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Canadians stranded overseas concerned window to return is closing
VANCOUVER -- As Canadians hunker down in their homes, settling in for the long battle against COVID-19, some are more isolated from their families than others, and are anxiously hoping loved ones stranded overseas can find a way to get back home.
That's the situation for Sechelt, B.C., couple Paul and Onalee Groves, whose daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren are currently stuck in one of the most remote places on the planet.
"It's stressful, to say the least. We're very concerned about their safety and getting them back to Canada," said Onalee in a FaceTime interview with CTV News. "It's just a difficult situation. Trying to remember that the whole world is in this situation."
Jenny Groves, her husband Simon Hocking, and their two children, 12-year-old Finley and nine-year-old Sabine, set out on a six-month around-the-world adventure on New Year's Eve, never imagining a global pandemic would close down borders and airports, trapping them on the Galapagos Islands.
"The longer we wait here, the more we are seeing planes dry up from the mainland back toward home. And more borders are closing. So every day, the news is changing," said Jenny, a teacher on B.C.'s Sunshine Coast.
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Friday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised the government was working on repatriation flights for Canadians, saying the first one would bring people home from Morocco in the coming days.
The Hocking-Groves family has been in touch with the Canadian Embassy in Ecuador and have been told that possible arrangements are being made for a flight from Quito, Ecuador, to Canada for citizens trying to get home.
The problem they face is that Quito is 1,400 kilometres from the Galapagos and they have no way to make that trip since all air travel between the islands and the mainland has been suspended.
For the time being, they are living in a hotel with a small group of people from around the world who also find themselves in the same situation.
"It's been a wonderful sense of community here at our hotel," said Jenny. "There are 10 of us in total from around the world and we're really working to support each with information we hear from our embassies about getting home."
There is no staff left working at the hotel, and the guests have access to the kitchen and pool.
"We've been playing a lot of cards, swimming in the pool, and playing our board game that we made, and some video games of course," said Finley.
At the moment, they can still go to the supermarket to get groceries and supplies, but tighter restrictions on movement are being put into place and they say soon they will only be able to receive deliveries at the hotel.
"We are holding out hope that we will be home soon and that hope is important for us," said Simon. "It is a little bit scary, a little bit alarming, when significant measures are taken such as curfews and lockdowns and closures of all the businesses in town."
He knows similar measures are being taken in Canada, but says he would be a lot more comfortable with the situation, if his family was safe in their own home.