September 26, 2020

Eight Kiwis stranded in India manage to return

Even as NZ government yesterday announced their decision to repatriate stranded Kiwis in India, eight of them, including Davidsons and Stuarts, have managed to find their way back to Auckland.

This fortunate group of New Zealanders arrived yesterday at Auckland International Airport and were immediately put into 14-days mandatory quarantine.

This group of consists of Hamilton couple- John Davidson and his wife, Elizabeth, and Don and Marian Stuart, and other four are a missionary family who were returning home after five years of stay in India.

Weary from his ordeal, John Davidson exclusively spoke to NewsViews this afternoon over phone from his hotel room in Auckland where the couple are now destined to spend the next two weeks in quarantine.

Elizabeth & Jo Davidson
Hamilton couple, Elizabeth & John Davidson in their Akl hotel room

Davidsons and Stuarts from Waihi were part of a tour to India and failed to depart due to Covid-19 situation, and were stranded, awaiting evacuation.

Stuarts are also in the same hotel, but confined in different rooms.

Davidson related their ordeal of managing their way back to New Zealand which they were yearning since the clampdown of curfew in India and cancellation of all commercial flights as a result of Covid-19.

“We managed to find places for ourselves aboard a Monarch Global chartered flight destined for Melbourne. There were nearly 450 passengers-all Aussies, except eight of us Kiwis on board this flight.

“We left Delhi on Saturday, 11 April, flight stopped for re-fueling at Bali and then landed at Melbourne where they stayed overnight. Next day, we managed to board an Air New Zealand flight to Auckland, landing here yesterday,” Davidson says.

Last week (April 8) Davidson had conveyed his disappointment to NewsViews of “...the inactivity of our politicians has been palpibibily obvious.”

Don Stuart was earlier quoted to be worried of “running out of medication.”

Hamilton’s Davidson talks exclusively to NewsViews from his hotel in Auckland where he is quarantined with his wife, Jo after arrival from India

On arrival at Auckland, Davidsons and Stuarts were ushered straight into a bus and taken to a local hotel (name withheld by NewsViews) and placed into quarantine.

Only “very, very basic health checks” were undertaken, and routine questions asked about cough, fever, etc, says Davidson.

“We have not been tested for Covid-19 which I’ve been demanding. Only our temperatures are being taken,” says Davidson.

“We don’t understand why we have to be in quarantine after three weeks of being holed up in a hotel in Delhi(India)?” laments Davidson who was scheduled to fly back on 22 March after their trip to India was called off on 19 March.

(Because of) selfishness and abuse of privilege by few others earlier who did not stick to self-isolation, we have now to undergo compulsory quarantine – or is it monitored/managed self-isolation, I’m not sure.”

It was 2 o’clock in the afternoon when NewsViews spoke to them, and Davidson’s were still awaiting their turn to be served lunch. Food is served in the rooms and hotel cafes,etc are shut.

“Can’t blame the hotel also for delay, average quality of food, or the very limited choices provided, as they may have shortage of staff or issues with supply-chain.”

When asked, Davidson categorically denied receiving any worthwhile assistance from MFAT while they were stranded in Delhi.

“They only provided us with a list of recommended hotels where we could go after we were required to move from our last place of stay.

“We arranged everything ourselves, including paying our bills and arranging transportation.”

When NewsViews asked about their stay in Delhi in the last few weeks, he said considering their situation “generally, we could get what we wanted by paying small tips.”

They forked out approximately $2400 each in buying their one-way ticket to Auckland.

“At this stage, money did not matter, we had to get out, and this was perhaps the only opportunity. We have lost quite a bit of money, as we may or may not get any refund for our earlier cancelled tickets.”

In a happier moment-Davidsons enjoying a rickshaw ride in Delhi

When asked if they had enough money to survive while they were stranded in India, Davidson said money was depleting fast and they had to request family back in New Zealand to remit.

When NewsViews pointed out they were fortunate to be back home and their ordeal almost over now even when several hundred Kiwis are still awaiting repatriation, a dejected Davidson replied, “No one can really understand or quantify our state of mental health. We are home, but not really home yet.”

When asked if he had anything else to say, “Get us out of here”, he frustratingly said.

According to some earlier reports, there are nearly 800 Kiwis in India who are registered with SafeTravel, and over 500 of these are said to be desperately waiting to be evacuated to New Zealand. Yesterday, Winston Peters announced Govt’s decision to repatriate stranded Kiwis from India, and those there are awaiting planned date.