British pensioners plead for Foreign Office rescue from Indian hospital quarantine

The group is worried their condition could deteriorate if they remain in the unhygienic public hospital

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Steve Hancock, 61 and Ann Williams, 62 are being held in Ernakulam Medical College after Steve tested positive for coronavirus
Steve Hancock, 61 and Ann Williams, 62 are being held in Ernakulam Medical College after Steve tested positive for coronavirus Credit: Joe Wallen

Five elderly British tourists being held in ‘extremely poor conditions’ in an Indian quarantine facility after testing positive for coronavirus have pleaded with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to do more to help them.

They allege they have been locked in individual cells at Ernakulam Medical College in Kerala since Friday which are 'completely unsanitary' as they contain rat droppings and dried blood while thick layers of dust and mold cover the walls.

Evie Hancock's father Steve, 61 and his partner Anne, 62, from Sudbury are currently living in Ernakulam Medical College after Steve tested positive for the virus.

"We are all concerned for their health, it is obviously a group of vulnerable individuals and this has been going on for days now and the lack of general hygiene is definitely taking its toll on them. We are very concerned about their physical and mental wellbeing now," said Ms Hancock.

Overstretched staff have also been unable to provide the elderly Brits with adequate water or food.

Elizabeth Lawson, 75, from North Somerset contracted a water infection after spending five days dehydrated in the hospital. 

"They have no hygiene facilities at all, nothing. It is all absolutely filthy in there and no hot water or soap or toilet paper," said Katherine Lawson, her daughter.

Their rooms are not clean and contain dried blood and vermin droppings Credit: Joe Wallen

Katherine's immuno-compromised father is 76-years-old and also tested positive.

She says he has been forced to speak to his wife through a gap in the wall between their cells. 

The elderly Brits have not been provided with bed linen or pillows and have been told they cannot bring in their own from the outside.  

Family members of those detained in Ernakulam Medical College contacted the FCO on Friday, expecting an immediate response.

Instead they were told that no-one from the FCO would be available to provide assistance until the following Monday.

The FCO then said it cannot move COVID-19 positive patients in India without permission from the state government in Kerala, which has said it does not have suitable facilities available. 

"We are frustrated and becoming more and more concerned that the FCO is our only lifeline and they are limited in what they can do as the Indian authorities are in control," said Ms Hancock.

"We just want to plead to the UK Government and the Foreign Secretary to do more and have active conversations with the Indian authorities to move the situation on further.

"We understand they aren't currently set up for positive COVID-19 patients in hospitals but we have been asking since Friday because of the vulnerability of the group."

The Ernakulam Medical College did not respond to a request for comment.