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Coronavirus: Northern Ireland trainee doctor in Peru waits for guidance as flight secured to return British nationals


Amy Brennan from Co Down, who is currently stranded in Peru

Amy Brennan from Co Down, who is currently stranded in Peru

Trainee doctor Amy Brennan

Trainee doctor Amy Brennan

Amy Brennan hiking in Peru

Amy Brennan hiking in Peru

Amy Brennan from Co Down, who is currently stranded in Peru

A Northern Ireland trainee doctor has said she is waiting to hear more from the UK government after they secured a flight to bring hundreds of British nationals home from Peru, where she is stranded.

More than 400 British and Irish citizens are believed to be in the South American country, with some fearing they would be unable to leave following a government lockdown.

But the FCO said on Saturday that Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab had secured permission for a UK-organised flight to leave Peru for “early next week” following a call with his Peruvian counterpart.

In a Twitter post, Mr Raab said: “I had a good conversation this afternoon with my opposite number in Peru, Gustavo Meza-Cuadra.

“Amidst all the challenges of tackling Coronavirus, we committed to working together in the coming days to enable UK nationals in Peru and Peruvian nationals in the UK to return home.”

The FCO said it would continue to work with the Peruvian government to arrange further flights in coming days.

“We are working round the clock to make flights available next week for British people who wish to leave Peru but who are currently unable to do so on commercial flights because of the travel restrictions that have been imposed,” an FCO spokesperson said.

Amy Brennan, from Hillsborough Co Down, had travelled to the South American country on March 11 to begin a six-week placement in elective surgery and was on a three-day hike when the country entered lockdown.

She said she has now been contacted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and that she passed on her details to them.

"They mentioned they were aware people are in places outside of Lima but haven't said how they're going to get to us yet," she said, speaking on Sunday.

Amy and two fellow students from the University of Sheffield arrived one week before their course was due to start to take in some sightseeing. At the time, no travel restrictions were in place in Peru.

Last week, Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra announced a 15-day state of emergency along with a total closure of borders.

Amy said she was shocked to hear the country was in lockdown, having been without signal for a number of days.

"When we finally got in touch with everyone, it was too late and we couldn't get out," she said.

"All the borders were shut and there were no buses. There's no public transport, there are no taxis, no cars are allowed on the roads and there are curfews. My parents are very worried and want to get me home safe as soon as possible."

Peru is currently on lockdown, with borders closed and no flights allowed to enter or leave the country without government permission.

A curfew is running between 8pm and 5am and all shops are closed except for pharmacies and those selling food.

British nationals had been advised by the Foreign Office to find secure accommodation for the 15-day State of Emergency period.

Amy and her fellow students Harriet Deo and Ciara Fitzgerald are staying in the Selina hostel in Arequipa, a mountainous area of the country - which is a 17 hour drive from the Peruvian capital city.

She said a fellow tourist staying with them at the hostel has been tested for the coronavirus, meaning the entire hostel may be forced into quarantine if the result is positive.

"I've heard in other hostels people are being quarantined to their rooms. The Selina hostel in Lima has taken away the furniture and people have to stay in their rooms and I was scared when I read that because we're staying in the Selina hostel in Arequipa," she said.

For now, she is being given meals in the hostel, being reluctant to leave the hostel one at a time to go to the supermarket.

"Obviously for a young woman leaving the hostel, not knowing where I'm going and with police everywhere, it's hard to get food," she continued.

"Food in the hostel is very expensive and I don't know how much longer we'll be able to afford it," she said.

Amy is one of "about 40" Europeans in the hostel. On Friday, she appealed to the British government to repatriate their citizens from Peru.

In response, an FCO spokesperson said a number of British citizens were in a similar situation

“The UK is engaging with a number of international partners and commercial airlines to see how we can help Britons still in Peru best return to the UK," the spokesperson said.

“We are working intensively to help all those who wish to leave and actively exploring what further flight options can be made available.”

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