Edmonton-area couple among Canadians stranded in South Africa amid lockdown

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Edmonton-area couple among Canadians stranded in South Africa amid lockdown
WATCH ABOVE: A Sherwood Park couple stranded in South Africa is trying to get home. That country just initiated a nation-wide lockdown to help fight the spread of COVID-19. As Nicole Stillger reports, they are asking for help from the Canadian government – Mar 27, 2020

It’s certainly not the end to their months-long trip that Virginia Slater and her husband hoped for.

The Sherwood Park couple is stuck in South Africa, scrambling to get back home.

As of Friday, that country is under a nationwide, three-week lockdown to help fight the spread of COVID-19.

“We should have started home way sooner, but who knew it was going to turn into this?” Slater said.

The pair, who are in South Africa with 11 others, had a ticket home booked for April 5 out of Cape Town, but that airport shut down.

The Slaters then made the trek to Johannesburg.

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“We are told not to be close to people and there are hundreds of people in this airport,” Slater described.

Shortly after they arrived, that airport also closed down.

Now, Slater, her husband and the 11 others in their group are stranded at the airport hotel and told they can’t leave.

“I can’t even imagine having to stay here for 21 days,” she said.

Army and police personnel are patrolling the streets, enforcing the lockdown.

“It’s scary,” Slater said. “We can’t be out on the street and we can’t go back in the airport.

“They said basically they will give us boxed breakfast and a boxed supper, no lunch.”

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The Slaters said they have been in touch with the Canadian embassy in Johannesburg and reached out to the federal government for help.

They received an email Friday from the High Commission of Canada.

“The Government of Canada is in discussion with airlines for a potential assisted commercial departure flight from South Africa,” the email reads in part. “It is expected that the cost of a one-way fare to Canada (most likely Toronto with a connection in Africa or Europe en route) will be approximately $5,000 per person for Canadian citizens (price may be higher for non-Canadian citizens).

“This price is a reflection of the expenses incurred by the airlines due to restrictions put in place by the Government of South Africa as well as higher operating costs due to the current travel environment.”

Canada has established the COVID-19 Emergency Loan Program for Canadians Abroad to provide emergency repayable loans to support Canadian citizens abroad that were scheduled to or that want to depart to Canada, and who have no available source of funds to return home.

The Slaters have been travelling since the beginning of January, visiting a number of places.

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For now, they just want to get home.

“We hope government will do something for us and get us out of here.”

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