Coronavirus: Flight chartered to fetch Kiwis stuck in Peru as more than 300 rescued by Government so far

New Zealanders stuck in Peru amid the COVID-19 pandemic will be picked up by a Government-chartered flight, as the number of Kiwis rescued across the globe reaches more than 300. 

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said on Monday the Government has worked with the Chilean Government to allow the necessary transit to get the Kiwis home. 

Kiwis have spoken out about desperately trying to find a way out of Peru, after the South American country closed its borders and went into lockdown, with little warning, prompting them to seek Government support. 

Details of the flight, such as when it will arrive in New Zealand, have not yet been decided with officials still working it out, but Peters said the flight will depart from Lima, with an added domestic connection Cusco, in Peru. 

"Private tour operators Viva Expeditions and Chimu Adventures will provide assistance to New Zealanders on the ground in Peru, helping transport New Zealanders to the appropriate pickup points."

Peters said Kiwis in Peru who are registered on SafeTravel will be emailed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) with details of how to register interest in the flight, while Kiwis in Chile who are registered will be emailed separately.

The New Zealand First leader said all passengers will be required to comply with health screening and have an isolation plan in place, on arrival, in line with Ministry of Health requirements.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said MFAT has so far facilitated the return of 334 New Zealanders, in addition to those who have returned on commercial flights. 

She said the Government has successfully managed to get 11 Kiwis out of strict lockdown in Austria, along with around 20 Australians. She said the Government is aware of three more Kiwis stuck in the region who hope to get home. 

The Government advised New Zealanders overseas on March 24 that they should shelter safely in place if they could not return to New Zealand commercially. But Peters said Kiwis stuck in Peru are finding it "increasingly difficult to shelter safely". 

He said arranging the flight has been an "incredibly complex operation" with flights disrupted across the globe. He said officials based at the New Zealand Embassy in Santiago and the team in Wellington have been "working around the clock" to make it happen.

"This is an issue we are facing the world over. Finding solutions for New Zealanders overseas has been a major focus of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade over the past few weeks."

It won't be the first time the Government stepped in to help Kiwis overseas affected by the coronavirus. In February, an Air New Zealand flight was chartered to pick up New Zealanders stranded in Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus. 

Last week, Peters announced that the Government would allow tens of thousands of foreign nationals stuck in New Zealand to leave via chartered flights operated by Air New Zealand. 

MFAT said last month it was in contact with more than 24,000 Kiwis overseas seeking advice or assistance from the Government.