Dozens of Kiwis stranded in Peru are pleading for Government assistance after the country suddenly went into quarantine and closed its borders.

There are more than 80 New Zealanders registered in the South American country, and many more across the continent - some even stranded in the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador.

With airlines closing down and borders rapidly closing there are few viable options remaining to return home, with one private Australian charter quoting over A$10,000 per person - but with no guarantees they will even be able to get to New Zealand.

Those trapped fear that once the quarantine period ends on April 1 there could be no airlines remaining operating and are pleading for the New Zealand Government to look into "mercy flights" for those stuck abroad.


Newly engaged couple Naomi Courtney-Tennent, 30, and Nic Christie, 27, were at Lima's airport with tickets on a flight to Colombia on March 16, the last day flights were leaving Peru before its borders closed for at least two weeks.

They expected to fly to Colombia, then on to the US and home from there, but as they were waiting in line were told only those with Colombian passports could board.

Since then they have been stuck in their hostel in the capital city, Lima, with the country under quarantine until April 1.

Whakatāne teachers Naomi Courtney-Tennent and Nic Christie are stranded in Peru after the border closed suddenly. They're desperate to get home. Photo / Supplied
Whakatāne teachers Naomi Courtney-Tennent and Nic Christie are stranded in Peru after the border closed suddenly. They're desperate to get home. Photo / Supplied

With Air New Zealand ending its Argentina service and borders rapidly closing, the Whakatāne couple have no idea how they could get back to New Zealand.

They have been in touch with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade almost daily, but as of yet have not heard any plans to repatriate New Zealanders.

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The embassy in Santiago, Chile, suggested inquiring about an Australian charter flight, but Courtney-Tennent said this was quoted at over A$10,000, and with no guarantee on when or even if it would be departing.

New Zealanders stranded in the Chinese city of Wuhan were able to return to Auckland on an Air New Zealand-chartered flight for NZ$500 per person.


"We appreciate that New Zealand has huge issues as do the whole world. We just feel a little out of sight, out of mind over here if I'm honest," Courtney-Tennent said.

"We can't afford to blow the last of our savings on possible flights, but our concern remains that if and when the border is opened here, there will be no commercial flights directly home to New Zealand.

"The embassy said the Government was working on things but they didn't mention anything specific.

"There are also people all over South America, I'm sure. A friend of mine is stuck in Galapagos Islands of all places."

New Zealand's coronavirus lockdown will be managed by a leadership team of some of the country's top officials. That team is Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Director-General of Health, Sarah Stuart-Black, Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management, Mike Bush, Commissioner of Police, and Dr Peter Crabtree.

Along with the cost, Courtney-Tennent said many New Zealanders in Peru were not in Lima, and getting to the airport for the potential charter flight was not an option.

The couple - both teachers - took a year off to travel, and planned to wind up working in London from May onwards, but due to the coronavirus and global uncertainties say they will have to return to New Zealand.

Courtney-Tennent's sister launched a petition today to raise awareness about their plight.

Meanwhile other countries have made plans to repatriate their citizens.

There are plans in place to fly 400 British and Irish citizens home next week, and Canada is sending three planes to the Andean nation to repatriate its stranded citizens.

Stranded Israeli backpackers were flown home by their government free of charge, Haaretz reported.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said its Chile office was in contact with 40 New Zealanders in Peru requiring consular assistance.

In total, 81 New Zealanders were registered on SafeTravel as being in Peru, it said.

Mfat has not yet responded to a request for comment today, but previously told the Herald it was working on the "largest consular response the New Zealand Government has ever undertaken" as a result of the pandemic.

Mfat said its consular advisers in Wellington and around the world were responding to large numbers of inquiries from New Zealanders facing unprecedented global travel disruptions as countries and territories closed borders and restricted movement.

"We are in constant contact with consular counterparts from other countries to share information, and, when possible, to work together on solutions to help out our nationals overseas," a spokeswoman said.

Naomi Courtney-Tennent, aged 30 from Whakatane, on holiday in Peru before the lockdown. Photo / Supplied
Naomi Courtney-Tennent, aged 30 from Whakatane, on holiday in Peru before the lockdown. Photo / Supplied

Mfat also encouraged Kiwis stranded overseas to keep themselves safe by following the World Health Organisation and local health authorities' advice.

It also urged Kiwis overseas to register on SafeTravel.

As they wait Courtney-Tennent and Christie remain in their hostel room almost 24/7, with one of them allowed to the supermarket once a day to get food.

"Eating and everything else is in our room," Courtney-Tennent said.

"A little concerning is some reports of tourists having to look for new accommodation as hotels and hostels begin to close."

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Yoga on the floor of the dorm room and calls back home are helping to keep the couple, both teachers in Whakatāne, sane in the uncertain time.

"We just wish there was a way [the Government] could let us know they'll help us home. A bit of reassurance we will be able to get home in the near future," Courtney-Tennent said.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters announced this month a "do not travel" guideline - the first time it has been done in New Zealand.

"We are raising our travel advice to the highest level: do not travel," Mr Peters said.

"This is the first time the New Zealand Government has advised New Zealanders against travelling anywhere overseas. That reflects the seriousness of the situation we are facing with Covid-19." The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website