Norwich couple stuck on remote Philippines island due to coronavirus pandemic
- Credit: Emma Howard
How to get home from a remote island in the Philippines as global air travel grinds to a halt? That’s the challenge for a Norwich couple who have already seen a surprise holiday extended by a week.
Lewis Smith and Emma Howard, from Hellesdon, are two of the tens of thousands of people the UK government are now working to bring home during the global effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Miss Howard, 28, had surprised her boyfriend with the 17-day holiday for his 30th birthday and they flew out to Manilla on March 8 via Dubai, and were intending on island hopping to take in as much of the Philippines as they could.
However, five days into their holiday, the islands went into lockdown and ever since they have been unable to leave the El Nido resort, on the northern coast of the island of Palawan.
Mr Smith’s mother, Lynda, who also lives in Hellesdon, explained: “Because the domestic flights are grounded, they can’t get off the island to reach any of the airports.
“They did receive an email saying there were some flights leaving Manilla but they wanted £1,300 each and they basically haven’t got the money. If it comes down to the crunch then we’ll have to sort flights out for them eventually, but I think the airlines are trying to cash in basically.”
As with all British travellers, the couple have had to register their whereabouts with the British embassy and wait for guidance. They had initially needed to get across to the island of Cebu to begin their scheduled journey home on March 25 but have been warned not to use ferries or boats due to health and safety concerns during the pandemic.
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Mr Smith is a plumber and Miss Howard is a support worker for children with special educational needs, and they are now among the final few tourists left in El Nido.
The couple have also had email replies from Norwich North MP, Chloe Smith, as they try to find out how long they are likely to be stuck in their remote location - but they have at least had a stroke of luck to help avoid too much upset.
“They’ve sent me an amazing video,” Mrs Smith concluded. “They’ve got friendly with a businessman who owns one of the restaurants and he’s let them have use of this amazing villa, with it’s own pool and everything, and he’s changing them £23 a night when he would normally charge £250!”
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