Montrealers stuck abroad amid COVID-19 pandemic desperate to come home

Click to play video: 'Montrealers stuck abroad desperate to come home' Montrealers stuck abroad desperate to come home
WATCH: Imagine being thousands of miles away from home, in a foreign country, while a pandemic spreads across the world at an alarming rate. That's the reality that many Canadians are facing during this COVID-19 crisis. Global's Phil Carpenter spoke to one family that is trying desperately to get their loved ones back on Canadian soil. – Mar 20, 2020

The Canadian government continues to urge Canadians abroad to return home, but many, including seniors, remain stranded in different countries.

Some, like Marc Aoun’s in-laws, have been trying all week to find a flight.

“The biggest concern is that we want to be able to get them back home,” he told Global News.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Trudeau says irregular migrants will be turned away at Canada-U.S. border

The couple left Canada Feb. 24 for their annual vacation and went on a 23-day trip around Australia and French Polynesia aboard the Norowegian Jewel, a cruise ship operated by Norwegian Cruise Lines.

According to Global Affairs Canada, there are 347 Canadians on board.  But according to Aoun, things started to go wrong weeks ago.

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“As of March 7 they have not been able to dock or disembark at any port,” he said.

He said the couple in their 60s and 70s were scheduled to return to Montreal on Sunday but they were planning to end their trip early.  However passengers haven’t been able to get to an airport, because no country has allowed the ship to dock amid COVID-19 fears.

“My in-laws booked one through Vancouver through to Montreal — they’ve paid for it, obviously,” he explained.  “Now we are being told they can’t use [the ticket].”
Click to play video: 'Pandemic creating financial hardship for local businesses' Pandemic creating financial hardship for local businesses
Pandemic creating financial hardship for local businesses – Mar 20, 2020
In a statement to Global News, Norwegian Cruise Lines confirms that the Norwegian Jewel’s cruise was to disembark in Auckland, New Zealand March 20, “but
due to multiple port closures in the area, further modifications were made [to the itinerary].”
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Now, passengers are waiting to see if any country will allow the ship to dock so that passengers can arrange for flights home.

Montrealers in other countries are stranded, too.  Nicolas Petronzio’s parents have been trying to get home from Quito, Ecuador for two weeks now because of the pandemic.

“Their flight was cancelled a few days ago and since then they haven’t been able to find another flight,” Petronzio said.

He pointed out that they can’t get to another airport because the local authorities are restricting travel in the country.  Both he and Auon hope the Canadian government can do something.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Stranded Canadian travellers call on Trudeau for flights home

In a statement, Global Affairs urges “Canadians currently on cruise ships continue to follow up with cruise line officials in order to stay aware of the latest information about docking and departing.

Once the cruise line has made these arrangements, passengers may then be able to explore departure options to return home. For the time being, we ask Canadian travellers aboard a cruise ship to remain patient and to follow the advice from health officials.”

During his daily press briefing Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hinted that help could be on the way.

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“We’re in discussion with Canadian airlines to help Canadians stranded abroad,” Trudeau said.

“We will have more details to share, but the first flight will be picking up Canadians from Morocco this weekend.”

One group of Montrealers who were stranded in Morocco managed to leave and are expected to arrive in Montreal Friday night.  Aoun hopes it won’t be long before his in-laws and their friends are home, too.

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