'Tremendous relief' as Hamilton travellers make it home after trips to Spain, Peru

Hamilton families return home after being temporarily locked down abroad due to COVID-19.

'It was a very stressful time,' says Hamiltonian who returned from Peru

Stephen Crosbie and his family were among the many Canadians scrambling after their vacation plans disintegrated due to the COVID-19 viurs. (Supplied by Catherine Sellens)

Stephen Crosbie and his family feel "extremely lucky" to be back home in Hamilton after nearly 10 days of uncertainty amid a COVID-19 lockdown in Peru. 

Several hours prior to Crosbie's return, Gordon Morrow and his wife also made it home after being stuck in Spain. 

These Hamilton residents are only a handful of more than one million Canadians who returned back home in the last week after being stranded abroad. More are on their way as airlines continue to pick-up citizens whose travel plans got derailed due to COVID-19. On Wednesday, the federal government said that all travellers returning to the country, aside from those considered "essential workers," will enter a mandatory 14-day quarantine period

"It was a tremendous relief," Crosbie said of the moment he sat on the plane with his family. "As the plane went down the runway and the wheels left the ground, it may have been me, but a round of applause was started and was joined in by everybody on the plane. Everybody was just so glad to be going home." 

Crosbie's wife, Catherine Sellens, is an emergency department physician at Hamilton Health Sciences. Crosbie said Sellens will remain in self-quarantine for the next two weeks before returning to work. 

Though the trip home was not an easy one, Crosbie said they're just glad to be back. 

Due to COVID-19, Air Canada had rescheduled the family's departure flight from Peru to April 3 — 12 days after their original return flight. 

Crosbie, Sellens, and their kids Sarah, 17, and John, 14, left Toronto on March 11 to visit Machu Picchu — though they never actually made it to the popular tourist location. As of March 16, they were in isolation at a hotel in Lima. 

The family was fearful that the April 3 flight wouldn't take place and made endless calls to the Canadian government and Air Canada for earlier flights. 

"It was a very stressful time... it's the not knowing and not having any control over your own situation," Crosbie said.  

On Saturday, Crosbie said the family received an email from the Canadian Embassy that Air Canada was sending a flight to Lima Tuesday. 

(left to right) Sarah, 17, John, 14 and their parents Stephen Crosbie and Catherine Sellens departed Toronto's airport March 11 for a trip to Machu Picchu. (Supplied by Catherine Sellens)

About $1,400 per seat later, more than triple the price of their original tickets, the family was booked.

As a result of Lima's airport closure, citizens had to meet at the Canadian consulate in Lima before being bused to the military airbase from where the flight was departing. 

"It was like lining up for a rock concert to get tickets, it (the lineup) was literally around a city block," Crosbie said, adding that on the plane most people, including his family, were wearing face masks and sanitizing constantly. 

Now that they're home, Crosbie said the family plans on taking a much-needed rest day before they figure out how they'll spend their time in quarantine. 

Return from Spain 

Just a few days ago, Morrow and his wife Maureen Hills, had their March 24 departure flight from Spain cancelled, despite lots of assurance from their travel company that all return trips would run as scheduled. 

The Air Transat flight was quickly reinstated by the Canadian Embassy for the same date and Morrow and Hills landed in Toronto around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday evening. 

The view from the dining hall of Gordon Morrow's hotel in Torremolinos, Spain. (Supplied by Gordon Morrow)

"(When) we finally hit Canadian soil in Halifax, there was a huge cheer and then when we landed again in Montreal there was another huge cheer," Morrow said. "People were really, really excited to get home." 

On Feb. 24 Morrow and his wife left Toronto for a month-long tour in Spain with Senior Discovery Tours and dozens of other Canadian seniors, many of whom were in their mid-70s to mid-80s. But their trip was cut short when they were placed in isolation at their hotel in Torremolinos, Spain on March 16. 

Gordon Morrow waits in the Malaga airport to board his flight to Canada. (Supplied by Gordon Morrow)

On Sunday, the hotel they were in closed but allowed guests to stay, though they had to get their own food. 

"It's fairly traumatic in terms of feeling as (though) you might be stuck there," he said. 

Morrow was most surprised by the screening process at the airports in Malaga and Montreal. He said the extent of the screening process was them being asked if they had symptoms. 

"If you're experiencing minor symptoms are you going to say anything? Because you're not going to get on the flight if you admit that you have something," Morrow said, adding that he expected them to at least check their temperature. 

About the Author

Jennifer La Grassa


Jennifer La Grassa is a reporter/editor for CBC Hamilton. Email: jennifer.lagrassa@cbc.ca


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