Coronavirus: Trapped Welsh tourists feel 'scared and lost'

By Matt Lloyd
BBC News

  • Published
Kelly WatersImage source, Kelly Waters
Image caption,
Nurse Kelly Waters says she feels trapped after her flight from Australia was twice cancelled

A nurse, a family and a freelance film-maker are just some of the Welsh travellers trapped abroad amid the coronavirus outbreak.

With the pandemic spreading globally at a rapid pace, many countries have introduced strict controls on domestic and foreign travel.

However this has left tourists stranded and feeling "lost" and "in prison".

Governments are working to repatriate those facing difficulty but others do not know when they will see home again.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said his staff were working with other nations and airlines to "overcome barriers".

Mr Raab said the situation was being exacerbated by countries closing their borders "with no or little notice".

Image source, Kelly Waters
Image caption,
Kelly is worried for her health and how she can pay for a ticket home

'I feel trapped'

Kelly Waters, 29, was a staff nurse at Swansea's Singleton Hospital but took a year's break for a working holiday in Australia.

She was "excited" to be reunited with family and friends in Baglan, Port Talbot, until she learned this week her flight home from Melbourne had been cancelled - with no refund.

She borrowed money from her parents to purchase anther ticket but that flight was also then cancelled and she said only business-class tickets were available for future flights, costing about £5,000.

"It's a huge worry as my funds are running out by the day," she said.

"I know I have to get more money for my future flight home but work has become slow because surgical wards here have been shut.

"Another worry is staying in a hostel in a shared room. How safe am I from the virus?

"I feel trapped here in Australia and it's unfair people can't fly home to be with their family at this time.

"This morning I awoke to my room-mate in tears because she had been sent back from the airport after she tried to get home to see a sick grandparent. It was heart-breaking.

"The only advice I had from the British embassy was to join a Facebook group and follow the news. I feel lost and all I can do is stay positive."

Image source, Family photo
Image caption,
Alex Foulkes spent months saving for his backpacking trip around South America

'It feels like prison'

Alex Foulkes, 31, is facing up to three months in a small room with three strangers in a Peruvian hostel following the outbreak.

The freelance film-maker from Wrexham spent months saving for a backpacking trip around South America.

But a day after arriving in Cusco, the gateway to Machu Picchu, all 160 guests at the hostel he was staying in were put into quarantine after two tested positive for coronavirus.

They have been confined to their rooms - with as many as ten people to a dormitory - and allowed outside for just 20 minutes each day.

They have been warned that failure to comply with the restrictions could result in up to 10 years imprisonment and told they could be there for between 28 days and three months.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The Peruvian government has closed its borders and put the population in lockdown

"It feels like being in prison. We literally just have beds in our rooms and the bathroom is shared by dozens of travellers," he said.

"I'm not sure how we'll cope with being confined to our rooms for the next three months for 23 hours a day.

"It's very difficult and there's a mixture of emotions in the hostel at the moment.

"The news that we could be trapped here for three months is devastating and lots of people were in tears.

"I'm in shock as I originally thought we may be stuck here for around two weeks but nobody knows when they'll be able to leave."

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Alex is among about 1,000 UK nationals trapped in Peru, according to the Foreign Office.

The first repatriation flight from Peru arrived in the UK on Thursday with more flights, including domestic transfers, planned.

'We need to get out of here'

Ceri Welchman, an occupational therapist working for the NHS in Cardiff, her partner Salvatore Ledda and their four-year-old daughter Nicole had been touring South America since 4 January.

Image source, Ceri Welchman
Image caption,
Ceri Welchman travelled 30 hours in a bus to try to reach a flight home - but were turned away at the border

But when countries began to close their borders, the family embarked on a 30-hour bus journey from La Paz, Bolivia to Sao Paulo in Brazil, in a bid to get one of the few international flights home.

However two hours from the border, the Brazilian government closed its doors, and they had to turn back.

"As the situation worsened, we just said to ourselves, 'we need to get out of here'," she said.

"But the situation was changing so quickly that we just didn't have time to get out before the lockdown.

"Countries are doing the right thing because the health service here just isn't going to cope. But there wasn't much thought given for tourists who were trying to get out.

"My biggest worry is if anything happens to Nicole while we are here and couldn't leave.

"Thankfully we managed to find an apartment in Santa Cruz before the 24-hour quarantine kicked in. One person is allowed out once a day for food.

"We've been in constant contact with the British embassy about news of a flight out but we're just stuck waiting."