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Government announces £75m flights to get Britons back home

PUBLISHED: 17:55 30 March 2020 | UPDATED: 18:12 30 March 2020

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab. Pic: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab. Pic: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

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The government is to ready to spend £75m to charter flights and get people stranded abroad during the coronavirus pandemic back home.

This newspaper has reported on a number of cases where travellers had been stranded overseas, including a couple from Brooke stranded on a cruise ship and a Norwich woman stuck in India.

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab said “tens of thousands” of stranded British travellers would be flown home under a new partnership between the government and airlines.

Speaking at the Downing Street press conference, he said: “I can today announce a new arrangement between the government and airlines to fly home tens of thousands of stranded British travellers, where commercial flights are no longer possible.

“Partner airlines include British Airways, Virgin, easyJet, Jet2 and Titan and this list can be expanded.

“Under the arrangements that we are putting in place we will target flights from a range of priority countries, starting this week.”

Mr Raab said airlines would be responsible for getting passengers home where commercial routes remain an option.

He said: “That means offering alternative flights at little to no cost where routes have been cancelled, and it means allowing passengers to change tickets - including between carriers.

“So for those still in those countries where commercial options are still available: don’t wait. Don’t run the risk of getting stranded. The airlines are standing by to help you - please book your tickets as soon as possible.

“We have designated £75m to support those flights and the airlines in order to keep the costs down and affordable for those seeking to return to the UK.”

Mr Raab said priority would be given to the most vulnerable - including the elderly or those with pressing medical needs - and also to countries where there are large numbers of British tourists trying to return to the UK.

The UK government has already repatriated British passengers who were trapped in Peru.

Mr Raab said he had spoken to more than 20 of his counterparts around the world about getting people home.

Since the outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan, the Foreign Office has helped to bring home almost 1,400 people on specially chartered government flights from China and Peru and 1,900 people on cruise ships from places including California, Brazil and Japan.

In the past week, the Foreign Office has helped more than 4,000 people to get back from Jamaica and more than 8,500 people to get back from Morocco.

Around 5,000 Britons successfully left Bali after the British team in Indonesia worked with their counterparts to unblock a visa permissions issue.

Two repatriation flights carrying British passengers from Peru landed at Heathrow Airport on Monday morning.

The repatriation flights were arranged by the Foreign Office in partnership with British Airways to rescue more than 1,000 stranded Britons.

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