Family stuck abroad desperate to come home
A BOWEN based mother and son on the trip of a lifetime across South America are some of the hundreds of Aussies trapped in foreign countries without a way home.
George Bluck, 27, and his mother Irma, 64, have been stuck in Cusco, Peru’s seventh largest city, since the government declared a national emergency and abruptly closed its borders to prevent coronavirus spreading on March 15.
Mr Bluck said he felt abandoned by the Australian Government as he watched a number of other countries repatriate their citizens.
The pair arrived in South America in early March before travel bans were imposed.
While on a night bus travelling between Aguas Calientes – the town at the foot of Machu Picchu – and Cusco, Mr Bluck’s phone connected to wi-fi and he learned the borders were closing.
“I tried to buy plane tickets out, but every website was crashing and all the plane tickets had been booked,” he said.
“What was going through my head was basically, ‘we just need to get out of here’.”
Before the borders closed, the Australian consulate advised the pair to travel to Boliva where, at the time, international borders remained open. They were unable to make it.
Since the initial lockdown Peru has extended its quarantine period, imposed a strict curfew between 8pm and 5am and has barred free movement throughout the country.
As of March 31, there were 1065 cases of coronavirus and 30 deaths recorded.
A commercial charter flight organised by tour company Chimu Adventures brought 292 Australians home over the weekend.
Mr Bluck described the flight, which cost more than $5000 a head, as more of an “extortion” than a lifeline for those trapped abroad.
“I feel really let down and abandoned (by the government). I mean that’s what they are there for, they are supposed to look after us,” he said.
“On a daily basis (I) have seen people getting out. Mexican nationals were getting out, the English, Canadians and Israelis were getting out for free.
“The Prime Minister said ‘find your own way home’ and it is just impossible.”
The Daily Mercury understands one traveller from Airlie Beach and four from Townsville are also unable to leave Peru.
An open letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, shared by members of the “Aussies in Peru” Facebook group, says Australians have received little communication from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The group of more than 700 members has asked the government to “act now” and make repatriation plans for citizens stuck abroad.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said the department was working with Qantas to organise flights to assist Australians as well as facilitate internal travel for those who are in more remote and isolated parts of Peru.