HELP US TO COME HOME
Over 2,000 Irish in 86 countries appeal to Government ++ Two more die as virus total hits 1,564 ++ Harris coughed at in sick ‘challenge’ ++ A third of the world in lockdown
THOUSANDS of frantic Irish people, stranded in 86 different countries, have pleaded with the Government to help them get home before it’s too late.
Many have lost their jobs and are living in hostels, after paying thousands of euro for flights that have since been cancelled.
Now airlines are jacking up the price of a flight home to as much as €5,500, as the Department of Foreign Affairs described the crisis as the ‘biggest shutdown’ in global aviation history.
We learned last night that two more families faced the heartache of seeing loved ones die from coronavirus, bringing total deaths to nine here, as the
numbers confirmed with the virus reached a new daily high of 235, bringing the total to 1,564.
The two deaths were of a woman in the east of the country, who had an underlying health condition, and a man, also in the east.
The news comes as Health Minister Simon Harris has told how a young couple coughed on him while laughing as part of a sick ‘corona challenge’.
And nursing homes, caring for vulnerable elderly residents, say that the HSE is ‘poaching’ staff from them.
Meanwhile, more than a third of the world’s population was in some form of lockdown yesterday
Sinn Féin frontbencher Eoin Ó Broin told the Irish Daily Mail he was sent 300 emails from distressed young people abroad in just one day; they are on working visas but now want to come home. Some are as young as 19 years old. Many of the stranded are in Australia and
New Zealand and they saw their flights cancelled because the United Arab Emirates shut its doors to non-residents, meaning they could not take the first leg of the trip. One Irish woman, still stuck in Australia, told how her flight was cancelled and the airline turned away passengers including families and the elderly because they were not United Arab Emeriate citizens.
Many airlines still operating longdistance flights are reportedly charging more than 10,000 Australian dollars (€5,500).
Dubliner Conor Haugh, 29, who is stuck in Lima, in Peru, which is under military curfew, has told of reports from the city of Cusco that two travellers have tested positive for coronavirus in a hostel, and all the occupants will be quarantined for up to three months.
They are confined to their room for 23 hours a day, and any failure to comply with quarantine measures could result in imprisonment of up to ten years, they were told.
Mr Haugh said Irish travellers in Peru are ‘begging for flights home’ before they too face the same lockdown. ‘It’s a prison sentence,’ they said. Cork couple Andrew Cotter and his girlfriend Marie Barry in the city of Cusco, where the curfew lasts from 8pm and 5am, said: ‘There is a total ban on transport, no taxi, car rental, bus or plane. You cannot move without government approval. It’s difficult enough just trying to pop to the supermarket for food.’
A Foreign Affairs spokesperson confirmed they are trying to help more than 2,000 citizens in 86 countries get home to Ireland. The majority are in Australia, with a few hundred also in New Zealand.
‘The situation is no longer as simple as chartering flights, we need permission to enter airspace and regions on the way back to Ireland,’ the spokesperson said.
‘Therefore, 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 travelling 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.’
The department also said it has arranged with Aer Lingus and British Airways for a repatriation flight to go into Peru, but added that internal travel is very restricted and many citizens are located hundreds of kilometres from the international airport. It said it would leave ‘no stone unturned in getting people home’.
In Australia, Cha Cahill, 25, from Co. Offaly, and his girlfriend Andrea Moore have been in Melbourne since October. Ms Moore said that they spent €4,500 in flights alone, as they have no work, are living in a hostel and desperately need to get home.
Katie Murphy, 23, from Dublin, is trying to get home from Australia by travelling via Los Angeles. She was in Australia for five months before she lost her job with an accountancy firm due to Covid-19.
She and her roommate decided to return home but their Emirates flights was cancelled.
‘We just spent the guts of a grand flying from Melbourne to Brisbane to Los Angeles – we now have a 30-hour layover and then we’re hoping our flight to Heathrow and then home goes ahead,’ she said.
‘We seem to be one of the lucky ones to have even gotten this far.’
Shannon Byrne, 24, from Trim in Co. Meath, and her boyfriend Jordan Lynch have been in Australia for almost a year, and can’t find work due to the pandemic. Living in a hostel with no job and very little money, two of their flights have been cancelled, but they hope to get home on a flight due to leave Sydney today.
Ms Byrne said that since she booked her ticket home, a one-way journey on the flight has surged to 10,000 Australian dollars.
‘Not only do we all desperately
‘It’s a prison sentence’ ‘Increasing prices is a ridiculous move’
need help getting home but the airlines increasing prices is a ridiculous move and adding immensely to the stress of all of this, as a lot of people are going home because they have no money to survive over here during this time,’ she said.
Another Irish woman, Niamh Collins, is still trying to get home from Melbourne, after an Etihad flight she booked, which was due to fly today, was cancelled due to the UAE travel ban.
She told the Mail she was at the airport looking for a standby flight but ‘Etihad sent airport staff down to their customers and asked if anyone held an UAE passport... most did not as they were Irish.’
She said that only 15 people at most boarded the plane.
Time to go home: Cha Cahill and Andrea Moore saw flights cancelled
Plea: Katie Murphy, left, and Shannon Byrne with Jordan Lynch