Foreign Office working ‘furiously’ to repatriate 400 Britons stranded in Peru | World news

The Foreign Office is working “furiously” to arrange flights for more than 400 British travellers stranded in Peru a week after the country announced it was closing its borders, leaving tourists – including some with medical conditions – stranded.

The intervention comes after an avalanche of criticism from marooned travellers on a dream trip to the Andes heritage sight Machu Picchu.

Almost 20,000 concerned parents, grandparents and family members had signed a petition begging for the UK to organise rescue flights to airlift more than 400 Britons marooned in the south American country.

The World Health Organization is recommending that people take simple precautions to reduce exposure to and transmission of the coronavirus, for which there is no specific cure or vaccine.

The UN agency advises people to:

  • Frequently wash their hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or warm water and soap
  • Cover their mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue when sneezing or coughing
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever or cough
  • Seek early medical help if they have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, and share their travel history with healthcare providers

Many countries are now enforcing or recommending curfews or lockdowns. 

In the UK, NHS advice is that anyone with symptoms should stay at home for at least 7 days.

If you live with other people, they should stay at home for at least 14 days, to avoid spreading the infection outside the home.

“My 21-year-old daughter is stranded in Arequipa, a 17-hour bus journey from Lima. She has been working for a charity and didn’t have a return flight booked as was not due home. She will not be prioritised with a commercial airline. The FCO needs to take action now,” wrote her mother Claire.

Many complained about the lack of clear communication about plans by the British embassy in Lima with fury on Thursday over a message advising Britons of a Colombian airline Avianca flight leaving this weekend costing £3,000 per person.

On Friday, it emerged Air France was also putting on flights to Paris, but priority was given to those already booked with the French airline with passengers complaining they were being quoted £4,000 for a ticket. On Saturday the UK embassy tweeted Iberia was flying but it could not guarantee onward flights from Madrid to the UK.

Duncan Sharples from Nottinghamshire, whose 22-year-old son is in the Andean city of Cusco with four friends, has been infuriated with what he says is a lack of clear information to the British stranded in Peru.

“The British embassy in Peru seems to be acting like a poor man’s travel agent. They are putting out messages saying ‘here’s a rescue flight to Paris, or Madrid’, but they can’t guarantee connecting flights to the UK.”

He said it was “wonderful” that the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, was offering to pay people forced out of work by the virus £2,500 a month, but said they should subsidise rescue flights too.

“If they said we will subsidise everyone £2,500 it would work, because I’m sure people could somehow drum up £1,000 but not £3,000 or £4,000,” he said.

It is understood the Foreign Office has made the rescue flights a priority.

The British ambassador to Peru, Kate Harrison, said they were “working around the clock” to enable routes out of the country.

Kate Harrisson 🇬🇧

I know the continued uncertainty is hugely frustrating but please know that we are working around the clock with the airlines, with Peru and with international partners to enable routes within and out of Peru. (2/3)

March 21, 2020

Overnight, Rebecca Aldridge contacted the Guardian to say: “Many other nationalities have been and are being repatriated whilst we despair at the lack of response from our government.

“We are 400-plus in Peru, lots with medical difficulties, some with children, the youngest being 12 months old, and we feel totally stranded for a very uncertain period of time.”

Some on a WhatsApp group have spoken of heart conditions, asthma and one mother told of her 12-month-old baby being hospitalised on her trip with pneumonia.


Every day and night this is my routine. I am stuck here Peru constantly worried about me and many other brits who rely on medication and our stuck here.I have enough medication but many are running out. We need to get home to our families. #ukstuckinPeru @ukstuckinperu @UKinPeru

March 20, 2020

Caia Daly, 37, flew to Lima with her husband, Carlos Abisrror, who is originally from Peru, and two young children, one of them 12 months old, in February for a four-week holiday and to see family.

Caia Daly

@airfrance can’t get through by phone, website isn’t working, trying to change my cancelled flight home to London but it’s impossible. My baby is recovering from bacterial pneumonia, we need to get home ASAP. #stuckinPeru @BBCWorld @BBCNews @UKinPeru

March 20, 2020

Daly, who is originally from Dublin, said: “If things get really bad here I’m worried for my children’s health”.

Another man who has a heart condition had been on a trip of a lifetime and had arrived in Cusco, in the Peruvian Andes, when the quarantine struck.

“We can’t go anywhere, we are stuck in our hotel – we are only allowed to go out to get food, money or medication,” 70-year-old Fred Francis from Wales told the BBC.

“I have a heart condition, so being at high altitudes it is fine for a few days but we don’t know long how we’ll be here for,” he added.

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