Tourists fear ‘months’ stranded abroad despite repatriation flights boost

British and Irish travellers stranded around the world have said they face a race against time to get on repatriation flights, with accommodation closures and further air traffic bans looming.

Hundreds of people in Peru said they fear being stuck for “months” after two reported cases of Covid-19 in a hostel meant around 150 tourists inside were placed into quarantine.

Others said their accommodation providers are planning to close at the end of March.

Virus Outbreak Peru
A British citizen, left, is accompanied by a British embassy employee as she and others are bussed to the airport in Lima, Peru, for a flight home (Martin Mejia/AP)

It came as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced that the first Government-chartered British Airways flight from Peru “landed safely back in the UK” on Thursday morning after brokering an agreement to resume flying.

He added: “We are working urgently with Peruvian authorities to deliver more flights in the coming days.”

Elsewhere, repatriation efforts around the world have seen special flights chartered.

In Guatemala, where flights have been cancelled, Southampton postman Marc Wilson said he was helped by the British Embassy on to a bus crossing the border into Mexico City, where he hopes to get a plane home.

And in Cambodia, Chloe Sloggett, an aesthetics practitioner from north London, said she is facing an anxious wait alongside scores of others to get on a charter flight to Heathrow via Kuala Lumpur on Friday.

It follows Government advice for travellers to return home as soon as possible.

Virus Outbreak Peru
A British embassy worker checks the passports of British citizens being bussed to the airport for a flight home from Peru (Martin Mejia/AP)

Speaking from Peru, English teacher Simon Taylor, 38, from Hull, said: “Lots of hotels and hostels are planning to close (on March 31) and that means people will need to move and their database for repatriation will become outdated.”

Alex Foulkes, 31, a BBC film-maker from Wrexham in Wales, said he is among the tourists inside the Pariwana backpacker hostel in Cusco, Peru, which has been placed into quarantine after guests tested positive for coronavirus.

He said: “It feels like being in prison.

“We literally just have beds in our rooms and the bathroom is shared by dozens of travellers.

“I’m not sure how we’ll cope with being confined to our rooms for the next three months for 23 hours a day.

“There’s a mixture of emotions in the hostel at the moment.

“The news that we could be trapped here for three months is devastating. Obviously, there were lots of people shedding tears as the news was read out as nobody knows when they’ll be able to leave.

“I’m in shock as I originally thought we may be stuck here for around two weeks.”

Coronavirus
British postman Marc Wilson said he has been effectively left stranded in Guatemala after being forced to go into lockdown (Marc Wilson/PA)

In Guatemala, Mr Wilson said he is optimistic of being on a plane home by the end of the week.

The 33-year-old said: “If everything goes to plan, I’ll be home by Sunday.

“I’m still worried Mexico might shut before then.

“The embassy has called to say they are changing which border we are going through in the morning, so it sounds like they are beginning to shut to me.”

In Asia, 24-year-old Ms Sloggett said she is hopeful of returning from her three-month adventure in the coming days after sharing travel tips and advice on a Facebook group for other stranded tourists.

She said: “It has been touch and go the whole time and many people have been sceptical. The Facebook group has been our main hope and a way of seeing how many people are in the same situation.

“It’s been very stressful for us as it has been so hard to get any answers from anyone in the UK or the embassy here.

“Luckily we as a couple haven’t lost loads of money due to booking flights that won’t go ahead; however, I know so many others who now have thousands of pounds of credit with multiple airlines.”

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