Officials in Peru doused a group of Americans with bleach as they tried to leave the country after being placed in a nationwide quarantine, according to footage and witness testimony obtained by The Washington Post.
The incident took place after dozens of tourists were quarantined at the Pariwana hostel in Cusco, Peru, for two weeks after health officials identified two hostel guests as carriers of the Chinese coronavirus. Rather than quarantining the two individuals who tested positive, authorities told the group that they must stay in the hostel for a minimum of 28 days and possibly up to several months.
Conditions in the hostel holding 120 people, which included the group of Americans, reportedly began to deteriorate as guests complained of insufficient food offerings and a lack of information from the Peruvian government.
The concept of social distancing was also somewhat undermined by the fact that they were forced into cramped rooms with bunk beds. The situation reportedly reached an apex when authorities lined guests up outside and doused them in bleach.
“We were shocked,” Daniel Voznyarskiy, a 22-year-old student at the University of Washington, told the Post. “We had no warning whatsoever. They made us do a 360, sprayed us with bleach and sprayed our bags. I closed my eyes and plugged my nose.”
NEW: Americans say they were doused in bleach after authorities in Peru detained them in a mandatory coronavirus quarantine. (We have obtained video from the incident below). The State Department has raised the issue with Peruvian authorities. https://t.co/UWOqVpqOLo pic.twitter.com/FlUbCIl8sW
— John Hudson (@John_Hudson) April 8, 2020
Patrick Beach, a 27-year-old Orlando resident on vacation with his girlfriend, also told the paper that they were told they could be “shot on sight” if they were seen leaving the hostel, even if they had relevant documentation for a repatriation flight.
“We were all pretty scared in the group chat,” he explained. “You hear chlorine or bleach, and you know you’re not supposed to touch it. So the idea of being sprayed with it is very scary. Ultimately it just ruined peoples’ clothes and everyone was pretty much okay, but the surprise of it all was the worst thing.”
The group ended up enlisting the help of their local representatives. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) told the newspaper that he brought the “alarming situation” to the “attention of the highest levels of the U.S. and Peruvian governments.” As a result, authorities eventually allowed them to leave the hostel and take a chartered flight organized by the U.S. government.
“We have been in touch with local authorities in Cusco on this incident and will continue discussions with our Peruvian counterparts to ensure that health care practices comply with international standards,” a State Department spokesperson said after the incident.
On Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee called on the CEOs of three domestic airlines to do more to help efforts by the State Department to bring home the tens of thousands of Americans still stranded abroad as a result of the pandemic. The State Department has so far successfully helped over 50,000 Americans return from approximately 90 countries, with repatriation efforts still ongoing.