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Virus crisis leaves Gibraltarian stranded in Washington

A local Customs Officer who went to Virginia to begin wedding preparations with his fiancée has spoken of his struggle to return to Gibraltar because of the coronavirus spread in America.

Kavish Sachanandani, 32, left Gibraltar in February to spend Valentine’s Day with his fiancée, Ria Saxena, in Washington, Virginia, and planned to spend the rest of the month planning their wedding.

But with the rapid spread of the virus across the country, Mr Sachandnani finds himself stuck in Washington after his flight on March 15 was cancelled.

At present, more than 75,000 people in the US have been diagnosed with Covid-19 and more than 1,000 people have died after contracting the virus.

“I left Gibraltar thinking I was going to go for a month-long holiday, but it seems like I will be away for two,” he told the Chronicle.

“I am worried for my parents and I am worried for my colleagues who are front-line staff.”

“My co-workers are assisting the RGP in enforcing the lockdown so it means that I can’t assist them with that, they are already short in numbers and stretched thin because this is affecting everyone.”

“Many of the office workers are working from home, but this does not apply to my colleagues.”

“They are stuck at the border and they can’t do anything about it.”

“It is pretty scary for them as they are dealing with people constantly and I am worried for them.”

Mr Sachanandani was due to fly back to Gibraltar on March 15, but shortly before the date he found out his flight was cancelled.

He was then put on another flight to leave this week, but that too has been cancelled.

Air France, the carrier who he was supposed to fly back with, cannot guarantee a direct route to Malaga airport with themselves or a partner company as travel between European countries has also reduced greatly because of the spread of the virus.

The next flight date he has been offered with the carrier is on April 15, a month after he was initially supposed to leave.

Mr Sachanandani reached out to the British Embassy who said they could not do much to help as commercial flights are still flying out of the US. But with last-minute cancellations and lockdowns across many European countries, he does not want to take that risk either.

“I am lucky that I have my fiancée and her family, and I am living with family and grateful to them,” he added.

“The way I see it, I am safer where I am.”

“Don’t get me wrong, I was excited at the prospect of a longer holiday, but now I am a little bit concerned about when or how I will be getting home.”

“I am here for another three weeks against my will.”

His travel insurance only covers him for 30 days, and he is worried that if he were to get sick while in the US, he would have to “pay through the nose” for any medical bills.

Mr Sachanandani said news of coronavirus has been “downplayed” by US President, Donald Trump, and as a result Americans have not been as concerned about it.

“Suddenly when cases started appearing around here, that is what led to a mass panic over here,” he said.

“People are going and hoarding all the toilet paper and supermarket goods and it’s gone from one side of the spectrum to the other.”

Just last week Mr Sachanandani and his fiancée drove to Washington DC to see the cherry blossom trees in full bloom and were surprised to see people out and about “walking around so nonchalant”, he said.

“The Cherry Blossom festival was cancelled but people still flocked there like there was no viral pandemic was announced and it was quite concerning,” he said.

“I thought, this is it, this is where the next big outbreak is going to be.”

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