Ballyclare business man 'stranded' on airport tarmac due to COVID-19 restrictions

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James Hagan

By Rebecca Black PA and Q Radio News

A Northern Ireland businessman says he has been denied entry to South Africa because he is deemed as "high risk" in terms of coronavirus.

James Hagan, from Ballyclare, said he has been left "stranded" on the tarmac at Lanseria International Airport, Johannesburg, for the last 36 hours.

The Hagan Homes owner said he and his wife Anne were denied entry to South Africa due to "newly introduced visa restrictions" over the Covid-19 infection.

He has claimed they are being held airside and left to sleep in a vehicle overnight.

The couple had been travelling in Zimbabwe and flew to the airport on Wednesday on a private charter flight.

They are due to fly home from Cape Town on Sunday on a commercial flight.

Mr Hagan said he and his wife had completed all the necessary health screening forms and waited 27 hours to get the required flight permit to land in Lanseria.

However he said upon arrival at the airport, they were refused entry and told they were deemed to be "high risk".

Mr Hagan claimed they were "kept in an interview room for several hours on arrival".

He said he has been in contact with the local British Embassy.

"I have been here for 36 hours and this is the bed I am sleeping in," he said, motioning towards a van in a video he sent to media outlets from the tarmac.

"We're allowed into the building to go to the toilet and nothing else.

"One of the handling agents was good enough to lend us the Volkswagen to sleep in. It is madness."

Mr Hagan said they cannot leave the airport in the plane they came in because their entry to South Africa has been refused.

He added that his wife Anne is a nurse who wants to help with the coronavirus crisis in the UK. She has previously managed a specialist respiratory clinic.

This trip was described as a "once in a lifetime opportunity" to celebrate Anne's 60th birthday, but the couple say it has now turned in to a "living nightmare".

The Foreign Office and the airport have been contacted for a response.

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