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Coronavirus Kent: Tunbridge Wells Hospital NHS nurse stranded in Philippines

An NHS nurse is desperately trying to get a flight back to the UK after being stranded in the Philippines amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Lorenzo Gacuma, an intensive care nurse at Tunbridge Wells Hospital, flew into the capital city Manila on Saturday, March 7, before travelling to Bacolod City to celebrate his grandad's 90th birthday.

Angel, Tony De La Cruz (Lorenzo's grandad), Lorenzo and Butch
Angel, Tony De La Cruz (Lorenzo's grandad), Lorenzo and Butch

His parents, Angel and Butch Gacuma, a gynaecology nurse and a domestic assistant in A&E at the same hospital, had arrived a few days earlier.

But festivities were cut short when the country announced it was going into quarantine.

Lorenzo, 26, had a return flight booked with Emirates a few days later but did not want to leave his parents, especially as Butch, 59, suffers from diabetes, had heart surgery last year and is partially disabled.

They have since encouraged him to try and get back to the UK on his own.

However, Lorenzo is now worried he will not be able to get another flight until April 14, when the Philippines quarantine is due to be lifted, and that the UK borders may have closed by then.

"I feel utterly useless as I want to be back in the UK helping my colleagues, but instead I'm 11,000 km away..."

An emergency bill setting out new laws to help the government curb the spread of Covid-19 is expected to become law by tomorrow at the latest and will enable Border Force to stop people from travelling in and out of the country if necessary.

Meanwhile, Foreign secretary Dominic Raab says he is working hard to bring hundreds of thousands of people home.

Lorenzo cannot get hold of Emirates from his hotel, so asked a friend in the UK to contact the airline, which has now made his flight open.

But the British national has to get to Manila to fly back to the UK, and the strict quarantine rules are making this very difficult.

A Philippines tourism board contacted him yesterday saying there was a ferry to another island, where he could then get a flight to the major international airport in the capital.

However, he had to have chest X-rays and a confirmed return flight to board. It was 2am in the UK and with the offer only valid for several hours, Lorenzo had no way of organising this in time.

He said: "The amount of stress I feel is overwhelming. We came here to celebrate my grandad's birthday but it's ended in disaster.

"It's very frustrating and I feel utterly useless as I want to be back in the UK helping my colleagues, but instead I'm 11,000 km away."

To make matters worse, Butch's medication for his diabetes has nearly run out, meaning the family will have to go out to search for more tomorrow.

Lorenzo added: "My dad's immune system isn't that great and if he catches the virus here, it'd be much worse than if he was in the UK. The health care is alright but would never give me the same re-assurance as the NHS. My parents are both very stressed too."

A mum-of-two from Ramsgate is also stranded in the Philippines. Likewise to Lorenzo, she is meant to be flying with Emirates but has been told there are no flights to rebook.

And a Sheppey couple are trying to get back to the UK from Australia.

For Folkestone couple Linda and Grant Gibson, the nightmare has nearly ended - a flight home has finally been arranged to bring them home from Northern Cyprus.

Lorenzo is hoping someone from the UK or Philippines government can help him get home as soon as possible.

He has emailed Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark who forwarded his details to the Foreign Office, but he has heard nothing from the official body yet.

Read more: All the latest coronavirus news

Read more: All the latest news from Tunbridge Wells


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