Trapped couple fear window for escape is closing


TIME is running out for a former Clarence Valley sailing champion trapped in Peru.

Gabrielle Ryan and her husband Matthew are entering their 11th day of lockdown in Cajamarca after the government introduced strict coronavirus quarantine measures.

They are worried they will be stuck in Peru, potentially for months, as airlines close key routes out of South America.

Both Qantas and LATAM have announced they would be ceasing flights from the continent within days.

"We're trying to keep our chin up but it's hard, today the Peruvian government announced they would be extending that quarantine for another 13 days" Ms Ryan said.

The couple has been pleading with the Australian Government to help get them out as not even internal travel is allowed without permission.

Ms Ryan said their pleas had fallen on deaf ears, with the Federal Government insisting it will not directly assist in repatriating citizens. And she says it's been the private sector that has stepped in.

A flight organised by Chimu Adventures will be leaving Lima in the coming days but it is already oversubscribed and only taking passengers already in the capital or the tourist city of Cuzco.

"If not for the private tour company wanting to get its customers home … there would be no flight coming. None of this is government initiated," Ms Ryan said.

"It's a sad state of affairs that in a state of emergency private enterprise cares more about getting Australians home than the Government does."

Reports of "hundreds" of Australians being able to fly home were "misleading" Ms Ryan said and the Government and media's characterisation of the flight has only added to the frustration.

"It is only by grouping Peru, Bolivia and Uruguay in the one sentence you can then say 'hundreds of Australians" are being brought home. It has been so misleading."

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it had been in discussions with Chimu Adventures regarding the company's plans for a charter flight.

"The Embassy has been seeking the necessary permissions from the Peruvian government for flights to occur," the spokesperson said.

However, Ms Ryan said a lack of meaningful communication with DFAT and the embassy had left the couple feeling abandoned.

"The Government seems to be operating on the assumption that if they tell people what's going on there is going to be mass panic, but that couldn't be further from the truth,"she said.

"People can tell when information is being withheld, and it is being left in the dark that is really scary," she said. "Yes, we would love them to get us out of here but we just want them to tell us what's going on."