Doctor stranded in India lockdown flies back to work at UK hospital
London - An Indian-origin doctor who had been stranded in Delhi amid India's ongoing coronavirus lockdown on Friday expressed his relief at being back at work at his hospital in Suffolk, eastern England.
Dr Sushil Misra, a consultant in acute medicine for the National Health Service (NHS), was among those who were able to obtain a seat on a British government arranged a chartered flight from Delhi to Heathrow last weekend and able to join work from this week.
"A lot has happened here at the hospital, a lot of rota and policy changes, and new protocols.
It felt great [to be back], it felt like being home and I want to again say thanks for everything the BMA (British Medical Association) did for me," said Misra.
The BMA had been lobbying the UK authorities to prioritize the medical professionals among the nearly 21,000 stranded British citizens in India.
Misra had traveled to India early last month to visit his parents and was due to return on March 29 but got caught in India's coronavirus lockdown, imposed in mid-March.
Eager to be reunited with his wife and daughter in the UK, and to return to his job, he said he spent the next fortnight doing everything he could to get back to the UK.
In response to Misra's plight, the British Medical Association (BMA) had called on the government to do more to prioritize doctors and healthcare professionals stranded overseas in getting back to the UK and the NHS.
Meanwhile, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) announced an agreement with the Indian government for a series of charter flights to be organized to repatriate its stranded nationals.
"They sent a vehicle to pick me up and take me to the airport.
On the way you could see everything was locked down and only vehicles with special permission were allowed on the road.
It was about five hours before the plane arrived – all the shops in the airport were closed, but fortunately, we were provided with water before entering the terminal," recalls Misra.
Misra, who along with his fellow passengers had to wear a facemask for the duration of the eight-and-a-half-hour flight back to the UK, said he took every precaution possible to protect himself from the virus onboard the crowded aircraft.
"I had taken my sanitizing wipes with me and cleaned the seat before sitting and did not use the bathroom once during the flight," he said.
After arriving at Heathrow airport last Sunday, he headed to London where he was able to briefly see his daughter, a junior doctor, before returning home to his wife in Suffolk.
"My wife was waiting at the front door, but I went straight to the back garden where all my suitcases, clothes and shoes were sanitized, and I got changed. Only then was I admitted into the house," he said.
"People are very happy I'm back and some of my colleagues joked asking whether I had swum home.
I am just very pleased to be home."
BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said it was of "paramount" importance that the UK government did everything it could to ensure that doctors and other healthcare professionals stranded overseas were able to get back to the UK as soon as possible on the charter flights organized over the past few days.
"Increasingly we are hearing from doctors who are stranded as borders closed around the world, and unable to return to practice in the UK.
It is paramount that the FCO prioritizes seats on flights to UK nationals who are healthcare professionals as they are vital in our response to this crisis," he said.