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Coronavirus: Northern Ireland travellers left abroad 'could face starvation', says doctor in Australia


Dr Kevin McGourty said NI people abroad are in dire straits

Dr Kevin McGourty said NI people abroad are in dire straits

Dr Kevin McGourty said NI people abroad are in dire straits

A Northern Ireland doctor in Australia has said he is terrified for hundreds of stranded travellers.

Kevin McGourty (28), from Kircubbin, is a doctor at the Ulster Hospital and has been in Australia for the last two weeks.

He has called on the British and Irish governments to act as many travellers now face "poverty and real starvation".

"I was travelling around the east coast with a lot of young Irish and UK people who were on holiday visas and had jobs," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"As soon as we arrived back to Sydney their lives fell to pieces, they all lost their jobs and accommodation and many of the hostels started to close."

He said there were tense scenes at the British Embassy in Sydney on Tuesday, where around 200 young people were given little information.

"A lot of 18 to 20-year-old girls had nowhere to stay or money for flights home. They thought the embassy might be able to get them shelter or repatriated back home.

"They came out with leaflets with phone numbers which we've all been trying to ring for days but are just left on hold for hours and hours.

"The Irish Embassy itself was actually closed and there was no one to speak to. Lots of people here have no family support.

"We don't know how long this is going to last so they're all living day by day, not eating or drinking.

"I'm really worried about the people here, especially the mental health of young people."

Dr McGourty does have a flight booked home for this weekend, but this isn't an option for many travellers who are saving their money.

"I'm not worried about myself," he said.

"If anything happened to my family and I can't be there for them, that would be the worst thing possible."

Sinn Fein's West Belfast MP Paul Maskey has added to the calls for both governments to repatriate citizens.

"With increased flight restrictions and flight cancellations, citizens are finding it increasingly difficult to return home," he said.

Mr Maskey said he welcomed new guidelines from the Republic's government which helped 170 people return home to Dublin yesterday, including around 100 doctors. "These guidelines include the establishment of a register that will be used to advise Irish citizens returning home and alternative flight arrangements," he said.

"I would encourage citizens to both read and follow these guidelines. But both the Irish and British governments must do much more and take a more proactive approach to assisting citizens. This is a time of great fear and anxiety for families as Covid-19 continues to spread, the additional burden of being stranded abroad should not be placed on them."

In Peru, hundreds of people have said they fear being stuck for months after two reported cases of Covid-19 in a hostel saw 150 tourists placed into quarantine. Many say they face a race against time as hostels are due to close by the end of March.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the first Government-charted flight from Peru arrived back in the UK yesterday.

He added he was "working urgently" with Peruvian authorities to deliver more flights.

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