An Ealing social worker who has been stranded in Grenada for nine weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic is making a desperate call to the UK government to bring her and “hundreds” of others on the island home.
Glenna George, who lives in Acton, flew out to the Caribbean island for a family funeral in March, and was due to stay for two weeks before returning to her son and the young person she fosters on April 1.
But nearly nine weeks later the 61-year-old who suffers from diabetes has still been unable to get a flight home, with commercial flights booked with British Airways cancelled four times so far.
Repatriation flights back to the UK from Grenada have not been available so far during the crisis, but the Foreign Office said it is “finalising plans” to do so.
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Glenna says her and other British nationals stuck in Grenada have been asked by the Foreign Office to register for repatriation which has been “absolutely chaotic”, and have been given “generic answers” about washing your hands and letting your family know you are safe.
In a video, Glenna said: “We have people aged from a 94-year-old to a one-year-old, you have people who have medical conditions who are terrified of getting sick here.
“Personally I’m diabetic and I’ve now spent over £100 getting my medication because I only came here for two weeks for a family funeral.
“It is disheartening to see reports of flights taking off from Jamaica and Barbados and Guyana and people being repatriated from New Zealand. It just smacks of the UK has not learnt anything from the Windrush situation. And once again the descendants of people from the Windrush are being forgotten.
“It is a hard pill to swallow when you are at the bottom of an unequal line. All we want to do is get home, all we want is a straight answer when are you getting us home?”
The mother said her life has been turned “upside down” from the crisis and due to her extended absence her foster young person has had to leave the family home.
Continuing to work as a social worker for Ealing Council abroad, Glenna is having to start work at 5.30am to keep up with UK time. She said she is trying everything to find a way home.
“Mentally it has taken its toll because there are days like yesterday…I went running to the window because there was a big plane and I was thinking where is that going?” she said.
While the idea of being stuck on a sunny, beautiful island may be appealing to some, Glenna stresses “it is not my home”.
Grenada imposed a strict lockdown in response to the global pandemic, including curfews and a seven-day full lockdown where not even essential shops such as supermarkets were open.
“There was nothing open at all. Whatever we had we had to make do for seven days,” Glenna said.
And on shops re-opening, the 61-year-old stood in intense heat for two-and-a-half hours queuing in a supermarket car park before giving up and going home.
The island is also not allowing passengers to arrive in the country, but in correspondence with the Grenada’s High Commissioner to the UK, Kisha Abba Grant, over air travel, she said the decision for people to leave Grenada lies with airlines.
“As far as we have been informed across the world, the airlines have cancelled the rest of their UK flights for now. We have no control over that,” she said.
A British Airways spokesperson said on rescheduling flights from the island that it is a “fast moving situation” and customers are recommended to check the latest flight information on their website ba.com.
Glenna says flights from Germany and Canada have arrived on the island to pick up its nationals and questions why the UK has been unable to do the same.
Having set up a Whatsapp group for stranded Brits in Grenada, Glenna is aware of 176 people known to the group looking to get home. But it is believed the number could be closer to 400.
“There are so many people here that are just desperate to get home and I think as British nationals we deserve our government to try and get us home as soon as possible,” Glenna said.
“I think I speak for the whole of the group when I say people are just getting to the point now they are just so disheartened and it is really sad.”
It is believed the Forieign Office has never before had to deal with so many UK travellers in different places struggling to get home.
A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We know it’s a difficult time for many British travellers abroad.
“We’ve now flown back over 32,000 on specially chartered planes. We are also finalising plans for a charter flight from the Eastern Caribbean regions, including Grenada, and encourage British travellers looking to return to the UK to check for travel advice updates and get in touch with the British High Commission in Bridgetown.”
It is understood that British travellers in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines were asked to register their interest with the Foreign Office for a possible repatriation flight, and that they have been contacted for further information.
Around 100 British nationals in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and The Bahamas returned to the UK on a charter flight last month and a further 300 returned on flights from Jamaica and Guyana this month.
Have you been affected by coronavirus in this part of London? If so, email anahita.hosseinpour @reachplc.com