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Coronavirus: ‘We are desperate to get home to help’

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Katy Marshall and her husband Paul Colebourn had been working in New Zealand

Thousands of Scots are finding themselves locked out of the UK as the country shuts down to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Junior doctor Katy Marshall says she is desperate to get home to help.

She and her husband Paul Colebourn, from Milnathort, near Kinross, had been working in New Zealand for a year but decided to cut their trip short.

They booked flights back to Scotland last week to get back to their families and support the NHS effort.

But after selling their car, leaving their home and travelling for six hours to get to Auckland Airport, they have been told they cannot fly out of the country.

The 27-year-old junior doctor has worked for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, the health board which is hardest-hit by the spread of Covid-19.

She has now signed up with a locum agency so she can help wherever she is needed in the NHS.

Dr Marshall told the BBC they had everything organised for when they returned to the UK.

“A job for me and my husband and a remote property to self-isolate in for two weeks and potentially longer whilst working with Covid-19 exposure, to keep our families safe,” she said.

“We had even organised a vehicle for us to access so no risk would be made to others once we were back in the country.”

They booked a flight back via Dubai last week but were then notified that the second leg of the flight was cancelled.

The switch to another flight arrived in Auckland on Monday to find their flights were cancelled.

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Katy Marshall

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Auckland Airport on Tuesday morning as flights were cancelled

The couple is now unable to fly out of New Zealand due to shutdowns in connecting cities and the grounding of aircraft.

They have joined with up to 1,000 other British citizens stuck in New Zealand and are pressing the High Commissioner and the UK government to get them home.

The BBC understands that among the list of stranded citizens are 16 NHS doctors, four consultants, two ICU consultants and four nurses, who want to get back to help.

Dr Marshall said: “I am a doctor, I need to get back and help the NHS. It has been horrific watching from here and seeing the virus move from Italy to Spain and now the UK.

“We are desperate to get home. I just want to help.”

‘The UK is so far behind’

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Matthew Curran

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Matthew Curran is stranded in Peru

Matthew Curran is in Peru and says he is relying on scraps of information from expat WhatsApp groups and Facebook pages in Lima for his most up-to-date information.

The 24-year-old from Glasgow, who has been stranded since the weekend, said contact with the UK embassy in the Peruvian capital has been limited – “if existent at all”.

He has seen Germans, Americans and Israelis repatriated but was not hopeful that he would be able return home this week.

After he appeared on the BBC on Saturday, the Foreign Office said repatriation would begin imminently.

Reports later suggested that a British Airways flight scheduled to pick up British nationals was not given landing permission by the Peruvian government.

While Matthew awaits news of a flight home, he is restricted to a hotel room. Guests are only allowed to leave if their room is being cleaned or to go to the supermarket for essential supplies.

Visa extension

Unlike in the UK, people are not allowed to go outdoors for exercise.

“You have to wear a mask as well when you’re on the streets and in the supermarkets,” he said.

“I am immensely disappointed obviously with how things have been handled especially considering that other nationals from other countries have been repatriated already.

“But I am resigned to the situation at the moment. There’s no point complaining.”

Meanwhile the Home Office has announced it will extend visas for UK nationals who are stuck abroad due to the coronavirus crisis.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the extension would apply to anyone whose leave expired after 24 January and who cannot leave the country because of travel restrictions or self-isolation.

At the moment the extension will last until 31 May but will be under constant review.

Visa nationals need to proactively inform the Home Office if they intend to extend their stay.