Travelers wearing protective masks look at a smart phone at the Ministro Pistarini International Airport, in Ezeiza on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Starting tomorrow Argentina is banning flights from the US, Europe and China, as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus.

Hundreds of people reached out to airlines Ryanair and Aer Lingus today as stranded Irish people tried to make their way home before airport shutdowns across Europe.

Over the course of the past week, Italy, Malta, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Greece, Morocco, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Poland, Norway and Cyprus have imposed flight bans of varying degrees.

Ryanair said it expects these restrictions will result in the grounding of the majority of its aircraft fleet across Europe over the next seven to 10 days.

Speaking from Spain on Monday, Corkonian Liam Sheehan described what Spain was like.

“It is a complete lockdown, it started quite slowly but then there was a panic and everything shut. Now you can only go to the chemist and to the local shop. Other than that everything is closed.

“The virus is spreading rapidly, there was a huge panic, but since the lockdown, things are better. The police are in control, there is no one on the streets or on the beaches.”

Mr Sheehan, who splits his time between Cork and Malaga where he has an apartment, said he was due to fly home on Tuesday but was unsure of what was happening as he has received no communication from the airline.

“The plan is to go to the airport and to fly home. No one knows what is going to happen. It is changing by the hour.”

Mr Sheehan, 59, who was staying in San Luis De Savinillas, roughly an hour and twenty minutes from Malaga, said that if there is a lockdown in Ireland he would be better off in Spain.

“You couldn’t be in a better place to be isolated, there is lovely sunny weather and I can do up on the roof terrace. You are not going to run out of food and the isolation gives you time to think.”

Mr Sheehan said that from his apartment he can see the police wearing masks patrolling the street and also said that the authorities were issuing fines between €100 and €600 to those caught out and about.

Discussing coming home, Mr Sheehan said he was not looking forward to what lies ahead in Ireland but he said it was better not to get stuck in Spain for the foreseeable future.

“I’m looking forward to getting back, but I am not looking forward to the isolation. It has to get worse.”

Both Aer Lingus and Ryanair were kept busy on Monday with tweets, calls and emails being sent to their helpline and Twitter profile looking for updates and information on the mercurial situation.

In a statement to The Echo, Aer Lingus said they are working with the relevant authorities to ensure guests who wish to travel from Spain and the Canary Islands to Ireland over the coming days can do so.

“Aer Lingus intends to operate its scheduled services on our Malaga, Barcelona and Canary Island routes until 21 March inclusive.”

The airline said that no change fees or fare-differentials will apply to re-bookings for travel on these Spanish routes between 22 March and 31 March.

The Aer Lingus recovery plan for disrupted Canary Islands guests includes additional flights from Fuerteventura and Las Palmas on Monday, an upgrade to A330 aircraft on Lanzarote and Tenerife on Wednesday and additional flights from Lanzarote on Tuesday and Wednesday.

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