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Covid-19: Indian students in turmoil after India added to UK's red travel ban list

The Times of India logo The Times of India 20-04-2021 NAOMI CANTON
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LONDON: Indian students enrolled at British universities who have been studying remotely in India for months and were planning to return for the summer term now that the pandemic is under control in Britain woke up Tuesday to discover they will face huge costs and may struggle to even get a flight after India was added to the UK’s red list of travel ban countries.

On Monday, UK health secretary Matt Hancock said the UK government had taken the "difficult but vital decision" to add India to the list after detecting 103 cases of the so-called Indian variant in the UK. From 4 am on Friday, UK/Irish citizens and residents who have been in India will have to quarantine in a government hotel for 10 days at a cost of £1,750 each (Rs 1.8 lakh), while others will be refused admittance. This has led to flight prices shooting up and a dearth of available seats.

Yajvin Sharma (21), in his final year of an economics and finance BA (Hons) at Manchester University, went back to Delhi in March 2020 as his parents were worried about rising Covid cases in the UK. He has studied online in Delhi since then despite paying £22,000 per year for tuition fees and £7,000 for student accommodation. "Now the UK is better I was getting ready to come back," he said. "I want to see my friends and have a real-life experience in my final term. But I can’t come back unless India gets moved off the red list as paying £2,000 for hotel quarantine doesn’t make sense. I will be very upset if I finish my course online as I paid so much money for this," he said. "…I wish they could reduce the quarantine fees for students or offer students something else."

READ ALSO: UK adds India to travel red list amid surge in Covid cases

Sanam Arora, chairperson of the National Indian Students and Alumni Union (NISAU) UK, has been flooded with queries. "A lot of students studying remotely from India were planning on coming back in April and May as they need to be here by June 21 to be eligible to apply to the graduate route, which allows them to work for two years. The Rs 2 lakh cost of a quarantine hotel is too expensive for them. Most have been in India since their courses started last autumn and wanted to spend at least the final semester in Britain to get a physical experience. Now even those who are commencing courses in May do not even know if they will be allowed in," she said.

Stavan Desai (43), from Baroda, who is reading a one-year MSc in international social and public policy at LSE in London, has not gone back to India but is left worried about family and friends back home. "A lot of students like me have family and friends in India who have caught Covid and our thoughts keep going back to them and it is difficult to concentrate on our studies …The red list makes me more concerned as even if God forbid something happens that may require my presence in India, I wouldn’t be able to go as I would not be able to pay £2,000 to come back. And now my wife and daughter can’t come and visit me," he said.

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