an earlier return flight were unsuccessful as commercial airlines began limiting flights out of India, and other countries began shutting their borders.

Rescheduling a flight was made even more difficult, she says, when officials closed the Delhi airport on March 22.

Coronavirus outbreak: Canada working with commercial airlines to repatriate stranded citizens
Coronavirus outbreak: Canada working with commercial airlines to repatriate stranded citizens

On Tuesday, Basi learned Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a strict 21-day lockdown in the country of 1.3 billion people.

“We just keep running into roadblock after roadblock after roadblock, and we are scared to death,” she said.

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Basi says her 75-year-old father, who moved to Canada when he was 17 years old, has grown increasingly worried about the outbreak in India and his prospects of returning home.

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Many Indo-Canadians visit India this time of year when the weather is cooler, she adds.

Harjip Mander, his wife, and three kids are also stuck in India.

The Surrey family has the option of flying home on April 6, but that date may be up in the air due to the lockdown.

“We don’t know if that includes flights,” Mander told Global News.

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Basi says she registered her dad with Global Affairs Canada prior to the pandemic, and her recent queries to the federal department have not been answered. She says Canada has sent planes to Morocco, Spain, and Peru to repatriate Canadians, and plans need to be made to include those in India.

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She says she worries that her father could fall ill with COVID-19 in a country whose medical system is ill-equipped to handle such a crisis.

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“I don’t know how to get my dad out of the country,” she said. “He’s in that critical demographic of age, he’s 75 years old. And, you know, once you get sick, I fear that there is no coming back for my dad because he’s not going to be allowed to board on a plane anyways.”

In a statement to Global News, Global Affairs Canada said the federal government “is working with Canadian airlines and foreign governments to provide access to commercial flights for Canadian travellers who want to return home.”

“We are doing everything in our power to bring the largest number of Canadians home as quickly as possible,” the statement says. “Unfortunately, it will not be possible to ensure the return of all Canadians who wish to come home.”

Global Affairs notes that Canadians stuck abroad can apply for an emergency loan program that can provide up to $5,000.

There are more than 17,600 Canadians in India registered with Global Affairs.

— With files from The Associated Press