Work continues at pace to help those most badly affected by the outbreak of coronavirus. We will all be deeply affected by this, one way or another. However, there are a range of urgent challenges that my team and I are working hard to address, as best we can.
One big issue is getting huge numbers of British travellers and holidaymaker’s home. It is estimated that over 200,000 UK Nationals are still stuck abroad and this has been a very challenging issue to deal with. Many other countries have closed their borders and airports, making travel almost impossible. Cancelled flights, rocketing ticket prices and a lack of timely refunds has been a real problem for many. It has fallen to small but dedicated teams of Foreign Office officials in Embassies and High Commission’s around the world to keep travel options open as best they can.
However, this past week has seen some good progress in what is a massive, global operation. Just looking at some of the countries where Pendle residents have been stranded, over 7,500 British nationals have been flown home from Pakistan in the last ten days, in excess of 5,000 have come home from Australia and over 2,000 have managed to get flights home from New Zealand. Special flights have been arranged to arrange the return of travellers on the many islands of the Philippines, and from Vietnam. Closer to home, the vast majority of the estimated 200,000 British travellers in Spain have come home.
Every day, hundreds more people return, with the help of the Foreign Office. It has been great hearing news of Pendle residents making it home from these and other countries – a great source of relief to their anxious families.
However, I am aware there are still a number of Pendle residents stuck abroad. This is particularly the case in Pakistan, where commercial flights are now no longer operating. The Foreign Secretary has confirmed that flights will be chartered using the recently announced £750 million fund. Repatriation flights are also being arranged from Bangladesh.
It is taking time and proving difficult, but we will get everyone home. If you know of someone stuck abroad who needs help, do let me know and visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice for the latest travel advice for all country around the world.