Wednesday, 8 Jul 2020

Coronavirus: Special flights to get Britons home as emergency travel loan offered

Special flights are being set up to get Britons stranded because of the coronavirus lockdown home, the foreign secretary has announced.

Dominic Raab said Singapore had agreed to be the transit hub where people stuck in countries like Australia, New Zealand and Peru could fly through on their way back to the UK.

He also assured travellers unable to afford the cost of a plane ticket back they could get an emergency loan to cover the cost.

MPs including Tory backbenchers turned up the heat on the Foreign Office for its record helping Britons stuck abroad get home as countries across the world try to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Former immigration minister Caroline Nokes complained of an “MPs’ helpline that rings with no answer, emails acknowledged but not replied to, embassies that are closed and staff flown home days ago and doors shut to our travellers”.

She claimed airlines are cancelling flights or charging tens of thousands of pounds for a ticket, and countries are banning layovers, preventing Britons from getting home.

“He knows the situation’s dire, but he knew that last week,” was the barb aimed at the foreign secretary.

Mr Raab tried to assuage travellers’ fears by saying a special chartered flight to take people stranded in Peru home would fly back to the UK on Tuesday, with up to 200 seats on board.

The government has lobbied New Zealand and Australia to keep some flights open and re-open other routes, he added.

Mr Raab advised: “If people are in need of urgent assistance they should call our embassies and high commissioners.

“Where people are in real need, our consular teams will work with them to consider their options – as a last resort, we offer an emergency loan.”

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