The Irish government is working to bring home over 2,000 citizens stranded across the globe in 86 countries because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, the majority of Irish citizens are stranded in Australia and New Zealand. Over 100 Irish are stranded in Peru, where a lockdown closed all borders on March 16 with very short notice.

“We are witnessing the biggest shutdown in global aviation since the dawn of commercial flight,” a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement last week.

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“We have never seen anything like it before. It eclipses the shutdowns following the September 11th attacks and the volcanic ash crisis.

“The situation is fast-moving and volatile. What we have seen in recent days is not only countries, but entire regions, close off airspace and ground airlines at short notice.”

“This has lead to people who had confirmed and booked flights having them cancelled suddenly or being refused at airports.

“We are in close ongoing contact with airlines and aviation companies and are exploring all options. There are still commercial flights, some of them multi stop.

“The situation is no longer as simple as chartering flights, we need permission to enter airspace and regions on the way back to Ireland. Therefore, for the last 24 hours we have been focused on getting every possible Irish citizen on the shrinking number of commercial flights.”

According to the Irish Examiner, the Department of Foreign Affairs has worked to secure seats for Irish citizens on flights from key cities in Australia. Last week, 170 Irish citizens were brought home from Australia via London, and the Irish Embassy in Australia has since confirmed the availability of additional secured seats on Qatar Airways flights through March 31.

The Irish government has also been working with the UK, Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain to try and get Irish citizens on chartered flights.

The Irish government was given “diplomatic clearance” to send a repatriation flight to Peru on Sunday (March 29) to pick up Irish citizens, The Irish Times reports.

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The Department of Foreign Affairs is advising Irish citizens stranded abroad to contact their nearest embassy or consulate. Stranded Irish are also being encouraged to sign up to a citizens’ register to be contacted for updates.

Further travel updates and advice can be found on the Department of Foreign Affairs website here.