Canadians stranded in South Africa because of COVID-19 await answers

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Canadians stranded in South Africa due to a lockdown imposed to limit the spread of the new coronavirus are waiting to hear from the Canadian government when they can return home.

“The biggest thing is just this panic and not knowing,” said Tiffany Woodfield of Cape Town.

“You are trying to be strong for your family at home, you are trying to be strong for children,” she added.

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Tiffany and John Woodfield of Kelowna, British Columbia, were on a family trip with their 8-year-old twin sons when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Canadians to return home.

They tried to book their flights, but later that week, the South African government imposed a 21-day lockout, preventing all flights from entering or leaving the country.

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They were effectively trapped in the country.

The Woodfields continued to try to leave and, on several occasions, spent four hours on hold with Air Canada, only to drop the call.

“It was like [the film] Groundhog Day, “said Tiffany.

“Every day you get up, check the airlines, check everything … and then suddenly it shows it’s canceled. “

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Paul Hoy, of Bowmanville, Ontario, described similar circumstances. He is in South Africa on a modeling contract.

As soon as he heard Trudeau’s announcement, he contacted the Canadian High Commission in South Africa. Almost a week later, he learned that the federal government was trying to arrange a return flight and that a ticket could cost CAN $ 5,000.

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He has since been told that a flight likely departing between April 8 and April 10 would cost $ 3,000 – but that it would only take him to Heathrow Airport in the United Kingdom.

“We are responsible for our own tickets from London to Canada,” he said, “so it could end up exceeding $ 5,000.”

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Pat McAllister, also of Kelowna, told Global News that in addition to not knowing how to get back from London, he was not told how to get to the airport. He said the high commission had told him that he and his wife could board a flight to Johannesburg or Cape Town.

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McAllister is currently in Durban, approximately six hundred kilometers from Johannesburg. He said his best hope is to rent a car and drive, “but there are a lot of roadblocks and I’m not really looking forward to it.” He said he hoped the government could arrange a flight from Durban.

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Steven Brink, a native of South Africa but now living in Kelowna, is yet another stuck Canadian wondering how to get home.

Brink, his wife, and their two young children were visiting his parents when the lockout took effect. He said they were all staying in their retirement home and that he was even worried about going for food, in case he got COVID-19 and put his parents in danger.










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He is also concerned about the cost of returning home, even though prices are reduced to $ 3,000 per person.

“It will be a very expensive exercise for me to go home,” he said in Johannesburg, adding that he would need a loan to be able to pay for his family’s return.

“On top of that, I was temporarily laid off, so it’s not like I can make this money in the near future. “

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But Brink has at least heard more than the Woodfields.

They weren’t told anything about a robbery and when – or if – they and their children can return to Kelowna. It was only after speaking to Global News that they learned that other Canadians had been informed of the flight’s departure next week.

“We feel isolated,” said Tiffany.

“We had registered [with the federal government as Canadians abroad], so I don’t know why we missed it, “said John.

The federal government, in statements to Global News, said it was still working with the South African government and airlines to book a commercial flight.










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He did not explain why some Canadians heard and others did not, but mentioned that flights have returned from several other countries in recent days.

Global News has learned that there are more than 2,200 Canadians registered in South Africa and that on Friday there were just under 2,000.

The government has not specified why the number changes when there is a lock in place.

Registration as a Canadian abroad is a voluntary process.

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© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.



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