March 28, 2020 16:05:29
In early March, Australian Merinda Kyle travelled more than 18 hours to Peru to attend her son’s wedding. Now she is one of hundreds of Australians stuck in the country and hoping to find a way back home.
Economy tickets on the evacuation flights cost $5,160The first flight is set to leave for Sydney from Lima on Sunday (local time)Some people cannot travel to Lima to catch the flight due to domestic restrictions
On Thursday, the Australian Federal Government announced it would be “facilitating” charter flights to bring Australians home from Peru and Uruguay via the Australian-owned travel company Chimu Adventures.
The chartered flights will be provided on a commercial basis, and the Government will not subsidise ticket costs. A one-way economy ticket costs $5,160 while a business class ticket costs $10,872.
One of the flights, a fully booked flight from Peru’s capital, Lima, is set leave for Sydney on Sunday (local time) with 260 people on board.
Ms Kyle and her partner Brian Hocker have been in Lima since March 3 and were planning on returning in early April, but their flight was cancelled.
“We’re just hoping that the Government can do what other governments around the world are doing for their citizens in Peru, and that is repatriating all its citizens,” Ms Kyle told the ABC.
“We really don’t know how long this is going to drag on and financially, [on top of] the cost of the airfare, it’s the day to day living.”
On March 15, Peru announced it would shut its borders and enforce a 15-day quarantine lockdown to slow the spread of coronavirus.
People in the country were given less than 24 hours’ notice before the ban came into effect, and with the Australian embassy in the capital city of Lima closed, many were left in the dark.
Ms Kyle said she had already booked two new flights via Canada before the Government evacuation flight announcement “in a desperate attempt” to come home, but one flight had was cancelled and she feared the other would soon be too.
“We don’t have the money to keep going because we had budgeted to come home on April 8 … we just don’t have the money to stay here,” she said.
“For Brian and I, every day is very much the same way, confined to a hotel, and we’re not at home so we just want to come home.”
‘Zero options but to stay put’
According to a statement on the Chimu Adventures website, the Sunday flight will depart from the military airport terminal next to Lima’s international airport, but no specific time has been set.
Passengers must secure their own face masks prior to boarding, otherwise they will not be allowed on the flight.
The ABC understands the Government is planning more flights to evacuate Australians, but these have yet to be announced.
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“Australian embassies in Lima and Buenos Aires are working with local authorities in Peru and Uruguay to ensure all arrangements are in place for the flights to Australia, which has required careful and consistent negotiation,” a joint statement by Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne said.
“We understand many Australians overseas face great difficulty getting home. We have agreed to consider, on a case-by-case basis, supporting commercial airlines to operate non-scheduled services to less central locations for Australians.”
Australian Jemima Manton and her New Zealand partner Stephen Fabling said they received no guidance from the Australian embassy following the lockdown.
They are now in the town of Chachapoyas, approximately a 21-hour drive from Lima, under a strict domestic lockdown.
“We are allowed out one person at a time if we have a legitimate reason — to got to the pharmacy or to go to the market to get food — but otherwise it’s quite controlled [and] policed by the military,” she told the ABC.
“We have zero options but to stay put at this moment.”
While she said she felt “grateful” for the Peruvian Government and had “mixed feelings” about how Australia’s handling of the pandemic, they would like to come home if the option was available.