Stranded grandma finally back on Australian soil
A DARWIN grandmother has finally made it back to Australia after being stranded in Spain for six months during the coronavirus pandemic, and now starts an uncertain journey from Sydney to the NT.
Chatarina Helwend, 78, travelled to Spain to visit her daughter and grandson in early March.
Just 10 days later, Spain went into complete lockdown because of COVID-19, making it essentially impossible for Ms Helwend to travel from Valencia to Madrid and take a flight home when Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged Australians to do so.
After six months of campaigning, Ms Helwend's daughter Polyn Bungalay-Helwend said her mother was finally back in Australia after managing to get on a flight from London to Sydney on Monday.
Her future is still uncertain as she tries to make her way back to Darwin.
Ms Bungalay-Helwend said she was unsure up until the last minute whether her mum would be bumped from the flight because of passenger caps on flights and hotel quarantine in Australia.
"I could see she was really anxious about the whole thing," she said.
"On most flights like Qatar, there was only 30 passengers per flight.
There have been many incidents where people had boarding passes in their hands and were bumped because a business-class ticket holder came along."
Ms Bungalay-Helwend said she received some help from the government but her mother still felt somewhat "abandoned" in her time of need.
International airlines are not flying to Darwin, making it difficult for vulnerable Territorians like her mother, who will now need to travel and likely go into quarantine again when she arrives in the NT.
"I have to acknowledge the Chief Minister has been talking to the Morrison government about allowing international flights to come into Darwin," she said.
"If they can allow charter flights out of Singapore into Darwin, it would relieve pressure on the commercial airlines," she said.
"If Mr Gunner is really interested in helping these stranded Australians, let these charter flights in."
An NT government spokesman two weeks ago said: "We are working with the federal government to make sure Territorians are repatriated as safely as possible."
"Any Territorian who is overseas and needs support should contact their local embassy or DFAT, who are in the best position to assist."
Originally published as Stranded Darwin grandma finally back on Australian soil