First evacuation flight LANDS in the UK from Peru as stranded Brits around the world beg the Government to help them get home as global coronavirus shutdown gathers pace
- Dominic Raab said chartered British Airways flight from Lima landed last night
- Foreign Secretary said authorities setting up ‘more flights in the coming days’
- Stranded Brits face a race against time to get on repatriation flights to the UK
- Coronavirus sparking accommodation closures and further air traffic bans
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
The first evacuation flight bringing stranded Britons home from South America has touched down in the UK – as tourists caught in the coronavirus lockdown around the world continued to beg for help.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that a chartered British Airways flight from Peru landed last night after the Government agreed a deal for it to take off from Lima.
British 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.
Mr Raab said: ‘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.
British 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. Pictured are UK citizens in Peru
In Guatemala, Marc Wilson (left) 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. Doominic Raab said today: ‘We are working urgently with Peruvian authorities to deliver more flights in the coming days’
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
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.
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.’
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.’
Meanwhile an NHS nurse stranded in Cambodia who begged Boris Johnson to bring her home is finally back in the UK.
Respiratory nurse Cheryl Baxter and her husband Ivon were on holiday when Britain went on lockdown and were due to fly home on March 22.
But they were stopped from boarding their second flight in Bangkok after officials demanded a medical certificate.
They spent the whole day obtaining the paperwork and were re-booked onto another flight – only to be told they to undergo coronavirus testing before they could travel.
Friends set up a crowdfunding campaign as the couple, of East Sussex, ‘neared meltdown’ and almost ran out of money.
After an agonizing 72-hour wait for their results and a direct plea to the Prime Minister, the couple came back negative and were able to board their flight with £1,000 raised by wellwishers via their Go Fund Me page.
Respiratory nurse Cheryl Baxter and her husband Ivon (pictured together) were on holiday in Cambodia when Britain went on lockdown and they found themselves unable to get home
An update today read: ‘It is with great pleasure to update you with some positive news. Cheryl and Ivon have now returned home safely.
‘We can not thank everybody enough with the support shown through a very tough 48 hours for Cheryl and Ivon, who had to face the fear and distress which was caused.’
The post continued: ‘We reached our target which we are extremely grateful for.
‘Cheryl and Ivon will now do what they do best and return to work as frontline/Keyworker’s for our country.
‘No more donations are required, this campaign has had a positive effect and we are hoping that by what we have managed to do many other stranded Will get home safely too. Again thank you for your kindness, thoughts and prayers.
Ms Baxter is a ward matron at Conquest Hospital in Hastings and her husband Ivon is also a key worker, she said in her online video.
Before they got the green light to go home, she uploaded the heartbreaking clip begging the Prime Minister to intervene so she could go back to work.
After an agonizing 72-hour wait for their results and a direct plea to the Prime Minister, the couple were able to board their flight with £1,000 raised by wellwishers via their Go Fund Me page
Breaking down into tears, she said: ‘I’ve now run out of my medications needed and money is dwindling fast, so please UK Government and the Foreign Commonwealth (Office) help us back to our own country like you say we should.
‘I’m a frontline NHS nurse – come on Boris Johnson, help me get back to where I’m needed.’
The Go Fund Me page had a target of £1,000 to help the couple with the cost of new flights, extended accommodation and food.
Their original online message read: ‘We were told on the first cancellation on Sunday we did not have the medical certificates required to enter Bangkok, explaining we did not have the Covid-19 virus.
‘The medical certificate cost is 80 dollars and now it’s not worth the paper it’s written on. Apparently now we need a swab and negative lab results proving we do not have this Covid-19 virus.
Before they got the green light to go home, Cheryl Baxter (pictured) uploaded the heartbreaking video message begging the Prime Minister to intervene so she could go back to work
‘We also run the risk of Bangkok airport closing and also, the longer we’re here, of us contracting this virus in a foreign country.
‘We really are trying, believe you me, but with the language barrier and lack of communication this seems to be a relentless task.
‘We are near a meltdown and unable to cope with this uncertainty so I’m begging you all, please post and share this to assist me and my husband and also the other people trying to return home and get the help we so desperately need.’
While Mrs Baxter and her husband are safely home, dozens of British families are still stuck abroad due to coronavirus restrictions.
Britons are increasingly turning to online fundraising to get back to the UK.
Crowdfunding page GoFundMe said a keyword search on its website shows a 54 per cent increase in campaigns in the last week mentioning being stuck abroad, and a 33 per cent increase in campaigns mentioning being stranded overseas.
