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Northern Ireland man Rhys McKendry swaps Peru hostel for 'freedom' of coronavirus lockdown

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Rhys McKendry

Rhys McKendry

Rhys McKendry

A man from Northern Ireland who was stranded in a hostel in Peru for almost a month has spoken about returning to the "freedom" of lockdown now he's back home.

Rhys McKendry (21), from Newtownabbey, was at a hostel in the city of Cusco when Peru went into lockdown on March 15.

By March 30, two guests had tested positive for coronavirus.

He was initially told to stay in his room for at least 15 days, meaning he would miss repatriation flights home arranged by the British and Irish governments.

Rhys feared he would be trapped for three months but finally managed to get home to his relieved family on April 11.

"Some people had been moved out of the hostel to a hotel and were allowed to get flights home, but for some reason we couldn't," he said.

"I asked the Irish ambassador to move me to the hotel and then the British people eventually tagged along with that."

A complicated journey home for Rhys began with a flight from Cusco to Lima.

"I was able to walk out of the hotel which made no sense as I'd been in strict lockdown at the hostel the day before," he said.

A flight to Paris followed, but delays meant he then had to travel to Frankfurt to get a connecting flight to London.

"It was just utter confusion with the Peruvian government, they didn't seem to know what to do from day to day," he said.

"There was so much pressure on them that they agreed to get everyone out but logistically they didn't seem to know how to do it.

"It's great to be back and into a normal routine. I'm over the jet lag and it's nice just to be able to go for a walk and be allowed around the house.

"A few weeks ago there was total lockdown in the streets and there was military everywhere."

With his travel plans stopped abruptly, Rhys is now looking forward to completing a Masters degree.

"I graduated in economics but there's not much chance of being picked up by anyone for work for a while," he said.

The UK's acting ambassador to Peru, Andrew Soper, said the Government was still doing everything possible to bring home those still stranded.

The Irish ambassador for Chile, Peru and Ecuador, Paul Gleeson, reported that two more Irish citizens and their partners were repatriated on Sunday via a German organised plane.

He said "most remaining Irish" have now been brought home and praised the "great story of EU-UK solidarity in Peru and so many places".

Belfast Telegraph