TWO Bradford families are among the thousands of Britons stranded around the world by the shutdown of air travel in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Vinay Verma has made a plea for help after he and his parents were caught up in the nationwide Indian lockdown.

Another Bradfordian Sajad Khaliq is desperate about his parents who are likewise stuck in Pakistan.

He said his parents are both very elderly and have serious health issues. His father’s medicine runs out on Sunday and he has been unable to get extra supplies.

The families are among up to a million people from across the UK who are trapped abroad.

Vinay said he and his parents, Kavita and Chander Verma who live in Barkerend, travelled with Air India on March 2 to attend a cousin’s wedding and were due to fly back on the 19th but now because of flight cancellations they are stuck in Ludhiana, Punjab.

He said: “The airline did not notify us. I had noticed a post on social media that said that all Air India flights were to be suspended as of the 18th. When I emailed the company to see if my flight was now cancelled they assured me it was confirmed. I then saw another post that stated that Air India flights had been suspended so I contacted them again when they confirmed the flight was now cancelled.

“We tried to get a flight back but airlines were asking for around the £1,500 mark per person and they said they would be no guarantee that the flights would depart India.”

He said they met many other British citizens in the Air India office who were also stuck and in the same situation, many of whom cannot speak English.

After a five-hour wait his dad was able to speak to an advisor who rebooked their flight to the UK for March 31 but the country has now entered lockdown with all travel curtailed.

Vinay added: “We cannot drink tap water and bottled water is not available as the shops are closed. I am asthmatic and my medicine is finishing as I only bought enough for the planned time with some extra but that is coming to an end.

“I have been in touch with the British embassy and it has proved very difficult to get through to them when I got through eventually they were not able to offer any support as the UK government hasn’t given them a response.

“We are in a very hard situation and need to return home as quickly as possible for our wellbeing and also my grandad is 82 years of age alone at home waiting for us to return as he is also really struggling to cope alone.

“Also the local residents believe that foreigners are responsible for the outbreak of the virus and report them to the police who reportedly take them away to a unknown place. We are practically in hiding!”

Sajad Khaliq has desperate concerns for his parents who travelled to Pakistan four weeks ago.

He said: “They were due to return on March 27 but on the 21st, the Pakistan government, with just 24 hours notice, closed airports to all travel for at least two weeks and possibly beyond that timeframe.

“My parents are both very elderly and have serious health issues. My father is on numerous medications for his very advanced COPD and also heart related issues. He has medication up to the 29th and then he runs out. He has been unable to source the required medication abroad as the cost is not affordable. He has been quoted in the region of £800 per one week supply.

“I have attempted to contact the British embassy in Pakistan without success.

“I am at my wits' end as to what I can do. The British government is asking all UK residents to return but, try as they might, my parents have absolutely no way to return.”

The Foreign Office (FCO) says it is working with the Indian authorities and airlines to support British nationals who want to return to the UK. To support this they are collecting information on British nationals currently in the country to advise when commercial flights to the UK become available.

It says the government of Pakistan announced the suspension of all international flights to the county on March 21, until April 4, describing it as a ‘temporary suspension imposed due to exceptional circumstances’. The FCO understands that the suspension applies also to international flights out of Pakistan.

Despite this suspension, the FCO says Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has announced flights from Islamabad to UK operating this Friday and Saturday. "We understand that PIA flights will only be advertised through travel agents. We understand Qatar Airways is also planning on operating a daily flight from March 25 until April 3. See website or contact travel agents."