To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, with reference to his oral statement of 17 March 2020, what steps he is taking to ensure consular staff in (a) Peru and (b) other nations have the capacity to support UK citizens who wish to return to the UK; and if he will make a statement.
Due to a State of National Emergency announced on 16 March, and subsequent strict travel restrictions, members of our Embassy in Lima are working remotely. We are working round the clock to make flights available this week for British people who wish to leave Peru but who are currently unable to do so. The first flight landed at Heathrow on Thursday 26 March. carrying 192 passengers of which 172 were high priority, vulnerable cases. We have chartered a further three British Airways flights to help hundreds more British tourists in Peru return to the UK in the week of 30 March. Additionally we have chartered domestic flights from Cusco and Arequipa to Lima so that UK nationals can transfer to the London-bound flights.
Like other organisations, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will be affected if large numbers of staff become infected with covid-19. The same will be true of our overseas network. In that context, we are reprioritising activities and reassigning staff to make sure that we can continue to lead a global response to Covid-19 and deal with other urgent matters as they arise. The UK is in regular contact with governments, local authorities, commercial airlines and other diplomatic missions to enable British people to get home. International cooperation is more important than ever. Our consular team is working around the clock to provide support, advice and information. The situation is fast moving, and our advice at this time is for British nationals to secure safe accommodation and to speak to their tour operator, airline and insurance company to discuss the options available to them.