‘You can’t go anywhere’: Canadians stuck in South Africa look for way out

“As a Canadian, you can’t go anywhere right now, you’re stuck,” says Montrealer Natacha Carpentier, who is stranded in South Africa after a humanitarian trip, unable to get home because there aren’t direct flights. Alyssia Rubertucci has the story.

By Alyssia Rubertucci

A group of Montrealers out on a humanitarian trip in South Africa remain stranded, unable to get home, as a travel ban for countries continues.

“As a Canadian, you can’t go anywhere right now,” Peter Pfefferle told CityNews. “You’re stuck.”

“You don’t know what’s going on. Nobody can give you the right information.”

What started out as a humanitarian trip for Montrealers Peter Pfefferle and Natacha Carpentier in South Africa is ending with uncertainty of when they’ll get home.

Canada, along with other countries have instituted travel bans from some African countries due to the Omicron variant.

It’s making it hard for Canadians to get on a flight out of there.

The pair are part of a group of four. Two of the people in the group are able to leave because they have American passports, but Pfefferle and Carpentier are unable to leave.

“I’m going to fly with my American passport through the United States on Saturday, but Peter and Natacha still don’t know and I don’t really want to leave South Africa with them still here because they came to support our foundation and we want to make sure they get home safe,” Kimmy Chedel, found of Team Frank Africa said.

Kimmy Chedel and her children founded Team Frank Africa to honour their husband and father, Frank Doyle, who died in the twin towers collapse at the world trade centre on 9/11.

They’ve been building schools in South Africa over the last few years, and this trip, with the help of volunteers like Peter and Natacha, they broke ground on the build of their fifth school.

An unforgettable experience they say, but the Omicron variant keeping them from a smooth return to Montreal.

As there aren’t direct flights from South Africa to Canada and other countries’ airlines are only repatriating their own citizens.

In a statement to CityNews, Global Affairs Canada said there are Canadians abroad, but wouldn’t go into detail:

Canada is prioritizing the health and safety of all Canadians by continuing to take a risk-based and measured approach to re-opening the border. As part of our effort to keep Canadians safe from COVID-19 and its variants, the Government of Canada’s emergency border measures have been effective in reducing the importation and transmission of COVID-19 into Canada. Like every other element of the Government’s COVID-19 response, border measures are based on available data, scientific evidence and the monitoring of the virus both in Canada and internationally. As the evidence changes, we will adjust our measures appropriately.
The Government of Canada publishes travel advice that takes into account safety conditions abroad to help travelers make informed decisions about their travel destinations. The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the individual. All travelers are strongly advised to follow Canada’s official travel advice. Further information on travel advice and advisories can be found on the Global Affairs Canada website.
Canada’s border measures are in place to limit the spread of COVID-19. Other travel restrictions may be imposed suddenly. Airlines may suspend or reduce flights without notice. Travel plans may be severely disrupted, making it difficult to return home.
We can confirm that we are receiving reports of Canadians abroad affected by these new measures. Due to privacy considerations, no further details can be provided. 

“I’m also a German citizen [and] I might be able to bring her as a spouse and might be able to transfer through Frankfurt or Munich,” said Pfefferle.

“The problem is now all the flights are overbooked. Waiting lists and the tickets are expensive as well.”

“We have no information from the government,” said Natacha Carpentier, volunteering with the group.

“We put our names in the Canadian consulate. We don’t know what’s happening, so were trying to go through the German government to see if we can get back and that’s sad because as a Canadian, you can’t go anywhere right now. You’re stuck.”

“I know several other Canadians who are stuck here right now and everyone’s scared because were hearing nothing. Americans have a way home, most European countries, everyone has a way home and Canada — there’s been no information and no plan yet,” said Zoe Doyle, with the group

Regardless of when Peter and Natacha will be home, they’ll be subject to arrival testing, a 14-day quarantine and testing again on day eight of return.

But until then, its a waiting game.

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