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