Elizabeth Hazlewood, from Shrewsbury in Shropshire, created a crowdfunding page after being left stranded in Tunisia.
Elizabeth Hazlewood, 52, (pictured) from Shrewsbury in Shropshire, created a crowdfunding page after being left stranded in Tunisia
The 52-year-old support worker travelled to the country on Friday March 6 and was scheduled to fly back on Wednesday.
But her flight home was cancelled after the country suspended commercial air travel to stop the spread of Covid-19.
Ms Hazlewood said she is staying in a hotel in the capital Tunis and is waiting further instructions from the British embassy.
‘I am running out of money rapidly,’ she added. ‘I really am stressed because of the situation and feel totally lost and alone.’
Another crowdfunding page was created for a family of four from Leswalt, south-west Scotland, who are stuck in Florida.
George McMillan, 43, his wife Kim, 42, and their children Finlay, 13 and Ruby, five, travelled to the popular holiday destination on March 5.
George McMillan, 43 (far right), with his wife Kim, 42 (far left), and their children Finlay, 13 and Ruby, 5, from Leswalt, Scotland, as they are stuck in Florida after their flights were cancelled due to coronavirus, after dozens of families stuck abroad due to coronavirus restrictions are trying to crowdfund their way home as a last resort
But their holiday plans were scuppered after Disney World Florida announced it would close due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Mr McMillan, who suffers from Crohn’s disease, said their flights to the UK were cancelled and they were soon to be kicked out of their hotel.
‘It’s been very stressful, more so these last few days as in two days time that’s us out of the hotel,’ he said.
‘I have enough medication to see me through to about Saturday.’
While flights have been arranged for their return, Mr McMillan said they were not guaranteed.
‘There is (so) much conflicting information, we are effectively in the dark,’ he added.
Meanwhile, Adam Smith, 32, from Nazeing in Essex, and his girlfriend were two months into their travels across central America when they found themselves stuck in El Salvador.
Mr Smith said the country has enforced curfews and travel restrictions, with only one person per household allowed to go out to visit a supermarket, bank or pharmacy.
He has been speaking to the British embassy to arrange flights home but has not been told when this could happen.
He described the response from the UK Government as ‘responsive but so far lacking any detailed plan of action’.
Describing the atmosphere in El Salvador since the lockdown, he said: ‘Orderly – everyone we’ve spoken to has been 100 per cent behind the president’s response.’
Elsewhere, Jenny and Rosie Addison are stuck at Dubai Airport on the way home from a holiday in the Philippines after their connecting British Airways flight to London was cancelled.
Jenny (left) and Rosie (right) Addison are stuck at Dubai Airport on the way home from a holiday in the Philippines after their connecting British Airways flight to London was cancelled
The police officer, 28, and A&E nurse, 25, have nothing left to eat or drink after all retailers in the airport closed and have been trying to get home since March 14.
They are both ‘key workers’, but are terrified of being stranded in the UAE, which is also on lockdown, after airport staff warned it would close tomorrow.
The UAE warned foreign tourists that all flights would be grounded by midnight tomorrow.
But after a number of new COVID-19 cases, this was brought forward to 12am on Tuesday.
The Addison sisters, who are originally from Kendal, Cumbria, were due to begin their journey home from the Philippines on March 14.
They were forced to wait for 10 days until they could get on a plane, managing to get the last flight from Cebu on Tuesday, March 24.
But when they arrived in Dubai, they were devastated to find their BA flight to London had been cancelled as the UAE’s flight restrictions had been brought forward.
Jenny told MailOnline: ‘There are no shops or restaurants open in Dubai airport to buy food or drink. We are being little information staff at the airport.
‘We feel really worried and scared as we do not know what is going to happen or whether we are just going to be stuck in the airport which is apparently closing down tomorrow.’
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is advising Britons stuck in the UAE to get in contact with them. But the Addison sisters claim they have had no help.
The UK travel advice for Dubai reads: ‘Inbound and outbound flights will stop as of midnight on 24 March.
‘If you’re a remaining British traveller in the UAE, you should continue to contact your airline or tour operator regarding any possible return flights. Contact the British Embassy if you are in difficulty.’
A spokesman for Dubai Airport said it was assisting passengers by referring them to their airlines and native embassies.
A spokesman from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said: ‘We recognise British tourists abroad are finding it difficult to return to the UK because of the unprecedented international travel and domestic restrictions that are being introduced around the world – often with very little or no notice.
‘The Government is seeking to keep key transit routes open as long as possible and is in touch with international partners and the airline industry to make this happen.’
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