The coronavirus has blocked us in Peru. Why is the United States not helping?

About two months ago my wife, daughter and I decided to go to Peru for spring break.

As the day of our departure approached and cases of coronavirus began to appear in the United States, we considered canceling our plans. But at the time, U.S. cities had yet to impose travel restrictions and Peru had not reported any coronavirus cases. We thought we would probably be safer in Peru than in Los Angeles.

My wife and daughter flew to Lima on March 9 and I joined them a few days later. The plan was to spend a few days in the seaside town of Paracas and then head into the mountains to see Inca ruins, including Machu Picchu.

But then, on the morning of March 16, a letter was left on our doorstep from the hotel informing us that the president of Peru announced it was “closing the borders” for at least two weeks, beginning at 11:45 p.m. that evening. If we hadn’t been out by then, it was likely that we would be stuck in Peru until at least March 31.

We immediately tried to book a flight out of the country to any destination, but with 10,000 foreigners all trying to leave Peru that day, we found nothing. We decided to move into an Airbnb apartment in Lima while we worked to get home, and after some minor drama with police checkpoints in the city, we settled into our new digs.

The Peruvian people have been great. Polite, helpful and very patient and welcoming. But as nice as everyone is, we just want to go home. Our original round-trip tickets on American Airlines were canceled a week ago, and the first available commercial flight to Los Angeles that we were able to book wasn’t until April 1. We are booked on this flight, but who knows if it will actually fly.

It is extremely difficult to get precise information on the situation, including from the United States Embassy in Lima, which tells us very little and offers us no concrete advice on how to return home. For news, we turn to a Facebook group and a WhatsApp group for Americans stuck in Peru.

Last week, the Peruvian government dropped its departure ban for foreigners, but neither the airlines nor the government have yet decided to provide flights. During the weekend, Reported Policy that the U.S. government could not obtain Peruvian government approval for repatriation flights without also promising to pay for and arrange repatriation flights for Peruvians wishing to return home.

Meanwhile, other governments, including Israel, France, Mexico and Iran, have already rounded up their citizens and brought them home.

On Friday, we had some hope when we learned that a flight was on its way to pick up stranded Americans. We later learned on the embassy’s website that the flight was only carrying a “group of medically vulnerable US citizens” as well as government employees and their families.

For the rest of us, the US State Department sent out a tweet late Friday night with this helpful tip: “US citizens in Peru wishing to return to the United States are urged to contact airlines with flights to Peru to try to make travel arrangements. .” As if.

Surely the US State Department knows that no commercial flights enter or leave Peru for at least several weeks. A few airlines have set up web pages where one can register as having an ‘interest’ in taking a flight if one is scheduled, but so far this has not resulted in any scheduled flights. .

We are not asking for handouts from the government. But in circumstances like this, where commercial airlines aren’t flying due to government edicts restricting travel, it seems reasonable to expect the US government to behave like other governments around the world.

On Sunday, President Trump said the government was working to get those of us stranded in Peru home, and the embassy sent out a notice Monday morning saying charter flights were being arranged “subject to refunds.” But we haven’t heard anything concrete about when they will happen.

The government must step in quickly to provide the means, at a reasonable cost, for me, my family, and other stranded Americans to return home. And if that also means helping Peruvians stranded in the United States, so be it.

Brian D. Boydston is an attorney and resident of Los Angeles.

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