New Zealand has put a temporary ban on travellers from India entering the country. The announcement was made by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday afternoon. The Herald has received messages from Kiwis in India who have been caught up, as a result, and who are scrambling to rearrange flights and spots in managed isolation. The majority of those who contacted the newspaper are people who travelled to visit a sick loved one or due to the death of a parent.
'Hard to hold back tears'
Just two weeks ago, Jatin and his partner were home - in New Zealand. But they decided to catch a flight to India after his mother-in-law had major surgery.
Today, exactly when they will return home is now not known and Jatin cannot understand the sudden blanket ban on India, given people from other Covid-rife countries are still being allowed in.
Jatin pointed to when cases surged in the US and the UK, yet Kiwis from those countries were still allowed to come back.
"There were no bans imposed on anyone, let alone citizens returning from those countries! How is that fair and consistent?
"I never imagined we would find ourselves in this situation, feeling profound anxiety and left so helpless.
"The rule in India prevents us from access to any vaccinations, so we are [on] our own, left to bear all the consequences of New Zealand Government's impulsive decision."
The couple were due to return on April 19.
"We already have a world-class MIQ system. Why have we lost faith in that?"
He said there were other things the Government could have done instead of a blanket ban - such as reducing the timeframe of pre-departure test to within 48 hours, isolating returnees from India in a separate hotel or increasing their isolation period by a few days.
"But they opted for outright ban, denying New Zealanders from going back to their home, jobs and families. This is so un-New Zealand-like. The motto of 'be kind' has gone out the window.
"Just two weeks ago we were also in New Zealand. Never imagined an unprecedented situation like this to happen to us.
"We are truly devastated. We will find it hard to hold back tears tonight."
'Stressful for all stuck here'
Samir Parekh travelled to India to see his ailing mother - just before she died.
He was due to come back to New Zealand in just over a week and had secured a spot in managed isolation for April 22.
Since yesterday's news broke, however, he and his family back in New Zealand now find themselves worried and stressed.
"I am quite stressed sitting in India. There is no clarity around the next steps for Kiwis stuck in India. I have called up MIQ's contact centre and they have no information at all.
"It is ridiculous to impose a travel ban without organising the next steps for Kiwis who were to travel during this period. They are not sure whether they will have the tools implemented in the 14 days available.
"It is stressful for all Kiwis stuck here."
Flight to nowhere
Anuj Kumar was due to board a flight back to New Zealand in the early hours of this Sunday - the same day Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a blanket ban from India will begin.
"I have almost done my packing, but now I am worried because I have not got any email from MIQ about how they manage my isolation voucher or if they will issue a new voucher - or will I be given any priority."
He was upset as he would miss the cut-off by just a few hours. His flight was due to leave in the early hours of April 11 local time, and would not have reached New Zealand ahead of the cut-off.
"I cannot explain how I'm feeling now. Today I called MIQ about my situation and they advised me to cancel my current isolation voucher, which is valid from April 12.
"They advised me to wait until the travel ban is removed. But they don't understand that there is no space available until June ... which is making me more nervous."
He is a New Zealand citizen, but can wait in India if need be. However, he would just like to know exactly what will happen if he gets on the plane that morning.
"Trust me, it is not an easy job to book space in MIQ because so many people [are] applying online for the same date you want."
'They have left their citizens in fear'
Sanjay Jaswal has lived in New Zealand with his wife and two children for more than 12 years.
He flew to his homeland after the family received news of his mother's death.
He now says he does not know what to do. All he wants to do is to get home to his family.
"It is against humanity to separate the family," he said.
Exception for those vaccinated?
Janice Bellew and her husband have had their first Covid vaccination and are due to have their second in about two weeks - that is if the vaccine supplies don't run out, she says.
She asked why New Zealand officials could not give an exception to those who had been vaccinated in India.
"Why doesn't New Zealand allow those who are vaccinated return? Surely the stem of Covid cases would be reduced."
The couple live in the city of Hyderabad - the capital of southern India's Telangana state.
"We are booked to return to NZ at the end of May, so we are a little concerned with the restrictions placed on New Zealanders from India."
Bellew said the move had also been highlighted by local media.
"I noticed in all the newspapers in India a mention of what New Zealand has done. I wonder what the knock-on effect that will have? Hoping for times to change."
Family trying to get home with a baby
Smita Ah and her family - all New Zealand citizens - have been stuck in India for more than a year now.
When the world started to turn upside down last year, they were affected and have been in India since January, 2020.
"We wanted to travel to NZ in June or July 2021," she said.
The family now has an infant in tow and are hoping to get to New Zealand as soon as possible.
Their current situation - particularly after yesterday's announcement - has left them worried.
"Indian travellers banned to travel from India is quite depressing."