By Tui Benjamin
A disabled elderly couple stranded in Goa for more than a month due to the coronavirus lockdown are surviving on just one meal between them a day and have spent their life savings on trying to get home.
Former carpet manufacturing company worker Barry Lodge, 72, and his partner of more than 40 years Beth McKelvie, 63, are trapped in the Indian holiday resort after flying there for a £2,000 four-week holiday on February 19.
The pair were due to return home to Bradford, West Yorks, on March 18 but after news of the pandemic broke, their flight from Goa to Mumbai was delayed – which resulted in them missing their connecting Etihad Airways flight back to the UK at Mumbai Airport.
Barry and Beth spent two days stranded at Mumbai Airport before a fellow passenger helped them book new flights with Qatar Airways online for an extra £2,000 – but when they got to the gate they discovered their tourist visas had expired by just one day due to the hold-up and they were barred from flying and physically removed from the airport.
The desperate pair found most hotels in Mumbai were closed, and the ones that were still open weren’t allowing Brits to enter due to a perceived infection risk, so unsure what else to do they got a nine-hour taxi back to Goa.
Now the couple, who are both registered disabled and are terrified they will contract Covid-19, are now staying in a ‘damp and smelly’ apartment without access to life-saving inhalers Beth, who has COPD, needs to survive.
With the whole of India on lockdown, have no idea when they’ll be able to return home and feel ‘abandoned’ by the UK Foreign Office.
Grandad-of-one Barry, who estimates he has lost nearly all of his £5,000 life savings said: “We both feel like we’ve been completely abandoned.
“We’re disabled and vulnerable – it’s a depressing situation.
“I think we’ve lost £5,000 up until now. This has taken virtually all of our life savings. We’re going to have to start all over again.
“We’re having a meal between us a day, and that’s if we can get food. The shops are closed, and we’re not allowed out anyway.
“Beth is totally out of inhalers – she can’t breathe without them, she needs them to live.
“She also has a chest infection so needs antibiotics. All she wants to do is just go home – she’s crying all the time.
“Our family are worried to death about us. We just desperately want to get home.”
Barry and Beth, who have one son together, have been visiting Goa for four weeks every year for the last two decades.
The couple claim despite frequent calls to the Foreign Office, the British embassy in India, and various helplines they have been given they have been given no advice as to whether they will be able to return to the UK.
Their MP, Labour’s Imran Hussain, has also been trying to help them get home.
While Barry and Beth are currently staying in an apartment which costs only £10 a night, they are quickly running out of cash.
With hardly any shops open, they are relying on sharing one meal of simple items like cup-a-soups and biscuits a day in order to preserve their funds.
Barry, who is registered disabled due to having problems with his foot, said: “When we were getting on the Qatar flight, we were told our 30-day tourist visas had expired by a day and we couldn’t fly.
“There was a flight on April 10 and one on April 12, but we have heard nothing since from anyone.
“In Mumbai, we went to 10 different hotels to try and find somewhere to stay, but seven were shut and three wouldn’t let us stay because we were British and they thought we might spread the virus.
“Where we’re staying now, I wouldn’t let my dog stay there.
“We’re both registered disabled and are terrified about picking up the virus.
“We’re packed and ready – we’re just waiting to go
“We’re happy to pay anything for tickets to get home, if someone told us we had a place on a plane, we would feel like we’d won the lottery.
“It’s not just us in this situation out here – there’s a lot of people trapped, and they’re not getting any help at all.”
Fellow traveller Michael Ita, who met the stricken couple at Mumbai airport, has set up a GoFundMe appeal to help them pay for food and medicine while they remain in Goa.
An FCO spokesperson said: “We know it’s a difficult time for many British travellers abroad.
“Our consular team has been in touch with Beth and Barry to give them support and we are doing everything we can, especially for those in difficulty, to keep Brits informed on the latest developments and help them return.
“We have already announced 21 charter flights to bring more than 5000 Brits home from India by 20 April, and are working round the clock to organise more in the coming weeks.”
To donate: go to https://www.gofundme.com/f/barry-and-beth039s-relief-fund