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Northern Ireland man faces being stuck in Peru hostel for months as guests test positive for coronavirus

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Living on rations: Rhys McKendry

Living on rations: Rhys McKendry

Living on rations: Rhys McKendry

A Newtownabbey may have to spend three months in his hostel room in Peru after two guests learned they had contracted coronavirus.

Rhys McKendry (21) had been travelling for five weeks before Peru went into lockdown on March 16.

On Monday it was confirmed that two guests at the Pariwana Hostel in the city of Cusco had tested positive.

Rhys was told he could not leave for at least 15 days.

This means he has been unable to take a seat on repatriation flights being arranged by the British and Irish governments.

Rhys said he fears the quarantine will be extended if there are any new cases.

He called on both governments to negotiate his release with the Peruvian authorities.

Rhys spends 23 hours a day in his room and is only allowed to leave for meals that he likens to prison food.

"We currently have the military on the door and the police are barricading the street at the other end," he said.

"We've been put on government rations, so the meals have taken a big hit. A couple of nights we haven't had dinner."

Guests have been told they could face a prison sentence of five to 10 years if they try to leave without permission.

"The announcement we got in the hostel is that the quarantine can be anything from 28 days to three months," Rhys said.

"Kate Harrison, the British Ambassador for Peru, said on Twitter it would be 15 days, but she's had a huge backlash because she hasn't clarified what the 15 days means.

"From what we understand, it means 15 days from when a new case is reported.

"Two new cases were confirmed on Monday, so that's another 15 days for us already."

Originally, around 140 travellers were in the hostel, with around 20 from other countries securing flights home before the lockdown was announced.

"The other night the military stormed the hostel and basically had a list of people to bring to another hostel," Rhys said.

"No one knew what was going on, but they eventually told the hostel manager that 60 people had to pack their stuff and be disinfected.

"It was like a sci-fi movie where people are getting sprayed down. Their clothes were completely ruined because it wasn't basic alcohol they were using to spray people.

"At the start people were happy and had that optimistic backpacker mentality.

"But when the two people tested positive and we had to go back to our rooms, guests started crying because it looked like we were going to be here for at least a month."

A spokesperson for the UK Foreign office said: "We continue to work around the clock to help British travellers struggling to get back to the UK and we thank the Peruvian government for all their support in making this happen."

It is understood the Peruvian government has insisted the 15-day quarantine at the hostel cannot be overturned, but efforts to bring those affected home continue.

Belfast Telegraph