Up to 800,000 Aussies stranded overseas as virus spreads
Up to 800,000 Australians are still overseas as coronavirus deaths surge and countries lockdown to slow its spread.
While there is usually an average of one million Australians travelling and working overseas "during usual circumstances", the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed 200,000 Australian citizens and permanent residents returned to home soil after the federal government's advice to do so on March 17.
"It is difficult to estimate the exact number of Australians seeking to return home," a DFAT spokesman said.
Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said it would not be "possible to bring everybody home - and of course not everybody wants to come home".
"Many are prepared to stay in places they've lived for a long time. But in very, very remote areas it is certainly difficult," she told the ABC.
DFAT has received more than 18,500 requests for assistance from Australians stranded overseas since March 13.
Many have made public pleas for help, including Australians in India, Peru, China and on 10 cruise ships with more than 600 on board.
News Corp Australia journalist Anthony Keane is one of several Australians who have spent the past week stuck in Nepal, with flights cancelled, airports shutting down and no way to return home.
"It seems every second group of people we meet here are Aussies with similar worries," he wrote in News Corp Australia publications last week.
"We know we're not the only Australians abroad wanting to get back to our children and other loved ones who are also dealing with big problems at home."
Labor Foreign Affairs spokesman Senator Penny Wong has been fielding requests for help from many Australians stranded overseas.
Senator Wong said delays to bring Aussies home was putting lives at risk.
"Other countries have recognised this is the situation faced by their citizens, which is why other countries have acted with urgency to get their citizens to safety," she said.
"Germany has arranged at least 70 flights, the UK is partnering with its airlines to bring stranded Britons home. Many others have done the same.
"Australia has two airlines with capacity to help. We should be enlisting them in the national effort to keep Australians safe at home and overseas."
Below is a list of where some Australians are stuck abroad.
AUSTRALIANS ABROAD: WHERE THEY ARE SNAPSHOT
About 100 Australians are stranded on a cruise ship anchored off Montevideo in Uruguay.
After a trip to Antarctica, local authorities are not allowing the Greg Mortimer to dock.
Coffs Harbour woman Christine Lefeaux Waites told the ABC "six people with mild flu symptoms" had recently returned negative results for the coronavirus and passengers had been isolated in their cabins since March 22.
Passengers had hoped to join about 130 other Australians from the Ocean Atlantic, a separate cruise ship, on a special charter flight to Sydney on Thursday.
Passengers have instead been told they would need to wait until 14 days after the last person aboard has experienced fever.
A man in his late 60s aboard the Greg Mortimer was taken to shore in Montevideo to go into isolation on Tuesday.
My Uncle & Aunty have been stuck on an expedition ship off Uruguay coming up to 2 weeks now.There are no cases of Coronavirus on board. A flight back to Sydney for the 134 Australian passengers was finally organised for this week, at a cost of over AUD$5k each.— Traci Wood (@Cheeki_Gurl69) March 30, 2020
Senator Payne said it was difficult for people on-board ships with flu-like symptoms given international concern about coronavirus.
"We've been working closely with authorities to ensure we are able to support those passengers when they are able to leave the ship," she said.
"But, like in Australia, there are different quarantine restrictions being imposed around the world, and different requirements for isolation."
The Australian Government has announced it is working to bring home Australians stuck on land in Peru and other parts of South America.
The government is trying to facilitate internal travel for Australians who are in remote and isolated parts of Peru to come to Lima and Cusco, so they are able to access rescue flights.
About 160 Australians are believed to still be in the country.
Senator Payne said she was "continuing to work with Qantas on further flights to assist Australians who are still there, and also just trying to facilitate internal travel for Australians who are in more remote and isolated parts of Peru to come to the city centres - to come into Lima, to Cusco, so they are able to access those flights."
"I expect to have more information from my department and from Qantas on those in coming days," she said.
On Tuesday, 292 Australian citizens and permanent residents landed in Sydney from Peru on a commercial charter flight organised by the tour company Chimu Adventures with Australian government assistance.
All passengers tested negative for the coronavirus prior to leaving and are undergoing two weeks quarantine in Sydney.
Those who missed out on returning home on this flight included Australians who could not afford the $5000 ticket and several New Zealand citizens, with the Australian Government not allowing them transit through Australia to get home.
Some of the 100 Australians on the coronavirus-stricken ship, the Zaandam, which is currently near the Cayman Islands, have been moved to sister ship Rotterdam.
Four people died on-board the Zaandam, and two have tested positive for the coronavirus and close to 200 others reported flu-like symptoms.
The only passengers moved to the other ship at the weekend were asymptomatic.
Since then, both ships have moved through the Panama Canal and are now heading towards Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where they were expected to arrive on Wednesday.
Senator Payne said: "We're working with officials there to seek support for them to be allowed to disembark and to take flights home. That includes local government officials and, of course, making representations direct to US authorities - we're making those representations both here in Australia and in the United States."
There are hundreds of Australians stranded in India, with the country locking down due to the coronavirus.
The country is home to 1.3 billion people and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has heavily restricted travel to slow its spread.
India has a relatively low number of COVID-19 cases, with about 1500 confirmed infections and 50 deaths as reported by local media.
However, there are widespread concerns the true number of infections could be significantly higher because testing is not widespread.
The Australians Stuck in India Facebook group currently has 556 members.
According to authorities, about 17,000 tourists are stuck in Sri Lanka while tens of thousands of travellers and expatriates are in India.
The total number of stranded tourists in Bali is not known, but more than 169,000 travellers went to Bali in March, according to government data.
The data showed some 2,500 travellers had extended their visas to avoid penalties for overstaying before Indonesia's government granted all tourists automatic extensions last week.
Almost 600 Australian citizens and permanent residents have registered with the embassy as still being in Nepal, including Tobias Ten Wolde, 35, and his girlfriend Karissa who had been travelling for almost a year before their trip derailed in Pokhara.
The Australian government has helped arrange two evacuation flights - almost 600 seats - from Kathmandu on Monday and likely Wednesday.
But with tickets costing up to $A3700, Mr Ten Wolde and his girlfriend said they would not be on board.
"Normally, the fares back to Australia from Kathmandu range between $400 and $500 so it's 10 times the price they're asking us to pay which is totally outrageous," Mr Ten Wolde told AAP on Saturday.
"We are gutted. We have that money but then we will struggle back home with not a cent to spare. This is not a valid option for us."
Australia's embassy in Nepal wrote on Facebook explaining the exorbitant ticket prices were due to the fact the planes would arrive empty, and would return empty from Sydney to Qatar. The post has since been altered to remove this part.
If you or a loved one is stuck abroad, feel free to get in touch with national reporter Louise Starkey here.
Originally published as Up to 800,000 Aussies stranded overseas as virus spreads