Australia

Evacuation flight for Australians trapped in Peru and Uruguay incoming, but many to be left behind

Frank Fedele is one of many Australians that will not be able to get on the Australian government's evacuation flight from Peru. Source: Supplied

Two evacuation flights are scheduled to rescue hundreds of Australians stranded in Peru and Uruguay "in the coming days".

Hundreds of Australians trapped under strict coronavirus lockdown measures in Peru and Uruguay have rejoiced after the government confirmed that two delayed evacuation flights would be going ahead in "the coming days".

But many will be left behind because they were unable to secure tickets on the sold-out flight from Lima, which cost $5,160 for an economy seat and $10,872 for business class, or cannot travel from their location to the capital due to a domestic travel ban.

In a joint statement, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the flight from Lima was "fully subscribed" and expected to carry more than 260 Australian citizens and permanent residents once they receive "final approval of departure permission from Peruvian authorities".

The flight will be managed by Australian travel company, Chimu Adventures, with support from the Australian government. 

In an email sent to passengers, Chimu Adventures spokesperson said they still did not have "detailed timings for the flight" but were hoping to depart on Sunday.

Australian travellers were originally told the flight was scheduled to depart on Monday or Tuesday before it was pushed back to later in the week.

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"We now have the necessary paperwork work with LATAM airlines in order which is a massive step forward in getting these repatriation flights operating," the email read.

The government also confirmed an evacuation flight from Montevideo, Uruguay, would collect almost 150 Australians from the area and those trapped off the coast on the Ocean Atlantic ship "in the coming days" after the country closed its ports.

"Further facilitated flights are already being planned for Australians in South America, due to particular challenges with transport out of the region," the statement read.

Perth resident Mervyn Sng, 26, is one Australian who will not be on the Lima flight after his hostel in Cusco was put into complete quarantine for up to three months and he was forced to give up his ticket.

He told SBS News on Thursday he was "not sure what's going to happen now". 

Another Australian man, Frank Fedele, is also facing the prospect of a long stay in Peru because his remote location meant he was unable to sign up for the Chimu Adventures flight.

Mr Fedele was travelling in the Amazon when the country's lockdown was introduced. When supplies began to dry up, he went against government advice to stay put and made the one-hour journey to Iquitos, a rural town bordering the jungle.

Mr Fedele's accommodation in Peru.
Mr Fedele's accommodation in Peru.
Supplied

"Things sort of escalated very quickly over here, there was little to no notice in relation to this lockdown," he told SBS News. "There's a lot more people than the flights that they're providing."

Mr Fedele is a former Australian Defence Force soldier and has been called up to assist with efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic back home - something he would "love to partake in" if he was able to return to Australia. 

"No one is asking for favours. People just want the people with responsibly, the government, to do their job and get us home," he said. 

A number of other Australians that SBS News spoke to have also expressed that they were either unable to afford the expensive flights or they were sold out before they were able to access them.

As part of their response to coronavirus, the Peruvian government has closed the international airport and road borders. The Chimu Adventures flight from Lima will depart from a military facility.

Australians must stay at least 1.5 metres away from other people. Indoors, there must be a density of no more than one person per four square metres of floor space.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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