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‘I really want to come home’: Canadians abroad scramble to get back ahead of more coronavirus restrictions

Last Updated Mar 19, 2020 at 1:18 pm PDT

FILE: A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Summary

Canadians abroad are trying to secure flights and get home as more borders close and travel becomes more difficult

There have been thousands of calls and emails to Global Affairs amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the feds

Some Canadians are preparing to possibly have to hunker down where they are as the coronavirus situation progresses

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As more borders close and more airlines ground flights around the world, the window for Canadians abroad to come back home is narrowing.

Global Affairs Canada has apparently been inundated with calls and emails as citizens look for more information.

According to Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne, some Canadian travellers may even be stranded for weeks.

He told The Globe and Mail Global Affairs received nearly 8,000 emails and 6,000 calls from Canadians needing assistance on Tuesday alone.

“I really want to come home,” Mission, B.C.’s Nicole Vitug, who has been stuck in the Philippines since Jan. 15, told NEWS 1130.

Vitug was supposed to be back in Canada last month, but with the Philippines government locking things down, she can’t find a flight out.

“This vacation is enough, I’m starting to feel homesick,” she added.

And Vitug’s case isn’t unique.

JACK 96.9 FM’s Jeff Brown said his wife was due back from her trip to India to visit family at the end of this month. However, it’s not looking like she’ll be able to fly home any time soon.

“Literally trying for seven days straight now to get her flights,” he told NEWS 1130, a sister station. “I think I’m $12,000 deep now flights that have either been cancelled or are booked. She has four right now that are booked.”

Related video: Canadians abroad face big challenges getting home

He said the federal government has provided resources, however, things haven’t been working out quite as they were supposed to.

“The website, god love the Canadian government for offering emergency loans but you can’t get through the number and it just keeps looping you around on the website,” Brown said. “ I emailed the link. They sent me a massive email that said, ‘thanks for email but we can’t help you right now,’ basically.”

Airlines are also inundated with calls. Brown said he’s been unable to talk to anyone at an airline, and added some aren’t even speaking to a traveller unless their flight is within the next 72 hours.

When you are able to book a flight, he said they likely get cancelled.

For now, his wife is booked on a flight out of India on Sunday bound for London, and from there back to Vancouver.

As for how his wife is feeling, Brown said she’s safe and relatively calm.

“But obviously wants to get back as soon as possible, especially now that they’re talking this is going to last a long time,” he said. “I give it 60-40 that she will be stuck there. I don’t want to jinx it by being too optimistic, but I think we’re on the third flight here that potentially is going to be cancelled. Hopefully this is the closest we’ve gotten to her flying out, so fingers crossed.”

Meanwhile, a trans-Atlantic cruise ship with at least 77 Canadians on board has become the latest floating outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. It’s since docked in France, with French authorities saying it’ll be allowed to stay in the Marseille harbour for up to four days under strict conditions.

When it comes to the border, Canada and the U.S. confirmed it would be closed to all non-essential travel, but more details are being worked out. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the closure could happen as early as Friday night.

-With files from The Canadian Press