A number of Irish citizens stuck in Peru due to travel restrictions linked to the coronavirus pandemic have been told the only charter flight available to them is to London and will cost between $3,000 and $3,500 each.
Peru's president Martin Vizcarra has declared a state of emergency and closed the country's borders for at least 15 days from March 16th.
This measure has seen hundreds of tourists unable to leave the country and stuck in a quarantine regime.
In an email to Irish citizens on Wednesday, the Irish Embassy in Chile said it understood that the Avianca airline was considering "putting in place a charter from Lima to London this weekend for stranded tourists".
"They will also put in place a connecting flight from Cusco to Lima to connect with this London flight. They say they can only commit to this charter once they know that there is sufficient demand," the email says.
The embassy added that the cost of the flight is likely to range from $3,000 - $3,500 for one way economy class, or $7,500 for business class.
“We are told this price range reflects the cost of bringing a sufficiently large plane (capacity: 250) to Peru, a connecting smaller flight from Cusco, and what is involved in negotiating permissions from the authorities. This is the only charter option that we are aware of that is likely to be available direct to London at this point,”it added.
“Onward flights from London are not included in this offer and will need to be arranged and confirmed separately.”
Breandan Casey (27) has been travelling for the past eight months and cut his trip short due to coronavirus. However, his rescheduled flight, which was due to depart on Tuesday last, was cancelled and he is now stranded in Peru.
“I’m in my hostel but even in the hostel everything is closed. All the common areas, the kitchens, everything like that. We’re to stay in our rooms,” he said.
“We can order food off a quarantine menu and they bring it up to us. You’re allowed to go to the supermarket across the road but you have to go straight over and straight back. That’s all we can do. We can’t hang out around the hostel or anything like that.”?
Mr Casey said there are between 70 and 80 Irish citizens currently in the same situation.
Marie Barry (30), from Co Cork, was travelling with her boyfriend Andrew Potter, but she said now her "main fear at the moment is just security".
“There’s a flight that’s being organised for the weekend but I’m kind of sceptical that will happen at all. I have heard of other flights not being allowed to leave the country,” she said.
“The police are coming into hostels and shutting them down so safety and security is our number one priority now.”
Róisín O’Rourke (22) said she “can’t afford to fly home for that price”.
“That’s only to London as well. When we get to London then we’d have to try and figure out how to get back to Dublin but we don’t know if there would be flights. It’s not feasible for many people,” she said.
"We're wondering can the Irish Government not do something? Germany can subsidise their flights for their citizens, so why can't Ireland do the same for us?"
She added: “I can’t really afford it so it’s my intention not to get that flight. I’m hoping maybe we could wait out the 15 days and there might be flights then. It’s just not really feasible for me.”
In a statement, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs said it was in contact with “a number” of Irish citizens in Peru, adding that it will “provide consular assistance as required”.
“Irish citizens who may require assistance should contact our Embassy in Chile by calling +56 9 8191 6981, or alternatively they can contact our dedicated Covid19 advice line at +353 6131733,” the department said.
“Our Embassy in Chile have also advised Irish citizens in Peru who have not already been in contact with the Embassy should email email@example.com with their contact details.”