S African technician stuck on ship in Bay of Bengal due to India's coronavirus lockdown

By Fakir Hassen

Johannesburg, Apr 19 () What would have been a 49-day shift on a sea construction ship has turned into an 80-day nightmare for a South African technician due to the COVID-19 lockdown imposed by India, according to a media report.

Van Vuuren, the only South African aboard the ship that is now 22-kms from the shore in the Bay of Bengal, has been unable to dock because of the lockdown in India.

"India is shut, so (even) if we could get off, there is nowhere to go – no domestic flights," Vurren, 48, told the weekly Sunday Times via WhatsApp.Advertisement

What would have been a 49-day shift on the vessel before returning home for a break has turned into an 80-day nightmare for Vuuren, who hails from the scenic town of Mossel Bay in the Western Cape province of South Africa.

"On the one hand I want to go home, but on the other side I am glad I am on the boat because with the current oil price and travel restrictions I don't know when I will be able to come back to work," the contract worker said.

India like many other countries has imposed a strict curfew-type lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Vuuren's shift was due to end when an Italian colleague arrived to replace him, but the latter could not get out of his home country because of the severe restrictions there during the lockdown.

Even if he had arrived, India would have been in lockdown by then and he might not have been able to get onto the ship.Vuuren is also concerned about quarantine restrictions if he and fellow crew members should manage to leave the vessel somehow.Advertisement

"We do not know if we have to stay 14 days in India in quarantine and then another 14 days in South Africa with no salary," he said.

For now, he is continuing with his tasks of controlling equipment that inspects and surveys underwater pipelines.

Vuuren is just one of the many South Africans believed to be stranded abroad because of the COVID-19 pandemic.Advertisement

They include scores of teachers in the Far East and people in North Africa who are running out of supplies of chronic medicines.

Globally, 160,721 people have died and over 2.3 million people have been infected by the coronavirus, according to data maintained by Johns Hopkins University. FH RUP AKJ RUP

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