Thousands of Surrey residents believed stranded in India’s 21-day lockdown

Total lockdown imposed in attempt to thwart virus from spreading among population of 1.3 billion people

It’s believed thousands of Surrey residents are stranded in India, caught up in the subcontinent’s 21-day lockdown because of the COVID-19 virus.

Gurpreet Singh Sahota of Wake Up Surrey, a grassroots organization formed to combat gang violence in the city, says every year in the winter thousands of immigrants visit India and Pakistan, for a few weeks or a few months.

“Now they’re stuck there because the lockdown is imposed, which is more like a curfew in India, until April 15,” he told the Now-Leader. “I know there are some people who didn’t listen, because our government was saying don’t go and they went after that, after these announcements.”

And then there are others who went before Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, on March 12 urged the public to refrain from all non-essential international travel. Sahota said it’s estimated about 10 per cent left after the warning, and 90 per cent before.”

On March 25 India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed a total lockdown on the country in an attempt to thwart the virus from spreading among its population of 1.3 billion people. People there are banned from venturing outside their homes.

Sahota said the number of Surrey residents caught up in this “will be in the thousands.”

He said it’s estimated that 94,000 non-resident Indians, from Punjab, from around the world are stuck there, “but most of them are from Canada.” Roughly 15,000 are Canadian citizens, he said.


Gurpreet Singh Sahota, (Submitted photo)

As for the number of Surrey residents stranded in India, Sahota said, “I’m pretty sure, I can guess, it could be in the thousands, not in the hundreds, in Surrey only.”

Sahota said many elderly Surrey residents of Indian decent “usually go in a group in November, before December, and they come back before April mid.”

Many seasonal workers, who are laid off from the farms and green houses, go for holidays at that time.

“They have homes there, they have families there, just to meet them, right,” he said. “There was some people who went in January, the youngsters, they go for mostly three to six weeks.”

“India is not a rich country so they don’t have essential services, so people are dying there with hunger because there is a lockdown for 21 days and no stimulus package for anyone,” he said.

Organizations like his are seeking help from the Canadian government.

“Let’s say there’s a special charter that goes every day with 500 people coming back, still it will take 30 days to bring 15,000 back to Canada, and they’re citizens.”

Sahota said his parents were planning to fly to India, but didn’t. “We made a last sudden decision, like ‘Oh no, you’re not going.’”

He said he has relatives from Edmonton who are stuck in India. “I think I have more than 100 people, who I know, that they are stuck there, from Surrey.”

READ ALSO: Surrey MP says Canada trying to get India to permit stranded Surreyites to come home

READ ALSO: Labour Minister Harry Bains working from home, self-isolating after India trip

Meantime, Neeru Mann, who works as a nurse at Surrey Memorial Hospital, had this to say, in an email to the Now-Leader, as she sat “stranded in India with my two young children and husband due to the destruction this pandemic has caused forcing flight cancellations and airports to shut down.

“After watching dozens of videos online of people in both Canada and the USA out and about, leisurely hanging out at beaches, parks and other places ignorantly disregarding the governments advise to self isolate as much as possible; I am pleading with everyone reading this to PLEASE stay inside your homes and avoid going out as much as possible unless it is absolutely necessary. Picking up chips from the grocery store, going for a walk on the beach, or just driving around to ‘get out of the house for a bit’ is NOT necessary and is NOT okay.

“As a nurse that’s works at Surrey Memorial Hospital, I can’t even imagine the situation my fellow colleagues are facing on the front lines,” she wrote. “To think that healthcare workers are risking not only their own lives, but the lives of their families day in and day out and there are still individuals out there who are showing this level of disregard for the rest of the community. It is just shameful and extremely disappointing to see the way Canadians are being shown as careless and ignorant people by the media all around the world.

Mann said she initially believed the preventative measures taken by the Indian government were too extreme.

“I was annoyed that my vacation was “ruined” as I couldn’t go shopping or eat in restaurants anymore due to malls, restaurants and schools being shut down,” she wrote. “Then within 72 hours of the initial shut downs an announcement was made by the Indian Prime Minister: until further notice the ENTIRE COUNTRY was going into a full fledged mandatory lock down! Martial Law has basically been imposed, the police and the military are all over the place strictly enforcing the lockdown.

“Let Canada continue to be an example for other countries to follow during tough times like this, not the mockery it has become at this time. Do not force the government to take drastic measures to actually contain people in their own homes. Please stay home to stay safe. It’s that simple.”

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey Santa Parade may be cancelled

Annual parade in Cloverdale has seen security costs skyrocket

‘The exposure is great’: Why this photo is a contest-winner for one Surrey adventurer

Nature photographer Eduardo Baena spends a lot of time in the wild

South Surrey hikers discover decades-old campsite hidden in Golden Ears Park

Group reconnects with original campers through social media, returns log book

Cloverdale food bank sees surge in demand over short period

Lower Mainland’s newest food bank serves Langley, Delta, Surrey, White Rock

B.C. records first at-home death from COVID-19, but 70+ hospital patients have recovered

Total of 970 novel coronavirus cases in B.C., with the majority in the Lower Mainland area

BC Ferries able to restrict travel for sick passengers

Ferries working on schedule shifts to keep workers safe

Pay parking suspended at B.C. hospitals due to COVID-19

Temporary free parking reduces need for keypads, contact

Canada expands 75% wage subsidy to COVID-19 affected businesses of all sizes: Trudeau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

Helping those at risk, one piece of paper at a time through ‘isolation communication’

Simple paper tool during pandemic making its way across Canada thanks to social media.

‘Back to school, in a virtual way’ for B.C. students in COVID-19 pandemic

Province adds online resources to help parents at home

Canadian COVID-19 round-up: Air Canada cuts 15,000 jobs, 90% of flights

Comprehensive Canadian news update as of 2:30 p.m., Monday, March 30.

Most Read