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

Irish Daily Mail - - Front Page - By Lisa O’Don­nell and Ronan Smyth

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

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