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N.S. family desperately trying to bring home son stranded abroad by COVID-19
DARTMOUTH, N.S. -- Anne Melanson is worried sick about her 24-year-old son, who is stranded in Peru after the country went into lockdown and closed its borders over COVID-19.
Ian Melanson, a firefighter with Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency, had gone on a hiking vacation on March 4 with two friends.
Now Ian, Jordan Taggart and Neal Andreino are stuck in a hotel in Arequipa, Peru, with nowhere to go.
"Things started to descend very quickly, probably three, four days ago," Anne says. "And that was the point at which the boys tried to get a flight out, which they did."
That flight was supposed to leave on March 21, but Monday, the Peruvian government closed its borders to all travel.
In a FaceTime interview, Ian Melanson says the situation in Peru escalated very quickly.
"Basically we went to the airport yesterday morning to try to get in and move our flight," he says. "We weren't able to. Then we ended up going to a bus terminal, couldn't get a bus. So we rented a car…and went to Arequipa, which is where we are now."
The men say they tried to contact the Canadian consulate in Lima, but it has been shut down. No one answered the phone. They sent an email to Global Affairs Canada but received an automated response saying a reply would come within three business days.
They say they've been put in mandatory quarantine, and the streets are being patrolled by armed soldiers. Melanson isn't sure how they are going to get food because stores are closed. They say price-gouging is also becoming common, with their car rental costing them the equivalent of more than $500 US.
Back in Dartmouth, N.S., Melanson's mother has been trying to get answers from Global Affairs Canada. Anne says she did get a phone call from the department Monday night, letting her know they were aware of the situation and working on it.
But she's worried how long that could take.
"We're unleashing everything we've got on this; it's not an option to let this situation descend any further," she says. "We have to mobilize the Government of Canada through Global Affairs to recognize how significant the peril is for Canadians in Peru."
She's concerned over how quickly the situation has been changing.
The Melansons aren't the only Maritimers dealing with the challenging situation.
Allan Small of Digby, N.S., is in San Benito, Philippines. He came with his wife and young daughter to visit family there last November. They had planned to stay until April, but when COVID-19 started to spread around the world, he decided to change their return flights.
He had to change his flight several times to try to get a date that would work because the situation in that country is also changing day-by-day.
In the end, flight changes have cost him more than $8,000. They're hoping to leave for Nova Scotia from Manila Thursday before airports are scheduled to shut down the next day. But he says he has had no assistance from the federal government.
"If we don't leave the 19th, we could be here until the airports open [again], could be months," Small said in a FaceTime interview.
Back in Peru, Melanson and his friends have met up with four other Canadians stranded in the country, and they are trying to work together to figure out what to do.
"We're basically just going to ride it out in the hotel until we're told otherwise," says Jordan Taggart. "Hopefully get some food, and just wait on news."
Anne Melanson is hoping the federal government will step forward to send a plane to Peru to repatriate Canadians there. She has heard at least one other country, Israel, is doing so, and she wants Ottawa to follow suit.
"But speed and time is of the essence here," she says. "And I just don't know what to expect next."