Okanagan, B.C. residents struggle to return to Canada amid outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic

As the federal government advises Canadians abroad think about returning to this country as soon as possible, some Okanagan residents have been able to get back while others have found themselves stranded.

Global News spoke with two valley residents who took off last week before Canada’s global advisory against non-essential travel was issued and struggled to get home.

It’s a terrifying but realistic situation that another Okanagan man is now facing.

After traveling to the island of Panglao in the Philippines last week, Oliver Chapman said local travel restrictions mean he’s essentially stuck there.

“It is a bit of a ghost town in this part of the Philippines,” he said.

Chapman described being one of only about a dozen guests in a complex built for hundreds.

“I’m a little frustrated because basically it is supposed to be just a quick two-and-a-half-week trip and it is turning into an almost two-month trip. Nobody really knows what’s going on,” Chapman said.

The Coldstream man said that if he had know his return flight to Manila would be cancelled he wouldn’t have have left Canada.

He said he’s been told the earliest he might get a flight off the island is now mid-April, but even that might not go ahead, and he is facing escalating costs.

The federal government has said it will provide emergency loans of up to $5,000 to Canadians abroad.

“It will help people who need immediate financial assistance return home or cover their needs if they have to wait to get back,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a Tuesday press conference.

Global Affairs Canada said Canadians who need emergency consular assistance should call their 24/7 call centre at 1-613-996-8885 or email [email protected].

However, it noted it’s getting a “high volume of requests” and is “working as fast as possible to respond to Canadians.”

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