Toronto’s Cory Foster has been rationing her thyroid medication and her asthma puffer while she is stuck in a hotel in Iquitos, a Peruvian port city regarded as a gateway to villages in the northern Amazon.
Since early this month, Ms. Foster and her husband Paul Assaf, a Toronto fire captain, have been travelling with friends in Peru as part of celebrations for her 60th birthday.
Ms. Foster said everything was fine as they did “the tourist thing” for the first week of their trip, including during a stop at Machu Picchu.
But she said the situation in Peru quickly escalated and went from zero to a lockdown.
On March 15, the Peruvian government declared a national state of emergency and enacted 15 days of mandatory quarantine. It has also closed all international travel in and out of the country and restricted domestic travel.
“There’s no cars. There’s no buses," Ms. Foster told The Globe and Mail on Sunday.
“As soon as you’re let out your door, the police are looking at you, and the military, and they’re looking at where you’re going and they’re monitoring you."
Ms. Foster said the experience has been nothing short of terrifying, adding that she and her travel group have been trying to protect themselves from the virus while they desperately try to seek help from Canada.
She said they have tried all of the channels and have not received assurances from the Canadian government they could get of Iquitos, where approximately 60 Canadians are now.
There are no means to get out of the city and to the capital of Lima, where Global Affairs has picked up some Canadians, Ms. Foster said.
Through the Austrian consulate, Ms. Foster said she and her husband heard they should be able to board a German humanitarian flight from Iquitos on Tuesday. They hope to then board a flight from Lima to Toronto.
Global Affairs Canada said Sunday it is fully aware of the very stressful situation many Canadians abroad are facing as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, including in Peru, where Canadians are stuck in the Amazon area.
Three flights have arrived in Canada from Peru and further flights for Wednesday and Thursday are planned, the department added.
“Officials are currently reaching out to affected individuals with more information,” said Global Affairs spokeswoman Angela Savard, adding that privacy provisions prevent the department from disclosing information pertaining to specific consular cases.
Ms. Foster said the prospect of being able to make it home is extremely emotional and surreal. But she urged Canada to help dozens of other Canadians trapped in Iquitos.
“Please, please don’t leave them here,” she said. “These are people. They are us. They came here on vacation, they had no idea and they had no warning and please don’t leave them here.”
Unless the situation improves quickly in Iquitos, it is not safe for Canadians to stay, she said.
John Brennan, a city councillor for the Town of Erin, about 32 kilometres east of Guelph, is also trying to get home from Lima. He and his wife, both in their 70s, went there on vacation.
Mr. Brennan said in an interview on Sunday that he is also running out of medication he has taken since a 2011 heart surgery. He is also turning to rationing.
“I’m doing one day on, one day off,” he said. “It is easier to skip one and then come back than it is to run out entirely.”
While ongoing access to the medication is a source of stress, Mr. Brennan said another source of worry is the current system being used for Canadians booking flights home.
The Canadian embassy has been issuing a single code for being prioritized for the flights, such as the elderly and those with medical conditions, Mr. Brennan said, adding there is concern that people are sharing the code and clogging the system to book the flights on the airline’s website.
Mr. Brennan said he was unable to get on a flight despite being given the code and hours he spent trying to get on the Air Canada website.
Mr. Brennan said he understands Canada has to negotiate with Peru to get flights into the country but he stressed the embassy should review the system being used, adding previous flights resulted in chaos.
“I’m sure there are people that are worse off than we are,” he said. “There are families that have two and three children.”