Nfld. & Labrador

NLers fighting to get home, while an Italian exchange student is hoping to stay

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who are abroad are scrambling to get home as the federal government implements strict policies on international travel to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Some are leaving Europe and the United States, while Spinosa is hoping to stay away from Italy

Charles Pender is planning to drive from Florida to Newfoundland and Labrador as flight prices are beginning to skyrocket and he's travelling with two puppies. (Colleen Connors/CBC )

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who are abroad are scrambling to get home as the federal government implements strict policies on international travel to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  

Charles Pender is currently in Bonita Springs, Fla., and with the cost of air travel spiking, he plans to head north to Canada by car. 

"The price is just going through the roof," Pender, the former mayor of Corner Brook, told CBC News on Tuesday. The earliest flight he could find was on Friday. The next one would have meant his waiting around until Monday.

To make matters more challenging, Pender is travelling with two puppies. 

He plans to hit the road Wednesday morning, through New York and Maine, and over the border into New Brunswick, then on to Nova Scotia for a ferry ride home.

Pender said conversations about COVID-19 have been ramping up in the last week in Florida.

"A week ago there wasn't much talk about it, but now everybody is talking about it," he told CBC News via Skype.

"All of the bars, restaurants, things like that are either shut down or shutting down. Public gatherings have all been cancelled." 

Stuck in Dublin

Marie Hickey of Norris Point and her husband travelled to Benalmádena, Spain, in February. 

Late last week, the coronavirus pandemic cut her scheduled two-month vacation short. 

"On Friday we all left to go to the big market in town that everybody goes to on Fridays, and we got there, there was no market," Hickey said. 

"By Saturday things were starting to shut down, and by Sunday we were on total lockdown."

Hickey and her husband knew they had to get out of the country, and they hopped on the first flight they were able to book. 

"We were able to get as far as Dublin," she said. "Now we're not able to get out of here until Friday, so hopefully Canada doesn't close its borders before Friday so we can actually get home."

A member of Spain's military emergencies unit carries out a general disinfection at Málaga airport on Monday. Marie Hickey and her husband flew out of Málaga on Monday. Now they're in Dublin, and hoping to get home. (Jorge Guerrero/AFP via Getty Images)

Hickey said there were thousands of people at the airport in Málaga, Spain, on Monday. 

"The place smelled of bleach, so obviously they had done a big job of cleaning the place," she said. 

"There were no extra protective measures going through security.… They didn't check temperatures or ask any questions like that. They just got us all through," said Hickey. 

Spanish airport officials did their part to help facilitate social distancing by taping lines on the floor one metre apart so people could use the markers as a guide to distance themselves from others.

"We're really afraid that the borders are going to close, and we're not going to get home," said Hickey. 

Hickey says she and her husband are asymptomatic" right now, but they are prepared to self-isolate for 14 days as soon as they arrive home in Norris Point. 

While Hickey and her husband are trying everything to get home, an Italian exchange student in St. John's is doing everything to stay in Newfoundland.

Edoardo Spinosa, an exchange student at Holy Heart of Mary, is hoping to stay in St. John's but his exchange program wants him to return to Italy. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Edoardo Spinosa, who is seven months into a 10-month program at Holy Heart of Mary, is from Milan, which is completely locked down. 

"My [exchange] company wants me back in Italy, like all other exchange students," he said. "They are afraid it's coming here."

While Spinosa knows COVID-19 will likely end up being traced in St. John's, he feels more secure here. 

"It's not the moment for taking planes and going to Italy," he said. "I feel more safe here than in Milan. I'm afraid for my family, for my friends [but] I don't know how me back home can help them."

Spinosa wants to finish the school year in St. John's and earn his Canadian diploma so he can go to an English university.  

"I really fell in love with this country," he said. "I really enjoy the people here. Everyone in Canada is very kind." 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Mark Quinn, Carolyn Stokes and CBC Newfoundland Morning