Wed | Aug 12, 2020

Dreams of home, but … Jamaica’s COVID-19 regulations too strict, bemoan Jamaicans in the US

Published:Sunday | July 5, 2020 | 12:00 AMKaryl Walker - Sunday Gleaner Writer
Travellers being processed by COVID-19 healthcare personnel in the immigration hall of the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, St James.
A visitor goes through the health protocols at the Sangster International Airport on the first day of the reopening of Jamaica’s tourism industry.
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Some Jamaicans in the diaspora of the United States are apprehensive about returning to the land of their birth due to the COVID-19 restrictions implemented by the Government. They have dreams of home but the strict stipulations have them thinking twice.

After months of closed borders, the Andrew Holness-led Government opened up the island last month and allowed overseas travellers to start returning to the country, whose economy is heavily dependent on tourism and remittances.

However, in order to contain the spread of the dreaded virus that has infected more than 10 million and killed over half a million people worldwide, persons entering the country have to adhere to firm protocols.

Among the measures are going through a series of checkpoints at the airports – each with sanitisation stations, testing, quarantine, being monitored by the State via an application installed on each person’s smartphone, limited time on the streets and persons taking photographs of themselves to prove that they have not breached protocols while they await their test results.

Jamaica has come in for praise for its COVID-19 containment measures from several quarters, but for Antoinette Morgan, whose 90-year-old father died two months ago, requiring her to travel to the country, this was little solace.

“My father is dead. I am his only child. There are things I have to get done. Make no mistake, we understand what is happening in the world today, but I cannot be given an hour on the street while I wait for my test results. To do business at any state institution takes at least half of the day. I have to go to the bank, the social security ministry and close off some businesses that he dealt with. I am my father’s only living heir and he had a number of holdings. What do I do?” Morgan asked.

The catch is, however, Morgan lives in Florida, a state that has seen a frightening rise in COVID-19 infections. On Friday, Florida recorded 178,594 infections which have resulted in 3,684 deaths.

Since Jamaica relaxed travel restrictions on June 15, the number of cases on the island has risen. To date, the country has approximately 721 cases, several of which are imported.

Other jurisdictions, including the European Union, are seriously considering a ban on travellers from the United States – which now leads the world in COVID-19 infections.

WAIT IT OUT

Demetri Jobson is a Jamaica-born, Dallas, Texas-based businessman. He has a number of holdings and pending legal matters in Jamaica in need of his attention, but he has opted to put those on hold for a while.

“For me, the fear is the airlines. Are they practising the right measures? The lack of measures on planes and other factors are my first deterrent from returning home, even though I must. Then if I do get through the flight without getting infected, I cannot be given an hour to do business while I wait for my test results. The reality is we need more time to conduct business. I have also been informed that you will be asked to take a photo and post it so the State will know that you are where you say you are,” he told The Sunday Gleaner.

“I am, however, sure that what the Jamaican Government is doing is for the best, so I will have to just sit back and wait for the restrictions to be relaxed.”

Marsha Miller resides in New York and had purchased a ticket to take her vacation in the land of her birth since September 2019. She has vacationed in Jamaica every year, staying with relatives in Portmore, St Catherine.

“I don’t go to any hotel. Any money I spend in Jamaica, I spend with the locals – the jelly man, the hairdresser, at the corner bar, in the market, the corner shop and so on. I cannot stay indoors so I will not go until the restrictions are relaxed a little. I miss Jamaica so much,” she said.

 

karyl.walker@gleanerjm.com