'Scared and desperate' Briton stranded in Fiji during coronavirus pandemic begs for rescue

BENEDICT MOORE-BRIDGER, Arjun Neil Alim
·4-min read

A British tourist has pleaded for help after travel lockdowns stranded her in Fiji in the South Pacific.

Chloe Hyland, 27, from Surrey, said she had spent “thousands” on flights in a bid to get back to the UK, but that with other countries such as Australia and New Zealand shutting their borders, she was unable to get a connecting one.

It comes as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told British tourists to get home within 48 hours “while you still can” or face being stranded overseas. He warned that the Government would not be able to guarantee flights to get citizens home after that.

Ms Hyland, a marketing manager, travelled to Nadi island in Fiji last Wednesday having previously been in New Zealand and Australia. Her flight home on March 28 was cancelled after the national carrier Fiji Airways suspended 95 per cent of its service.

She thought she would be able to fly to London via Brisbane and Abu Dhabi today but was told at the last-minute the flight would not be leaving.

She said: “Got checked in, through security and into departures when they called my name and told me I can’t go. Abu Dhabi shut their borders and cancelled the flights.”

So far Fiji has confirmed three cases of coronavirus. The Foreign Office has advised against all but essential international travel and advises British visitors to Fiji to prepare to leave as soon as possible.

Fiji Airways’s remaining international flight was to Singapore, which closed its borders to short-term arrivals and travellers in transit from midnight on Monday.

Two other regional hubs, Australia and New Zealand, also closed their borders to arrivals and transit.

A man wearing a protective face mask in Kingsford Smith International Airport (REUTERS)
A man wearing a protective face mask in Kingsford Smith International Airport (REUTERS)

Ms Hyland — who said that going to Fiji was the “biggest mistake of my life” — said she feared her hostel would follow the country’s empty resorts and close, potentially leaving her on the streets. She called on the Foreign Office to help her and other Britons to get home.

She said: “I just don’t want to be forgotten.” In a desperate post to friends online, she said: “This is an urgent plea. Contact anyone you know who might be able to make a difference to sending repatriation to us, please!

“New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Abu Dhabi, have all restricted/closed borders and it’s impossible to find flights with a route home to the UK.

"I have spent thousands on flights which I haven’t been able to board due to so many changes to transiting rules globally. I know the world is in tatters at the moment but I am here away from my family and friends, scared, stranded and feeling very desperate and really just want to be home.

“If there is anything you can do to help the British High Commission realise we need them, please do it and more.”

British travellers stuck in New Zealand and Australia have also told how they feel stranded, with more than 1,000 people registering for help through an online database.

Lara Suleyman, from Kent, who started the list yesterday, said: “I’ve heard from doctors who are keen to get back to the NHS to help out their colleagues, tourists facing eviction from their hotel rooms, as well as pretty unwell cancer patients who are running low on their medicine and can’t get through to the UK Consulate.”

Louis Verkaik, 19, told the BBC he had been travelling alone on a gap year and had managed to get one of the last flights from New Zealand to Australia.

The check in area at Sydney International Airport (Getty Images)
The check in area at Sydney International Airport (Getty Images)

He said: “I’ve sent an email stating that the British Government should send over an emergency flight for people such as myself stuck. I don’t have enough money to sustain myself for very long.”

The UK High Commissioner in Australia, Vicki Treadell, said officials were speaking with airlines to find “workable solutions”.

In Vietnam, Briton Jake Anderson, 23, and three friends, all 22, said they had been threatened with arrest if they tried to leave their hotel because of coronavirus concerns, meaning they missed their flight home.

Meanwhile, Argentina has offered to help Falkland Islands’ residents with fresh food, medicine and Covid-19 tests if required, as well humanitarian flights.

Argentina’s Falklands secretary Daniel Filmus said: “At such difficult times, solidarity must be the way to overcome the situation caused by coronavirus.”

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