A SCOTS businessman has raised fresh concerns about the repatriation of UK citizens stranded abroad through the coronavirus epidemic as he has been forced to organise his own rescue flights.

He is one of an estimated 100 British nationals who remain trapped in Peru a week after a flight bringing nationals from the country landed in London with 170 on board.

And 49-year-old Gordon Livingstone has revealed he has been forced to charter his own planes to help 26 stuck in the north east Peru city of Iquitos access a flight from the capital Lima back to London. But he said it had to be cancelled because the flight to the onward to the UK, organised by Hong Kong on Friday is set at an incredible price of £2900-a-head.

The government rescue flight prioritised those that were "most at risk" from the effects of coronavirus - namely elderly people and those with underlying health conditions.

But Mr Livingstone from Motherwell said that he and others had "given up on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office coming for us" and am "trying to make things happen ourselves", adding that the Peru lockdown, which meant it had closed its borders, came without warning.


Mr Livingstone said it was going to cost $17000 to charter two 19 seat planes to get to Lima for 26 people costing each over €600 each and were prepared to pay it but had to cancel when they quoted the price of the flight to London.

"We got all the way to chartering two 19-seat planes but the flight out is Hong Kong organised and they want £2900 per person. We asked FCO if they’d subsidise £50k to bring it to about £1000 each, FCO said no. So we had to abandon the charters," he said.

"We are now looking to other governments to help. The Dutch may have flight on 9th April so we’re seeing if we can get on that to Amsterdam."

The further concerns surfaced as data emerging five days ago showed that the German government was chartering 30 times more rescue flights than the UK and was flying home more than 40,000 travellers from across the world.

The German embassy in London revealed it had now repatriated 42,000 German nationals from 60 countries on 160 charter flights over the previous two weeks.

The UK had in contrast rescued just 1,400 British nationals from Wuhan and Peru on charter flights, including passengers on two British Airways planes that landed at Gatwick airport last Tuesday.

It has been estimated that 300,000 Britons are stranded around the world as countries closed borders and grounded commercial flights in an effort to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

Around 40 British citizens are located in the Peruvian jungle town of Iquitos, a gateway to tribal villages of the northern Amazon and inaccessible by road. Following the cancellation of two proposed rescue flights to Lima, the group remains stranded, along with several hundred tourists of other nationalities.


Getting to Lima, 630 miles away from where the group are would involve a two hour flight and Mr Livingstone said he was negotiating the chartering of a plane.

"Only three are interested if it is to connect with a £2,900 flight," he said. "And just heard that there have been people at a clinic three blocks from us tested positive. It is a worrying time."

One flight organised by the German government has left Iquitos for Chile and on to Frankfurt with two Irish nationals and about five of 40 British people on board, he said.

"We got an email last night from FCO about a flight to Hong Kong that stops in London, but you have to get to Lima (which we can’t) and they’re charging £2900," said Mr Livingstone, who US and UK business start-up consultant currently "trapped" at an Airbnb in Iquitos with an Irish and Dutch woman for more than two weeks.

"We were told that we’d have to hire / charter a plane ourselves to Lima, not sure why FCO think we can do that when they haven’t themselves.

"The lack of information from embassy and FCO is what is upsetting most people. They are not telling us of any plans they have for us. "

A group of British travellers who remained "imprisoned" in Cusco and have also spent over two weeks registered their disgust on a website they set up called "Stuck in Peru".

While over 1000 British travellers were successfully repatriated, the group of 40 say they have decreasing hopes of being rescued.

"The UK Government announced that the Lima to London flight on March 30, was the 'last planned UK flight' out of the region and that travellers should 'make all efforts to turn up to the airport if you wish to leave the country'. However, for many this was impossible," the group said.

The travellers are in addition to the nine Brits and one Irish placed under strict lockdown after two other tourists staying at the Pariwana Hostel in Cusco, tested positive for Covid-19 last week; the hostel has been subjected to strict quarantine measures for at least 28 days. They say guests must stay in their rooms for 23 hours a day and face prison sentences if the rules are broken.


Mr Livingstone said: "There was mention earlier in the week about a flight to Canada via Lima which was [supposedly] authorised for all British to be on. Someone staying with me is Canadian and says he is scheduled to fly Saturday. However FCO have gone quiet about this fight.

"So it’s a long tunnel with currently no light at the end.

""People were still traveling all over the world when Peru closed its borders. There was no warning or notice, we heard after they had closed it.

"I arrived in Lima on 10th March and it was a normal city, went for a business dinner on 11th and it was bustling nightlife. By the 13th I flew to Iquitos and everything was normal, full flight, no Covid in Peru. By the 16th it was lockdown, no warning.

"The Foreign and Commonwealth Office have repatriated UK citizens from Lima and Cusco. However, those in Iquitos and some other cities have been left, we are trapped as we cannot get to Lima due to the lockdown.

"Flights have been arranged by European countries to bring different nationalities from Iquitos to Lima, but the Peruvian government keeps cancelling these as they are concerned about many nationalities arriving in Lima without onward connections out of Peru.


"We heard that they may allow this under strict rules, with embassies and Peruvian military meeting us in Lima and escorting us to a hotel in Lima designated for foreign citizens, until the different countries can arrange repatriation flights.

"But we await to hear if this is true. Much of the information we receive is from WhatsApp groups, Facebook or Twitter, and has to be verified first with the consul or embassy.

"We are asking FCO to get us home. We see in the news about the British ambassador to Peru talking about the citizens they have brought home, but this was only the low hanging fruit in Lima and Cusco, and possibly some easier-to-access cities.

"The biggest concern currently is contracting the virus, without access to medical care we have in the UK, and also then being prohibited from any repatriation flights. There is a hostel in Cusco with British citizens where someone contracted the virus - the British there don’t have it but are now on military lockdown and cannot leave."

Dustin Chen, 48, from London is stuck in a remote Amazon lodge – and is running out of medication.

“I need to get a ground transfer permit to leave my location, where it is difficult to get prescribed medicine. The embassy told me to stay safe and wait, but since then no reply, even after making contact almost every day. My guide told me that a few days ago a bus passed by my lodge carrying two British tourists (with transport permits) but no one tried to arrange to pick me up. I really need to get to Lima to access medicine.”

An FCO spokesman said: "We recognise British tourists abroad are finding it difficult to return to the UK because of the unprecedented international travel and domestic restrictions that are being introduced around the world – often with very little or no notice.

“The government has partnered with a number of airlines who have committed to work together to get Brits back to the UK and up to £75 million has been made available for charter flights were commercial options are no longer available. We’ll continue working around the clock to bring people home.”

Shops across Scotland are closing. Newspaper sales are falling. But we’ve chosen to keep our coverage of the coronavirus crisis free because it’s so important for the people of Scotland to stay informed during this difficult time.

However, producing The Herald's unrivalled analysis, insight and opinion on a daily basis still costs money, and we need your support to sustain our trusted, quality journalism.

To help us get through this, we’re asking readers to take a digital subscription to The Herald. You can sign up now for just £2 for two months.

If you choose to sign up, we’ll offer a faster loading, advert-light experience – and deliver a digital version of the print product to your device every day.

Click here to help The Herald

Thank you, and stay safe.