GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - JP Simpson and his wife, Samantha, departed for Lima, Peru on March 12 for a planned double birthday getaway. Now, the Gulfport natives are stuck in the country amid President Martin Vizcarra’s 15-day nationwide state of emergency and border closure, unsure of when they will be able to return home.
“We’re stuck. The airports are closed. You could potentially take a bus but this is the rainy season and it’s 20 to 30 hours through one of the most treacherous mountain passes,” Simpson said.
JP said the celebratory trip had been planned for more than a year and they had been monitoring coronavirus activity in the country before their departure. He said the quarantine caught them by surprise.
“We have been watching the Peruvian news diligently. Before we ever left there were only 70 cases or less, no deaths. They were on level one, which means no border closures. We had checked the Machu Picchu website, all of their government websites. Everything was set to be open and no problems whatsoever,” Simpson said.
After the lockdown was announced, the couple scrambled to find a flight before the 24-hour deadline to get out of the country was up. They were successful in booking a flight, but unfortunately, they did not make it out.
“We booked it after the fact of the announcement so we thought somehow these planes are still going out, and they took our money and weren’t able to get the flights. They were all canceled. There’s no flights coming in or out except for the ones that other governments have already lined up," he said.
Simpson said other foreign governments have been more responsive in getting citizens back home. Yesterday, Israel’s Foreign Ministry announced a passenger jet was being sent to Peru to begin evacuating stranded Israelis who were traveling in the country when the borders were closed. Simpson said he hopes the U.S. responds sooner rather than later.
“I respectfully beg them to help us. I understand that the situation is overwhelming and overbearing and we are not the only people stuck, but they at least have to start helping some people,” he said.
JP said the couple were lucky to find a hotel in Cusco offering discounts to those displaced by the lockdown. They are among hundreds who are stranded in the South American country.