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San Diegans stranded in Peru amid coronavirus outbreak

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Posted at 3:54 PM, Mar 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-23 20:56:25-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — A number of San Diegans who were abroad in Peru are now stranded there amid the coronavirus outbreak.

On March 15, as the disease spread, the Peruvian government declared a 15-day national quarantine, eliminating travel out of the country.

The U.S. government has taken the first 600 American tourists out of Peru, but the San Diegans who are still there say they still don't have concrete information on when it will be their turn.

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They say the during the quarantine's first week their calls went largely unanswered, although it appears things are picking up.

"It's been a bit of an emotional roller coaster but right now it's seeming that there's light at the end of the tunnel knowing that the State Department is working on repatriation flights, so I'm feeling hopeful right now," said Dr. Rupa Prasad, an anesthesiology resident at U.C. San Diego health.

Prasad has been in Peru since March 8 for a capacity building medical mission with Dr. Reema Sanghvi, a U.C. San Diego anesthesiologist on the faculty. Sanghvi says the Peruvian citizens have treated them with a lot of respect and hospitality, but they want to get home to help their colleagues at a critical time.

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"Many of them are suffering with their children home, and so they are unable to come to work, and the ones who are able to come to work are exhausted," Sanghvi said.

Andrew Palm, 25, has been living in Lima since December, where he enrolled in a Spanish language immersion program. He says the restrictions are tight, and that military officers will question people on the street who aren't wearing a mask or carrying grocery bags, the only acceptable ways to go outside.

"The reason I want to come back home is because I don't know how bad this is going to get," said Palm, whose family lives in Rancho Bernardo.

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A spokesman for the State Department says the department is working around the clock to assist American citizens overseas. He said those abroad should enroll in its smart traveler program for important updates, at step.state.gov.

A State Department update on Monday said the Peruvian government has limited repatriation flights to the U.S. to those only arranged by the U.S. government and that citizens should beware of scams.