When India unexpectedly prohibited the entry of passengers from Philippines, Afghanistan, and Malaysia to curb the spread of COVID-19, many Indian students were waiting at the Manila airport to return home.
After waiting two nights at the airport to see if they would be allowed to fly back to India, the students had to go back to their accommodations there.
However, after witnessing the sharp rise in cases in the island country, the students are becoming increasingly worried and waiting to come home.
At least 380 people have tested positive, and 25 people have died so far in Philippines.
“The local government imposed a lockdown last week and asked the public to remain in home quarantine. But, the cases have only increased after the lockdown. Recently, a positive COVID-19 case was discovered across the street from my apartment,” The Indian Express quoted Divyesh Kekane, a student at the University of Perpetual Help, as saying.
“We have to wait in 3-4 hour long queues to get in the supermarket, which is risky considering the virus spread,” Divyesh added.
Woes over care and treatment
The students are also worried since they are staying far away from home.
“We don’t have to queue up outside the supermarkets as we have our canteens. But we don’t know how long they will serve us?” questioned Sandeep Nagar, a student from Our Lady of Fatima University.
“We are away from our family so who will look after us?” he added.
Another complication in staying in a foreign country during the pandemic is the expensive healthcare facilities in the country. “A mere check-up for fever cost us 3,000 Pesos. A blood test cost 2,500 Pesos,” Divyesh told The Indian Express.
Sandeep also claimed, “It is implied that if the situation escalates, their hospitals will prioritise locals, not us. The healthcare infrastructure here is also not as good as India’s.”
We guarantee self-quarantine, say students
Simran Gupte, a student at the University of Perpetual Help, said to The Indian Express that as medical students, they understood the Indian government’s concern about not accepting them. She added that all the students would guarantee their self-quarantine upon reaching India. “We just want to reach home,” she said.
Meanwhile, Sachin said the Philippines government had no issues allowing these students to fly to India, and that the Indian government should at least allow those who feel vulnerable to return home.
“We know it’s not possible for so many students to return, but the Indian government should at least allow those who feel vulnerable here,” he said.
“We are well aware of the risk of travelling at this time, that’s why we can assure our quarantine,” he added.
“It’s okay if the government screens us and allows only the healthier ones. At least we will be home,” Sandeep said.
The parents of these students too are worried, since many of them believed their children could have made it home if the Indian government had given one or two days’ time before announcing the ban.
What does the Indian Embassy say?
The Indian embassy in Manila said there were about 16,000 Indian students in the Philippines at the moment.
However, it attempted to reassure the students with the claim that there would be shortage of essential goods, and that they would be taken care of properly.
“The situation in the Philippines is calm and we are advising all local Indians (about 140,000 of them) that there is no reason for panic. The government of the Philippines has assured that all essential services such as supermarkets, grocery stores, pharmacies, and drug stores and banks and food delivery services will remain open and there will be no shortage of essential goods. Temporary shortages are being quickly addressed,” The Indian Express quoted them as replying to an email query.