Couple home after Goa lockdown ordeal say: ‘We probably won’t go back next year’

PUBLISHED: 14:03 16 April 2020 | UPDATED: 14:03 16 April 2020

Former Norwich councillor Michael Ashley and his wife Pauline are safe at home after their ordeal in Goa. Pic: Submitted

Former Norwich councillor Michael Ashley and his wife Pauline are safe at home after their ordeal in Goa. Pic: Submitted

A couple left stranded in Goa amid the coronavirus lockdown are finally home after being flown back on a rescue mission.

Pauline and Michael Ashley on holiday in Goa. Pic: submittedPauline and Michael Ashley on holiday in Goa. Pic: submitted

Michael Ashley, 73, and his wife Pauline, 67, managed to get seats on one of seven chartered flights organised by the Foreign Office to bring British tourists home.

Mr Ashley, a former UEA lecturer and city councillor, said that when the lockdown happened they could not get to shops to buy food and had to live on vegetables given by kind locals. They also felt intimidated by police patrolling the streets, some with guns.

MORE: Hundreds of staff from fashion stores made redundant after administrators called in

The holiday location of Goa. Pic: Archant libraryThe holiday location of Goa. Pic: Archant library

But, speaking from home after a gruelling journey, he said things had improved slightly in the days after the initial lockdown and they were able to get out for vital supplies.

After the Foreign Office announced repatriation flights the couple – who were holidaying in a rented house near Calangute – had to register with the British High Commission in Delhi to get a seat on a rescue flight.

The flights followed other repatriation of Britons from Mumbai, India and Peru. Although they did not manage to get on the first flights out, after a few days they managed to secure seats.

He said they were kept well informed with emails and a video link and on the day of travel were picked up with a group of other British tourists from a nearby church and bussed to Goa’s airport at Dabolim, about an hour away.

But when they arrived home they found things in Britain are very different from when they left in early January.

“When we left on January 5, coronavirus was just in China but we kept in contact with people here so it wasn’t a complete surprise. When we left Goa, there were just seven confirmed cases and five people had recovered but it’s a tale of woe here.”

The couple are now in self-isolation with neighbours and friends on a rota to deliver food and supplies and are enjoying their garden and adjusting to life back in Britain.

“We are enormously grateful for all the help in getting us home,” Mr Ashley said. “When we got the email saying we’d got seats, we literally jumped up and down.

“I’m not put off – but I don’t think we’ll go back next year.”

For more updates on coronavirus in Norfolk see the Facebook page here

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Eastern Daily Press. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Eastern Daily Press