Kitchener-Waterloo

Kitchener woman stranded in India 'heartbroken, super stressed' after flight ban

A Kitchener, Ont., woman who travelled to India earlier this month for her father’s funeral says she’s scrambling to find a way home. Sandeep Sohal is stuck in Punjab after Ottawa banned passenger flights from India and Pakistan to Canada due to soaring COVID-19 case counts.

Ottawa imposed 30-day ban on incoming flights from India, Pakistan

Sandeep Sohal, left, with her daughter, husband Sohal and son. Sandeep is still in India after attending her dad's funeral because of Canada's ban on flights from India and Pakistan due to the serious COVID-19 situation. (Submitted by Sandeep Sohal)

A Kitchener, Ont., woman who travelled to India earlier this month for her father's funeral says she's scrambling to find a way home.

Sandeep Sohal's flight to Canada was scheduled for Monday, but she's stuck in Ludhiana, in the state of Punjab, after the Canadian government banned incoming passenger flights from India and Pakistan due to soaring COVID-19 case counts and concerns about mutations in India. 

Sohal said two of her brothers, one from Ontario and the other from B.C., are also in India and looking for a way home.

"I'm heartbroken, super stressed. My kids, they are missing me," said Sohal, whose two children are with her husband, who has taken time off work.

"I miss them. My everything is there. My home. I'm having sleepless nights." 

The month-long ban means Sohal must consider other options, including flying back to Canada through a third country. The federal government says anyone taking flights back to Canada from abroad must provide a negative COVID-19 test taken at their last point of departure, as well as quarantine for two weeks once home.

Sohal said the government should allow Canadian citizens to come home directly from India, which she called safer and less stressful.

"They're saying you can come through a third party to Canada. It's safer to take us from here, from India, to Canada directly. Take us back. Give the permission to take a flight from [India] to Toronto. That's easier for them and easier for us too. Why are we coming from a third country? That's a lot of stress," said Sohal.

Sohal said she hasn't been able to find a ticket through the U.S. earlier than May 16.

"My father passed away. That's unbearable to me, then this flight is cancelled," she said. "The stress is piling up, piling up, and I don't have any clear answers for anything."

Situation in India 'heartbreaking'

In a statement to CBC K-W, a Global Affairs Canada spokesperson said the government is working with the Indian government on pandemic response.

"Our thoughts are with the people of India in the face of a new wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Canada remains united with our friend and partner. We continue to be in close contact with the government of India regarding mutual requirements to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and are exploring all options."

A worker prepares to refill medical oxygen cylinders, at a facility in Amritsar, India, on Saturday, to supply to hospitals. (Narinder Nanu/AFP/Getty Images)

The statement said Canadians in need of emergency assistance can contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.

Sohal said she's already done that and received an automated response.

While she waits, Sohal watches her home country grapple with a deadly pandemic wave.

"The situation is not good … People are dying without oxygen …They don't get any," she said. "That's what I'm hearing in the news, no hospital beds. They are just sitting outside the hospital and volunteers are giving oxygen cylinders to the outside of the hospital.

"When you see these things, my heart gets broken," Sohal said, noting some of her relatives, in their 60s and 70s, have died from COVID-19 infections.

"It's devastating … The country where you grew up, your relatives are here and you see this situation, it's heartbreaking."

As of Sunday, more than 16 million COVID-19 infections have been reported in India.

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