The imposition of a quarantine of up to three months in a youth hostel in Cusco after the detection of a Covid-19 cluster has made Irish tourists stranded in the Peruvian city more and more nervous while waiting that a government evacuation begins.
Peruvian health officials on Wednesday ordered what they describe as “absolute quarantine” for one to three months from the Pariwana hostel after two guests, one from the Netherlands and another from Finland , have been tested positive for coronavirus.
Among the estimated 120 people currently subject to foreclosure is Rhys McKendry, a tourist from Belfast. “When the ad was first published, many people started to cry. Being told that two people had tested positive was quite a blow, “he said.
The two guests were asked to test after they showed symptoms of virus transmission. A former guest reportedly started showing symptoms after returning home. Peru ordered a national foreclosure on March 16 and virtually sealed its air, land and sea borders, blocking thousands of foreign tourists.
The news of strict quarantine in Pariwana quickly spread on WhatsApp among other Irish tourists trapped in Cusco. Many have wondered if they should leave their own hostels for Airbnb accommodation to avoid being caught in a similar Covid-19 epidemic. They said they feared it would cause them to miss a government-organized evacuation flight.
“Now we are very worried because everyone is in a hostel and we are wondering if we should try to go out because if that happens we are stuck. Where are we going? Is it too late to change accommodation with the DFA [Ministry of Foreign Affairs]? We don’t want to risk missing the flight. This is very concerning, ”explains Andrew Cotter. He and his partner Marie Barry, both from Cork, are staying in another youth hostel in the city, arriving in Peru from Bolivia two days before the announcement of the national foreclosure.
About 135 Irish tourists, mostly backpackers, have registered to be repatriated from Peru. Tánaiste Simon Coveney told RTÉ on Sunday that an agreement had been reached between British Airways and Aer Lingus to charter a flight from Lima “in the coming days”.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the Foreign Ministry said that while an agreement was in place for a flight, “internal travel remains severely limited and many of our citizens are located hundreds of kilometers from the international airport . We work 24 hours to obtain the transport and the necessary authorizations to move them. “
The news that flights left Lima for the UK, Spain and Switzerland has caused frustration over the delay in the start of repatriation among some of the people stranded in Cusco. “It can be done. It is done. But from our perspective, it seems very slow and it worries us,” says Cotter.
At the Pariwana Inn, Mr. McKendry says he has not given up hope of being able to board the repatriation flight. It has not yet been tested for Covid-19. “I think the test might be my only option for going out, so I’m going to ask the doctors if it’s possible,” he said.
Since the announcement of the quarantine, Pariwana guests are confined to their dorms for 23 hours with a warning from management that “we have more infections among us”. The hostel’s television and computer rooms are now closed. The two tourists tested positive are isolated in dormitories separated from the other guests.
Peruvian authorities have declared that any guest who fails to comply with strict social distancing measures could face five to ten years in prison. Each guest received a mask and was assigned their own plate and cutlery. “The staff stays with us in the hostel, which shows how committed they are and we receive three meals a day. At lunch, there were only two of us at a table that the night before was eight, ”says McKendry.