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'Help us' - Irish in Peru fear being attacked over virus

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Liam Whelan is in Peru with his family and can’t get home

Liam Whelan is in Peru with his family and can’t get home

Liam Whelan is in Peru with his family and can’t get home

Irish tourists stranded in Peru are urging the Government to get them home immediately as the threat of violence looms over them.

Liam Whelan (60) from Dublin said his son was recently pelted with eggs from angry locals who were disgruntled that he wasn't wearing a face mask.

However, he insists that there are none left available to buy, and believes tensions are swiftly on the rise.

Mr Whelan is currently stranded in a hostel in the Peruvian capital of Lima with six members of his family, including his two grandchildren - aged seven and 11.

Since the country announced a national lockdown on March 16, he said he has not received any assurance from the Department of Foreign Affairs that they will be brought home.

EMERGENCY

This is despite Tanaiste Simon Coveney's promise that the 135 Irish citizens stuck in Peru will be rescued with an emergency charter flight in the coming days.

Speaking to the Herald, Mr Whelan urged the Government to ramp up its efforts in helping its citizens come home.

"We're relying on the Irish media for any developments in our situation," he said.

"The Department of Foreign Affairs isn't telling us anything, unfortunately.

"I received just one email from the Irish consulate here, just telling us to stay calm and follow government advice.

"There are other Irish tourists, too, who are desperately eager to get home, because I believe things will start to get violent here very soon.

"The locals are becoming very frustrated with being on lockdown.

"Public transport has stopped and there are no taxis.

"All restaurants, pubs, government buildings and factories are closed.

"The local shops are only open for a few hours, and that's if you dare to venture out.

"The other day, my son was on his way to pick up supplies and people began to shout abuse and throw eggs at him for not wearing a mask.

"But how could he? You can't get them anywhere.

"There is a curfew and the army and police are also becoming increasingly hostile.

"Our situation is very grim and will only get worse the longer we're here," he warned.

Mr Coveney said Aer Lingus has agreed with British Airways to send a charter plane to collect them from Lima in the coming days.

He said that Irish people who were not in the Peruvian capital would have to make their way there and said that the Department of Foreign Affairs was working to make that happen.

Mr Coveney said the hope is that the flight home will happen before the middle of the week.

He told the Irish people stranded in Peru that they would not face a big bill to return home and that the Government would seek to recoup up to 70pc of the €300,000 cost from the European Union.

Mr Coveney said putting the rescue flight in place had not been straightforward due to the Peruvian lockdown, which has effectively shut down the airspace there.

He said "this will require negotiation", but added: "I think we're in a good place there to get that done."

Separately, Mr Coveney said there is a contract in place to spend more than €200m on personal protective equipment that is going to come from China.

He also said the Government was close to agreement on securing 100,000 test swabs per week from China and that Aer Lingus would run flights to transport the equipment here.

Mr Coveney said he had a long discussion with the Chinese ambassador and expects to be speaking to the foreign minister in the coming days.

He said that China "understands this virus better than anybody else and is a country that has huge resources that can help us".

Mr Coveney also said: "I can promise you this - pride isn't going to get in the way of Ireland seeking help from abroad if and when we need that."