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Halifax trio left stranded in Peru after coronavirus travel restrictions enforced

Three friends from Halifax, HRM firefighters Jordan Taggart and Ian Melanson and businessman Neil Andreino, are currently in quarantine in the Peruvian city of Arequipa, while their families are trying to come up with a way to ease their return home once the country's travel ban is lifted.
Three friends from Halifax, HRM firefighters Jordan Taggart and Ian Melanson and businessman Neil Andreino, are currently in quarantine in the Peruvian city of Arequipa, while their families are trying to come up with a way to ease their return home once the country's travel ban is lifted. - Contributed


With her adult son in lockdown in a city in southern Peru, Carla Chapman is understandably anxious.

The Dartmouth daycare operator has spent the last few days tracking the progress of her son, Halifax firefighter Jordan Taggart, and his friends Ian Melanson and Neil Andreino, as they've tried unsuccessfully to get out of South America and return home to Nova Scotia. They flew to Peru two weeks ago, but weren’t prepared for conditions to worsen so quickly as government authorities began closing borders and restricting travel.

Currently, the three longtime friends are sequestered in a hotel in the historic city of Arequipa, not far from Peru’s famous Lake Titicaca and the border with Bolivia. They tried to cut their trip to the Andes and the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu short by catching an early flight home out of the mountain city of Cuzco, but concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus led to a rapid government shutdown of the airport and other means of transportation on Monday.

“The airport in Cuzco actually went into shutdown while they were there, I assume because it was so chaotic,” said Chapman by phone on Tuesday. “Then they decided to try and catch a bus to Lima, but when they got to the station the busses were full and they were also told the busses would stop running at midnight.”

On Monday, Taggart and Melanson, who is also a Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency firefighter, and Andreino, a Halifax businessman, were able to rent a car, and opted to head south to Arequipa, a safer drive than the mountain route to Lima.

“At this point, I was starting to get really worried, hearing that they were renting a car and driving across Peru, I can only imagine what the conditions would be on the roads,” said Chapman. She then learned via Facebook that the trio became a septet when they met up with four men from Ontario, including coincidentally the son of a friend of a friend.

“I texted Jordan and asked him if he’d met up with these guys from Ontario, including this guy Curtis, and I got a message back saying they’d met and decided to take two cars and stick together.

“Around two o’clock this morning I got a message saying that they’d arrived in Arequipa, and that the four guys from Ontario were going to a hostel and Jordan and his friends were going to a hotel, in case they wound up in quarantine.”

Since Monday, Chapman has been in touch with her MP, Darren Fisher, and her MLA Tim Halman, who also knew the three men when he taught them at Prince Andrew High School, trying to find out what could be done to speed their return to Canada. The men’s attempt to contact the Canadian consulate in Lima was not successful as the office has been shut down, and their families are waiting to hear back from Global Affairs Canada with any news.

She said the group feels safe where they are, and aren’t allowed to leave the hotel, although they still have the rental cars they hope will get them to an airport when the quarantine is lifted.

“They just have to hunker down for the wait now, but I don’t think it’s going to be a short one,” said Chapman, who’s heard it will be at least two weeks before things change.

“I’m happy if they can stay safe there and get out when the travel ban is lifted, but I’m assuming it’ll be absolute chaos with other delays when that happens. And also, 15 days is what we’re being told, but who knows when this will all end?”

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