IRISH citizens stranded across the globe are pleading with the Government to urgently bring them home as countries continue to shut down transport hubs in response to the Coronavirus outbreak.
In Peru and Australia alone hundreds of tourists have been left stranded due to flights back to Ireland being cancelled.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is awaiting permission from Peruvian authorities to organise a charter flight home from Lima while “a lot of work” is going in behind the scenes to assist those stuck in Australia.
Irish tourists stranded in city of Cusco are asking the DFA to urgently confirm travel plans following the death of a person from Covid19 in a hostel in the city.
There are around 140 Irish citizens in Peru with around half of those in Cusco, near the Andes mountains, and around 20 hours from Lima.
Transport closures and road blocks have made internal travel within Peru difficult while outbound flights are only being granted following diplomatic negotiations between Governments.
Jayne Ryan and Ronan Carey, from Lucan in Dublin, are currently on lockdown in Cusco where the military are enforcing curfews and restricting large gatherings.
They said news of the Government organising a chartered flight from Lima was positive but that given that there are no arrangements being made to get them to Lima, they aren’t getting their hopes up.
“The situation here is changing by the hour, there’s been great positives considering a British airways flight has been allowed land in Lima by the Peruvian authorities. This plane has been reserved for those high risk situated in Lima. Hopefully we can keep pushing for more flights as well as transport for us to Lima. There are high risk vulnerable Irish and UK citizens all over Peru,” they said.
“Today we’ve been notified that a tourist staying in a hostel in our street has passed away from the virus, this has caused that hostel to be barricaded and military have invoked a 28 day quarantine for all guests and staff. If there is a case of the virus found in our hostel we’ll be on further quarantine for another 28 days, this increases the urgency for us to avoid this disastrous situation.
“The military are now taking peoples' temperatures in the markets, pharmacy and if you’re found leaving your hostel. Military are also following people leaving the hostel to go to the market. The market is a two minute walk for us. Yesterday more hostels in Cusco have been shut down leaving tourists homeless,” they added.
Meanwhile an Irish couple are stranded in Melbourne because their flight was cancelled after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) banned all transit flights from midnight yesterday.
Jack Cleary and his partner Emma Horgan, both from Dun Laoghaire in Dublin, are now stranded in Australia with no income to support them and are urging the Irish Government to help them and others in the same situation.
Several destinations used as transit hubs, including the UAE and Hong Kong, have closed their air corridors while other airlines are charging more than €6,000 for a one way economy flight.
The couple moved to Australia in July 2018 and planned on extending their stay but decided to return home as the Covid-19 pandemic worsened.
“We built a life for ourselves over there, I’ve a better job than I’d ever had in Ireland and a nicer place than I could ever afford, it was a hard decision (to leave),” he said.
Jack also said that his mam and dad don’t have him or his sister back home, and has concerns about them being cared for if they get sick, while also caring for his grandparents.
“There’s no security over here, we’re paying a good bit for an apartment but we don’t have a job now to pay for it.”
He said that they contacted the DFA office in Dublin who advised a number of alternative routes including through Hong Kong which has also been closed.
Jack Cleary said they are now relying on a Government-led to initiative to get them home rather than commercial airlines.
At the Government update on the Covid-19 response Liz Canavan, chair of the senior officials group for the Covid-19 Emergency Response, said that work is continuing in relation to citizens abroad.
She said that the Department of Foreign Affairs is continuing work on “organising a repatriation flight for Irish citizens stranded in Peru”, adding that the “date of this flight will be dependent on the relevant permissions from the Peruvian authorities.
Ms Canavan stressed that Irish citizens in Australia should contact the Irish embassy in Canberra or Consulate General in Sydney by email to share any concerns they may have.
“A lot of work is going on behind the scenes in relation to the Australia situation,” she added.
A DFA spokeswoman said it is “the biggest shutdown in global aviation history” which “eclipses the shutdowns following the September 11th attacks and the volcanic ash crisis, describing the situation as “fast-moving and volatile”.
“Currently we are trying to help over 2,000 of our citizens in 86 countries who are seeking assistance to return to Ireland. Many are small groups but the majority at the moment are in Australia with a couple of hundred in New Zealand.
“We are in close ongoing contact with airlines and aviation companies and are exploring all options. There are still commercial flights, some of them multi stop.
“The situation is no longer as simple as chartering flights, we need permission to enter airspace and regions on the way back to Ireland. Therefore For the last 24 hours we have been focused on getting every possible Irish citizen on the shrinking number of commercial flights.
“In the case of Australia, we have a significant group traveling commercially through London today and others will travel through Qatar tomorrow. We need to continue to take every seat possible on commercial flights in the coming days.
“In cases like Peru, where we have an arrangement in place with Aer Lingus and British Airways for a repatriation flight to go in, internal travel remains heavily restricted and many of our citizens are located hundreds of miles away from the international airport. We are working 24 hours to get the necessary transport and permissions in place to move them,” she added.