Calgarians waiting to reunite with family members are struggling as India travel ban extended
Families already separated for months must wait until Aug. 21 to find out if loved ones can fly home
Calgarians left stranded in India after a travel ban was announced in April due to rapidly rising COVID-19 cases in that country will have to wait at least another month before they can return home.
The federal government's transport minister, Omar Alghabra, announced the extended ban Monday on flights arriving from India. The ban is now scheduled to end on Aug. 21.
It's not news that families missing loved ones wanted to hear.
Suruchi Jaitley's husband, Divesh, left Calgary for New Delhi in April to deal with a family emergency and has been trying to make it back home ever since.
The initial ban came into force on April 21.
"He's been trying to get back for over 2½ months," said Jaitley, who is at home with three children and her mother, who has health issues.
"It's been difficult to manage things all alone with work, schooling, household chores and then my mum is not keeping well for the last two months," she said. "Sometimes, it becomes so overwhelming that I totally break down."
Jaitley says it's been extremely hard without her husband around.
"It's difficult financially, emotionally, mentally, physically. It's been too much. My kids are missing him so much. My youngest one, she always goes to her dad's photo and prays to God, 'Please let my dad come back home.' It becomes overwhelming."
She believes the federal government could have done much more to bring permanent residents and citizens home.
"I understand not allowing visitors, but they should have brought their own citizens back home," she said.
Jaitley says it's been frustrating watching the Calgary Stampede take place last week with rapid tests available to get into its Nashville North tent, wondering why the same simple test couldn't be used by the federal government for citizens getting off a plane home in Canada.
"I don't know the deciding factors, but I do understand the risks. If they had a flight and people can be tested here with a hotel booked, they should have allowed them to come back," she said.
Jaitley is not alone in her frustrations.
Sanjay Sawhney's son Umang Sawhney flew to New Delhi for a family wedding on April 1 and is still there waiting for the travel ban to be lifted.
Since he's been stuck in India, his permanent residence status has expired, complicating his situation even further.
He was also due to start school in Vancouver this month.
"He has to drop out now and will be joining his college now in February 2022," said Sawhney, who says he speaks to his son every day.
"He's very frustrated at the situation. At times he was even having suicidal thoughts," he said.
"There's been a cascading impact for people not able to fly back to their homes."
Sawhney says his son will be booked on the first flight available when the ban is lifted.
India has been one of the hardest-hit countries in the world during the pandemic, with a recent blood serum survey suggesting that two-thirds of the country's population have antibodies against the coronavirus.
On Monday, India reported 38,164 new COVID-19 cases and 499 deaths, according to the World Health Organization, well below the crest of a huge wave of cases that peaked in early May.
With files from Reuters