UP to a million Brits are stuck abroad during the coronavirus outbreak according to the Foreign Secretary.
Dominic Raab revealed the “massive scale” of the operation to ensure that all Brits stuck abroad are able to get home or the help they need.
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He said there were around “close to a million” Brits abroad and that global consular networks were working hard to help those stuck and provide as much information as possible.
He said "hundreds of thousands" of Brits are still in Spain, but that significant numbers were stuck in far flung nations including Peru and Vietnam.
Speaking to the Foreign Affairs he said: “Getting hundreds of thousands home is a massive epic challenge but I'm confident we are rising to it.”
“We have anywhere between 300,000 to 400,000 to closer to a million British citizens travelling abroad.
“We don’t know for sure, we don’t keep a register of Brits travelling abroad, but that is massive scale.
“We also need to be realistic, that if anyone is travelling out now, given the change of advice or indeed if they can stay safely in the countries where they are for a period – that is a choice they are going to have to think about.”
He said that consular service has worked “extremely well” under extreme pressure and revealed that a call centre in Malaga, Spain took 28,000 calls on Wednesday alone.
Globally he believed that consular staff had taken “almost certainly hundreds of thousands of calls.”
He explained that in places like Spain there are “clear commercial routes” to get out of the country, and had spoken to the Spanish government that Brits are “not kicked out of hotels” when they enforce a closure next Tuesday.
It comes as…
- The UK’s death toll hit 108 with more than 2,000 cases
- London’s Tube and train shutdown is expected to start this morning
- Schools will be closed across the UK from Friday and exams have been cancelled
- Thugs smashed the doors of a London Sainsbury’s amid panic buying
The Foreign Secretary was quizzed about the 400 Brits in total lockdown in the South American nation of Peru – which has restricted all movements.
Brits stranded have complained that consular assistance has been minimal but Mr Raab said embassy staff were still working but from home.
He was also asked about the airline Avianca who have been accused of profiting from the those stranded – offering repatriation flight arranged by the FCO, but it'll cost them at least £3000.
The same airline recently cancelled scheduled flights to London from Lima where tickets were as low as £270.
Mr Raab said he wasn’t aware of profiteering, but said: "We are very closely engaged on the Peruvian issue given the numbers who have raised the issue.
“We are striving to get the airlines in so we can get them out.”
On other far-flung destinations he added: "We are striving every sinew relatively inaccessible or less travelled routes, we are doing everything we can."
He also reiterated advice on Brits with health conditions avoiding Cruise ships, where there are still “lot of Brits” on holiday across the world, but said he expected that the 600 citizens on the Braemar, docked in Cuba, would be “back today”.
The FCO have also said they are they're hoping to fly people home from Australia and New Zealand shortly following their ban on flights
Earlier this week, Mr Raab took the unprecedented measure to advise against all foreign “non-essential” travel – the first time the FCO had issued the global guidance since it started the advice service in 1990.
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