John, left, and Kathleen McCann have spent $15,000 to purchase multiple return flights home to Canada from Morocco amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re hoping to get refunds from the airlines that have cancelled before they board a flight Thursday to Paris, then Toronto, then Victoria. (Courtesy of Kathleen McCann)

Oak Bay couple anxiously await flight home after spending $15,000 to escape Morocco amid COVID-19

The pair hope to fly to Victoria via Paris and Toronto after leaving Casablanca Thursday

An Oak Bay couple is desperate to get home after their vacation was cut short amidst COVID-19 fears – desperate enough to spend $15,000 to buy several return tickets.

Kathleen and John McCann planned on staying in Marrakesh, Morocco until March 31, but the spread of COVID-19 has disrupted their plans.

Morocco closed all public places, including movie theatres, sports arenas, and mosques, effective Monday while shops selling necessary goods and restaurants that deliver remain open. The country had 37 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with one death and one recovery as of Monday.

“We’re in a lucky situation where we can afford this,” Kathleen said. “We’ve shelled out lots of money to make this happen. Hopefully everything goes according to plan so we can make it home.”

READ MORE: ‘I feel like I’m in a movie’: Victoria woman shares quarantine experience after cruise ship coronavirus outbreak

While the McCanns at least have a plan and the resources to make it happen, other British Columbians aren’t so lucky.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday that Global Affairs will offer up to a $5,000 loan to Canadians stuck abroad. He urged them to come home before more borders are closed and to email sos@gc.ca for aid.

However, he acknowledged that with about 3 million Canadians abroad at any time, that may not be possible.

“It is just realistic to know that some of them will not be coming home in the coming weeks,” he said.

Kathleen was excited to visit Morocco for the first time after her husband last visited nearly 50 years ago. They were set to visit the Sahara Desert in the coming days. On Sunday, they went to the Casablanca International Airport, only to discover what John described as ‘total madness’.

“[There was] screaming, crying, shouting,” he said. “Zero help from airport personnel.”

The couple is still in the process of trying to get some airline ticket refunds.

ALSO READ: Langford mom of five sick children struggles to get COVID-19 tests

They are staying in a small hotel on the outskirts of Marrakesh while they await their Air France flight from Casablanca to Paris. From France, they will head to Toronto and then back to Victoria.

On Thursday, the Victoria couple will pack their bags and hope that their flight won’t be cancelled, as Morocco had banned most international flights as of March 13. Otherwise, they might end up stuck at the small hotel in Marrakesh, which the couple says “could be much worse.”

– with files from Kat Slepian

aaron.guillen@goldstreamgazette.com


@iaaronguillen
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A popular shopping square in Marrakesh, Morocco is empty as of Monday due to COVID-19 fears. Kathleen McCann says it would normally be packed with tourists. (Courtesy of Kathleen McCann)

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