Americans are stuck in Peru, including dozens of Wisconsinites, because that country declared an emergency and shut its borders in rapid succession earlier this month in response to COVID-19.
Earlier in the week, repatriation flights were operational, allowing approximately 500 Americans to depart Peru. However, this notice was posted to the embassy website on Tuesday, March 24:
“The U.S. Embassy in Lima continues to look for options for U.S. citizens to depart Peru. Today’s flights from Peru to the United States have been delayed. U.S. citizens should stay in their lodging until further notice. We are working to seek permission from the Peruvian government to land airplanes arriving from the United States.”
This happened because the Peruvian government declared a national state of emergency on March 15, according to the U.S. Department of State. A day later, Peru closed all international borders and suspended all travel within the country. On March 17, the international airport in Lima closed to the public. Additionally, private vehicles were prohibited from driving around Lima.
Peru was also placed under quarantine, including a daily curfew which is enforced by the Peruvian National Police and the Peruvian military.
Peter Curry, 23, of Madison is in Chachapoyas, a small city isolated from major cities in Peru.
“I had been traveling, learning Spanish for four months from Columbia through Ecuador, to Peru with the intention of reaching Argentina,” Curry said via email.
He was in Ecuador and wanted to leave before that country closed its borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Just after crossing into Peru on March 15, that country declared its national state of emergency and imposed a quarantine with airport closures and curfews to follow.
“After the quarantine was announced there was one day where shuttle buses were still running and I was able to reach a relatively hospitable town compared to the border town I spent the night in,” Curry wrote.
Since then, emergency rules prohibit overland transportation.
“The focus for Americans has mainly been on flights out of Cusco and Lima, but there are many people who are not in those areas who need to still travel 20 hours by bus to reach Lima,” Curry said.
He is one of them.
Curry gave his passport and location information to the U.S. Embassy in Lima and contacted Wisconsin’s U.S. Senators and his U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Town of Vermont. He told his family his concern was about coming down with COVID-19 while stranded in Peru and not being back in Wisconsin to access U.S. medical care.
“I also have asthma, which is a concern if I am stuck and cannot get inhalers or medicine,” he said.
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, sent a letter Saturday to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting his assistance in securing the safe return home of Wisconsinites currently stranded in countries with travel restrictions because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“These Americans are scared, desperate and running out of hope,” Johnson wrote. “I hope you will give your fullest and most immediate consideration to this request, and I appreciate your time and consideration to this urgent matter.”
Johnson’s staff has been assisting travelers in more than 12 countries–including Peru, Honduras and Guatemala–who had travel disrupted because of emergency orders related to the pandemic, according to his office.
For her part, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, also wrote to Pompeo March 22 saying, “Dozens of Americans in Peru have reached out to my office frustrated and afraid.”
Further, Baldwin wrote to the U.S. secretary of state that these Wisconsinites, “feel the State Department and its U.S. Embassies have been unresponsive to their pleas for assistance.”
Baldwin requested the State Department immediately begin chartering U.S. government flights or order United States Air Mobility Command to transport citizens back to the country.
“We have a solemn duty to protect Americans at home and abroad and we should be using every capability within the U.S. government, including the Department of Defense, to bring everyone home,” Baldwin states in her letter.
Peter Curry awaits word as to whether and when he can come home.