US Tourists Are Stranded, Desperate Amid Pandemic

Americans say they feel abandoned by the US State Department
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 21, 2020 5:00 PM CDT
US Tourists Are Stranded, Desperate Amid Pandemic
In a photo provided by Linda Scruggs and Mike Rustici, Linda Scruggs and Mike Rustici pose for a photo at salt mines outside Sacred Valley on March 15, 2020, in Peru, just before the Peruvian president announced the country was going under lockdown.   (Linda Scruggs and Mike Rustici via AP)

Linda Scruggs and Mike Rustici trained for months to hike the winding trails leading to Machu Picchu's complex of Inca ruins. So they were thrilled when their flight landed earlier this month in the Peruvian capital. They did part of their trek but wound up trapped in a Lima hotel room for days, not knowing how or when they would get back to the US—like thousands of tourists and people living abroad as nations closed borders to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the AP reports. Scruggs texted Saturday that they were finally boarding a chartered flight from Lima back to the US, but their plight illustrates the desperation people stuck abroad experienced as the COVID-19 pandemic spread. Peru's president, for example, has already declared an emergency.

The virus has caused more than 11,000 deaths around the world, but the figure goes up every day and Americans abroad said they feel abandoned by the State Department. They said embassies did not initially help them or return their phone calls and emails and that they were finally told to check embassy websites for updates and try to charter flights out of the countries on their own. While Scruffs and Rustici got out, other tourists remain stuck, and some are running low on blood pressure pills and other medication. Catherine Ferguson, a 77-year-old Nebraska resident stuck in Morocco with her husband and 10 other Americans, said Nebraska officials have been in touch and are trying to help. But the clock is ticking. "We really don't want to be here when things get worse in Morocco," Ferguson said.

(More coronavirus stories.)

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