Thousands of Australians caught by India’s dramatic nationwide shutdown say they face running out of food and water or being evicted from accommodation, as 1.3 billion people across the world’s second-most populous nation are ordered to stay indoors.
“There will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes … Forget what going out means,” the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, told the nation.
Thousands of Australian tourists, expatriate workers and “overseas citizens of India” have been stranded by India’s dramatic shutdown, the largest lockdown the world has seen to arrest the Covid-19 pandemic.
There are no commercial flights permitted in or out of India until at least 15 April, and Australians fear they will not be able to get home without a government-sponsored repatriation flight, which India’s government is allowing.
Australian Jai Houltham is stranded in Goa on India’s west coast. He has been moved on from two hotels that were closed by police and fears he may be forced out again. He has nowhere left to go.
“We are now at the end of the fifth day of a total lockdown, police roam the streets with lathis [bamboo poles used to enforce crowd control] ensuring everyone stays inside, many unable to get supplies,” Houltham said.
“The lockdown has been extended to the 14th of April, and there is talk of it being extended for three months, with currently no option for Australians to get home.”
Houltham said many tourists had tried to get back to Australia when the government first called for citizens to return, but had faced unannounced flight cancellations, sudden border closures or restrictions on transiting through international airports.
“Now with complete lockdown, accommodation closing and people being left on the streets, and being unable to access food, water or medicines, people have had enough and are desperate for the Australian government to step in.”
Australia’s high commission in New Delhi has told citizens: “We would encourage you all to stay indoors and avoid any crowded place. Please note there are no evacuation plans yet declared by the Australian government for Australians in India.
“If your situation is, or becomes, life-threatening, or you have serious concerns for your welfare (eg cannot find any accommodation whatsoever, or any food, or essential medications), please don’t hesitate to contact us.”