Amid growing frustration and anxiety, more than 200 Americans stuck in Peru are trying to figure out a way to get back home.
Last night, Peru’s government suspended constitutional rights such as free movement and assembly in light of the coronavirus – closing the borders down completely with little notice.
The group of strangers is communicating over the messaging platform WhatsApp and has created a spreadsheet to account for each other. According to the spreadsheet, Americans from at least 28 states are trying to figure out a way back home.
The sudden announcement Sunday night sent hundreds of Americans like Dan West and Jonathan Du scrambling to the airport – but it was already too late.
“Everyone was trying to get out of the country. We had less than 24 hours,” Du said in over a video call from Cusco, Peru.
The two friends, one from Minnesota and the other from Colorado, said they were in the country for spring break. When the news broke that the country would be shutting its borders. They said they were at the airport until 2:45 a.m. Monday trying to figure a way to get back before they headed back to their Airbnb.
They have been devising a way to get back to U.S. soil since.
West said the airlines they called were not initially aware of the shutdown and when they showed up to the consulate in Cusco, they were directed to the U.S. Embassy website.
“They’re really just regurgitating what [Peru’s president] is saying,” West said. “They aren’t really giving us any clear answers.”
The WhatsApp group is now coordinating a social media campaign using the hashtag #StuckInPeru – calling on the State Department to charter or help coordinate a flight out of the country.
“There’s definitely a sense of anxiety,” Du said. “When we were at the airport, you could see people breaking down, frantically on their phones. We were up for 24 hours just to get an answer from the airlines and the U.S. Consulate.”
The State Department did not return multiple requests for comment.
There are only 89 confirmed cases of coronavirus in all of Peru. West said they have ample food and water and that essential businesses like supermarkets and pharmacies are remaining open.