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Sangeeta Jagdeo

KEVON FELMINE

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While the public health advice for nationals abroad is to shelter in place, citizens stuck in India for the past five months are asking how long does the government expect them to survive without support.

Sangeeta Jagdeo, artistic director of the International Foundation for Cultural Relations, has been stranded in India along with many others T&T nationals since the closure of T&T’s borders on March 23. Among them are a group of elderly citizens between the ages of 68-78.

They suffer from a range of ailments, including diabetes and hypertension. Speaking to Guardian Media from New Delhi yesterday, Jagdeo said that with no support from the T&T government, she had to travel to Gurgaon four times this month to delivered medicine to a group of 14 nationals there. While the medication brought relief, Jagdeo said the elderly citizens are now suffering from depression. She said they were away from their families since they came on a tour at the beginning of the year. What worsened their torment is that despite letters to the Ministry of National Security, there is no returning correspondence, nothing to give them hope that they would see home soon.

“The government has abandoned its citizens in our most crucial time of need. They did not seek the interest of their nationals. What did T&T do? They locked down the borders and took four students from India and left all the other people behind. I saw people in Florida, the UK and Canada getting exemptions but nothing here for us in India. Our finances are running out, and even though the people here are supporting us, how long will we be supported here from the people in India? We are fortunate because the hospitality is great, but we cannot overstay our time here,” Jagdeo said.

Noting that the government is now allowing COVID-19 patients to quarantine at home, she is suggesting that it allows the citizens in India to return and quarantine at home. She said health officers could take their nasopharyngeal swabs at the Piarco International Airport and they can immediately go into home quarantine. For those who are high risk, they can go to into the State’s quarantine facilities

She said T&T could use the Indian model of COVID-19 care as the government was able to bring their nationals home on repatriation flights. However, when Trinidadians tried getting in contact with the T&T High Commission in New Delhi, no one answers the phone.

“We do not even know who is the T&T representative to India, and it is taxpayers’ that is paying for that High Commission to represent T&T in India. They refused to take our calls. Every time you call the phone, it is switched off.”

India plans to restart international flights on August 31 and Jagdeo said although the COVID-19 rate is high, the recovery rate is around 80 per cent, and deaths are low.