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By Ruth Suter, multimedia journalist with the Glasgow Times

A HELENSBURGH couple who are stuck in New Zealand due to coronavirus travel restrictions have slammed the government over the lack of information and support they have received as they battle to get back to Scotland.

The Advertiser's sister paper, the Glasgow Times, reported on Thursday that Tom and Carol McDonald, who are both retired, left Scotland on February 18 with their life savings behind them as they embarked on what was meant to be a journey of their lifetime.

But the couple's holiday has been immediately cut short – and they now face quarantine in New Zealand for an unknown length of time.

Tom explained: “We were advised to contact our local embassy or consulate via telephone but we couldn’t get through. That was all.

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“More or less, we feel completely abandoned by the government and UK authorities.”

Tom and Carol were scheduled to fly home with the Emirates airline via Dubai, until transit hubs and passenger flights across the globe were halted.

Tom added: “With no transit flights, nobody can move at the moment.

“There’s some really sad and difficult stories that we’re hearing. Everyone just wants to go home.

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“There’s lots of people around the place, especially backpackers and young people, who have ran out of money and are staying in hostels. But they’re running out of places to stay.

“Everything is completely closed down and I don’t know how these people will get support.”

The couple have been using a Facebook group, Get Us Home UK- British Citizens stranded in New Zealand to keep informed on government updates which could help their situation.

Tom added: “We get a daily text message to say they’re doing their best and that the Home Secretary is trying to convince governments to open transit hubs, but that is about it - absolutely nothing else has happened.

“I feel sorry for those out here who don’t have access to internet - they must be feeling completely stuck.”

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Earlier this week the UK Government pledged to implement a £75 million airlift operation that would rescue thousands of British nationals stranded abroad due to the coronavirus crisis.

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said: “We recognise British tourists abroad are finding it difficult to return to the UK because of the unprecedented international travel and domestic restrictions that are being introduced around the world – often with very little or no notice.

“The government has partnered with a number of airlines who have committed to work together to get Brits back to the UK and up to £75 million has been made available for charter flights were commercial options are no longer available.

“We’ll continue working around the clock to bring people home.”

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