Scram­ble to catch last flights home

NORTH CORK COU­PLE STRANDED IN PERU AS DEATHS THERE MOUNT UP

The Corkman - - FRONT PAGE - BILL BROWNE

AS The Cork­man went to press this week, hun­dreds of Ir­ish peo­ple in lo­ca­tions across the globe were des­per­ately try­ing to make their way back home as COVID-19 con­tin­ued to im­pact on global travel links.

Among them are a Cork cou­ple stranded un­der mar­tial law in Peru af­ter the county went into lock down, who are hop­ing their night­mare will be brought to an end over the com­ing days.

An­drew Cot­ter from Mitchel­stown and his girl­friend Marie Cot­ter from Conna are among up to 130 Ir­ish cit­i­zens cur­rently stranded in the coun­try.

The cou­ple, along with two other Ir­ish na­tion­als, are con­fined at a hos­tel in the city of Cusco, a 20-hour land jour­ney from the cap­i­tal Lima. They can only get out of the build­ing for short pe­ri­ods to col­lect es­sen­tial pro­vi­sions.

He and Marie were on an eight-month trip around cen­tral and South Amer­ica be­fore ar­riv­ing in Peru on March 14.

Within two days the coun­try went into com­plete lock down, leav­ing them with no way of get­ting back to Ire­land.

They have been in contact with Ir­ish of­fi­cials and on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon re­ceived a com­mu­ni­ca­tion from the Ir­ish Em­bassy in Chile in­form­ing them that a repa­tri­a­tion flight will be ar­ranged as soon as it can be ac­com­mo­dated by the Peru­vian au­thor­i­ties.

An­drew said the flight could not come quick enough as peo­ple were get­ting ner­vous fol­low­ing re­ports of deaths in the Cusco re­gion from COVID-19 in­fec­tions.

AS The Cork­man went to press this week, hun­dreds of Ir­ish peo­ple in lo­ca­tions across the globe were des­per­ately try­ing to make their way back home as COVID-19 con­tin­ued to im­pact on global travel links.

Among them were An­drew Cot­ter from Mitchel­stown and his girl­friend, Marie Barry from Conna, who have found them­selves stranded in Peru un­der mar­tial law while on an eight­month trip around cen­tral and South Amer­ica.

Speak­ing to The Cork­man from his hos­tel in the city of Cusco, a 20-hour jour­ney by land from the Peru­vian cap­i­tal, Lima, An­drew said the cou­ple ar­rived in the coun­try from Bo­livia on March 14.

“At the time there were two COVID-19 cases in Bo­livia and 11 in Peru, which we felt was good com­pared to all the re­ports com­ing from Europe at the time,” said An­drew.

How­ever, the fol­low­ing day there was a na­tional ad­dress say­ing Peru would be go­ing into lock down un­der mar­tial law the fol­low­ing day, giv­ing for­eign­ers just 24 hours to get out of the coun­try.

“The thing was we were in a small town called Puno, about 10 hours from Cusco, which was the clos­est city with an in­ter­na­tional air­port. We caught a bus as soon as we could, but by the time we reached Cusco the lock­down had started,” said An­drew. He said the lock-down was meant to be an ini­tial 15-day manda­tory quar­an­tine. How­ever,

An­drew said the un­der­ly­ing tones were that this would be ex­tended as the Coro­n­avirus be­gan to spread.

The cou­ple are cur­rently in a hos­tel along with two other Ir­ish peo­ple. Ac­cord­ing to the Ir­ish Department of For­eign Af­fairs (DFA) they are among some 130 Ir­ish peo­ple in the coun­try, the ma­jor­ity of whom are in Cusco and Lima.

An­drew said that peo­ple are al­lowed out of the hos­tel in­di­vid­u­ally and with maskS on un­der govern­ment di­rec­tion to visit su­per­mar­kets, phar­ma­cies and banks. How­ever, he said the po­lice and mil­i­tary seem to be de­lib­er­ately tar­get­ing for­eign­ers, telling them they should not be out on the streets.

“Con­se­quently, we are lim­it­ing out­ings as much as we can, maybe once ev­ery two days.”

An­drew said they have been in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the Ir­ish Em­bassy in Chile, and it would ap­pear there are plans in the pipe­line to get peo­ple back home.

“Ini­tially there was talk of pri­vate char­ter flights be­ing of­fered at $3,000 and $3,500 (US). How­ever, they now ap­pear to have been dropped due to the Peru­vian Govern­ment com­pletely shut­ting down air­ports to all com­mer­cial traf­fic,” he said.

Ear­lier this week the DFA told stranded Ir­ish na­tion­als in Peru that it was work­ing with the Bri­tish For­eign Office to get char­ter flights over to Lima some­time this week. It is un­der­stood the cost of flights would be cov­ered partly by the EU, with the bal­ance of around €400 be­ing made up by each pas­sen­ger.

The most re­cent com­mu­ni­ca­tion sent out by the Ir­ish Em­bassy in Chile on be­half of the DFA, un­der the tag-line ‘pe­rue­vac­u­a­tion­flight@dfa.ie’, of­fered a ray of hope for An­drew, Marie and the other Ir­ish na­tion­als stranded in Peru and who are in contact with the department that a flight home was in the process of be­ing ar­ranged.

It read that the ‘ex­act time for the repa­tri­a­tion flight will de­pend on how soon our air­craft can be ac­com­mo­dated by the Peru­vian au­thor­i­ties’.

“Once we know the date and time for the flight, we will be in contact in re­la­tion to travel plans for Ir­ish cit­i­zens out­side Lima, in­clud­ing Cusco and other cities. Thank you for your con­tin­ued pa­tience in these dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances,” read the com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

An­drew said the flight could not come quick enough as peo­ple were get­ting ner­vous as re­ports of COVID-19 deaths were be­ing re­ported in the Cusco re­gion. “We would like to express how ex­tremely grate­ful we all are to the DFA, Min­is­ters/ TDs/ MEPs/ coun­cil­lors, me­dia, fam­ily and friends for all their sup­port in get­ting us home be­fore fur­ther lock downs here and/or in Europe,” said An­drew.

An­drew Cot­ter and Marie Barry are stranded un­der mar­tial law in Peru await­ing for flights home to Ire­land.

An­drew Cot­ter and Marie Barry were on an eight month trip around the world.

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