Coronavirus: Suffolk doctor stranded in New Zealand 'feels guilty'

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image copyrightNICK HARPUR
image captionSuffolk GP Dr Nick Harpur is unable to leave New Zealand

A doctor stranded in New Zealand says he is "feeling slightly impotent" that he cannot return to help frontline NHS colleagues.

Dr Nick Harpur, a GP based in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, has been unable to travel home because of restrictions in place during the coronavirus pandemic.

He said two airlines had cancelled booked flights.

New Zealand entered a full lockdown on Wednesday, with a large number of British visitors struggling to leave.

Dr Harpur said he hoped to catch an Air New Zealand flight on Friday.

The travellers' problems have been compounded by Singapore - a common transit point - also closing its borders to all visitors.

Waveney MP Peter Aldous told the Commons this week that British nationals were "stuck abroad", with commercial flights "collapsing like a stack of dominos".

image captionNew Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a full lockdown starting on Wednesday night

Dr Harpur, 60, a senior partner at Victoria Street Surgery and a GP for 32 years, travelled to New Zealand on a five-month sabbatical as he neared retirement.

He worked with a rural surgery in Ruakaka, near Whangarei, on the country's North Island. His contract expired on Wednesday.

He said he felt "very guilty" about his inability to return to help his colleagues.

"My practice in Bury is under a lot of strain; other doctors have had to cope with childcare and are home-visiting more to vulnerable patients," he told the BBC.

"There are understandable concerns from pregnant doctors who do not want to be exposed to Covid at work."

He also said he was concerned about his frail parents in Chelmsford, Essex, and family in Bury St Edmunds.

"General practice is all about good communication," he said.

"Unfortunately two airlines, my travel agent and my insurers have not found the need to respond to my emails.

"I am not moaning - just expressing my frustration at the lack of human reassurance."

Dr Harpur said he hoped to be included in a "repatriation effort" but that he understood that "families, the ill and the financially-stuck people will need prioritising."

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