Coronavirus: Kiwi stuck in remote Amazon city fears she'll never get home

A Kiwi stuck in Peru amid the coronavirus pandemic fears she'll never get home again to see her kids. 

Rakaia woman Christine Flanagan arrived in Peru with her husband on March 8, just two days after the South American country reported its first case of COVID-19 and three days before the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic.

Since then 73 people in Peru have lost their lives to the disease, which has killed tens of thousands of people worldwide. Most of the confirmed cases have been in the capital, Lima.

Flanagan told Newshub they were meant to depart on April 1, but the country has been in lockdown since March 15 - including a ban on most travel. 

"I am happy that Peru is under quarantine as I feel safer, I just wish they could of let us go home before closing  the borders straight away."

Peru's lockdown, currently in place until at least April 12, is much stricter than New Zealand's. At present, you can be arrested for leaving the house at night or on the wrong day - even if your intention is just to go to the supermarket. 

While some foreigners managed to escape before the strict rules came into force, and a few countries have managed to arrange mercy flights out of Peru, many have been stranded - including a number of Kiwis. 

Iquitos is a remote city in the Amazon.
Iquitos is a remote city in the Amazon. Photo credit: Google Maps

Flanagan and her husband are in Iquitos, a remote city in the north of the country in the Amazon forest, only accessible by river and air - there are reportedly no roads in or out.

"We have been told that the New Zealand Government is looking at picking people up from Lima or Cusco, and we are unable to get there," she said.

"We've been told there are around five New Zealanders here in Iquitos, and the Government is looking to see if the Australians  can pick us up - which does worry me as [we've had] offers from other countries to fly us to Lima in the last few weeks but it never works out."

Twenty-four Kiwis booked on a flight out of Peru had to cancel their plans last week. They were scheduled to fly into Australia then leave for New Zealand the next day, but Australia changed its rules to require transiting passengers to depart the same day they landed

"I cannot see why the Australian and New Zealand government cannot work together with us all stuck over here and get us a flight home," Caleb Nicol told Newshub last week.

The Peruvian government has said all international visitors' visas will be extended until after the quarantine is over. They'll then have up to 45 days to leave the country. 

Flanagan says the anxiety of having no clear way home is making her sick. She says there is a possibility of a flight from Iquitos to Lima once the quarantine is over, but fears that might be too late if the Government manages to arrange one from Lima to New Zealand before then. 

"I no longer believe I will ever get home again, upsets me to think I will never see my kids again." 

New Zealand contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade about the situation in Peru and Iquitos, but didn't immediately get a response. 

On Friday the department said it was helping 24,000 Kiwis stuck overseas, including around 70 in Peru - the largest consular response the New Zealand Government has ever undertaken.