Two flights have been sent to South America to rescue hundreds of Australians stranded by coronavirus lockdowns.
Australian tour company Chimu Adventures and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have organised for travellers will be lifted out of Peru and Argentina early next week.
Passengers will be charged around $5000 each for the LATAM airline flights, which are expected to arrive between Monday and Wednesday before heading to Sydney.
The cost includes approvals and transport to navigate a country-wide lockdown in Peru, with Australian diplomats among the evacuees, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
Olivia Natoli and Dean Di Staso, from Melbourne, will be repatriated to Australia next week
Melbourne couple Olivia Natoli and Dean Di Staso said they can afford to pay to leave Lima, but it may not be so easy for others.
‘For many people, including families over here, this is not an option as it could cost more than $20,000,’ she told the Financial Review on Friday.
‘For others, they will not be able to get to Lima or Cusco with the current travel prohibitions throughout the country in place.’
The Peruvian government has banned all flights out of the country with the exception of officially organised charters by foreign governments to repatriate citizens.
The flights are still under discussion between the Australian embassy in Lima and the Peruvian government and are yet to be given final approval.
Meanwhile, hundreds of other Aussies will remain trapped on the continent as multiple countries in the region ban international travel and impose restrictions on people’s movements.
Australians will be charged around $5000 each to be evacuated on the LATAM airline flights out of South America
It has left many Australians excluded from the repatriation effort feeling abandoned by the federal government
Kerrie Huxham and Harry Fay, from Yamba in northern NSW, are worried they will be trapped in locked-down Ecuador for months.
The couple’s flights home last week from a three-week trip to the Galapagos Islands were cancelled, with subsequent re-booking attempts thwarted as the country rapidly sealed its borders.
Mr Fay said the Dutch and French have sent empty KLM and Air France jets to pick up nationals but nothing similar had been offered to Australians.
‘Qantas has just grounded most of its fleet and stood down 20,000 employees, there are enough planes for the government to charter to pick all of us up,’ he said.
Adam Douglas and his partner, Meagan Thomson, both emergency doctors, find themselves in the same position from Quito, Ecuador’s capital.
Kerrie Huxham and Harry Fay (pictured) have been left stranded in Quito, Ecuador, as countries across the globe shut borders
Dr Douglas said they are eager to get back to Australia to help with the COVID-19 crisis but have not had any response from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
‘I’ve tried to call the local embassy and the phone just rang out, tried to call the emergency hotline with no response at all,’ he said.
Chimu Adventures co-founder Greg Carter said Australians stuck in countries with fewer travellers would find it difficult to be evacuated.
‘We can’t ascertain the numbers in Ecuador and the logistics of getting them out when they’re in lockdown,’ he said.
There are currently hundreds of Australians on board stuck at sea on cruise ships in Europe, South America and the Pacific.
The Costa Luminosa, off Italy’s coast, has several confirmed cases of coronavirus and 39 Australians on board.
DFAT said it is working to with each ship to ensure Australians are kept up to date and provided with contact information.
Brazilian citizens arrange papers to be repatriated due to coronavirus lockdown (pictured) as countries around the globe call their citizens home