Coronavirus: Ill Swansea man 'stranded with dwindling drugs'

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Phil Walker with a horseImage source, Family photo
Image caption,
Phil Walker is a former horse trainer from Swansea

A man with serious heart problems has said he is stranded in South Africa with just days of medication left.

Phil Walker, 57, has 60% heart function after a heart attack left him needing a quadruple heart bypass operation.

Mr Walker was due to fly back with Virgin Atlantic on Monday, but his flights were cancelled due to coronavirus.

Virgin Atlantic apologised and said it was working to get Mr Walker him home as a priority.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said it was "providing consular assistance" to Mr Walker.

After the South African government imposed strict restrictions on travel to and from the country, Virgin Atlantic suspended all flights.

Mr Walker managed to book alternative flights with British Airways (BA) and was due to fly home on Sunday, but these flights were also cancelled.

BA said customers were entitled to a voucher or full refund of their tickets, emphasising not all governments were allowing flights.

In the meantime, Mr Walker, a former horse trainer from Mumbles, Swansea, said he cannot afford to buy medication because they had not received refunds for the cancelled flights.

He takes nine tablets before breakfast, four at lunchtime and seven mid-afternoon, in addition to morphine in the morning and at night

"If I'm not flown out of here by the weekend I will be out of all my medication," he said.

Image source, Family photo
Image caption,
The holiday had been bittersweet, Mr Walker says

He said another barrier to getting medication was that the country is on lockdown, and his illness means he is vulnerable to Covid-19.

"The Foreign Office has told me to go to a clinic here, but how can I go out of the gates and put myself in line of the virus?"

He said he had not been advised against travelling to South Africa.

Mr Walker was given the flight tickets as a Christmas present, and was due to go on a road trip with South African friends.

"It's been bittersweet," he added.

Mr Walker has raised his case with Welsh Secretary Simon Hart and the FCO.

Media caption,
Dominic Raab said charter flights will be arranged for countries where commercial flights have stopped.

On Sunday, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said tens of thousands of Britons stranded abroad by the coronavirus pandemic would be flown home under a new arrangement between the government and airlines, including BA and Virgin.

Tonia Antoniazzi, MP for Gower, called on the government to get him home safely, adding: "He is very poorly, he is very vulnerable and we need to get him home as a priority."

The FCO said £75m had been made available to help British nationals return home.

A spokeswoman said: "Our staff are in contact with Mr Walker and are providing consular assistance to ensure he gets the support he requires."