Wed | Jan 19, 2022

Final UK repatriation flight departs

Published:Tuesday | June 9, 2020 | 12:26 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer

THE UNITED Kingdom (UK) on Monday evening capped its repatriation effort for Jamaica with its third TUI-operated charter flight from Kingston, bringing to nearly 5,000 the number of persons returned home since international travel ground to a halt in March as the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe.

Scores of British travellers, Jamaicans and foreign nationals with indefinite leave to remain in the UK boarded the London-bound flight at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston yesterday.

TUI previously operated full charter flights to London Heathrow on May 7 and June 3, the latter of which brought in, at no cost to the Government of Jamaica, $100 million worth of pharmaceuticals procured from suppliers in the UK to boost the national COVID-19 response. The Government of Jamaica was also able to bring a number of it citizens home from the UK.

Vulnerable passengers

Yesterday, a special eye was kept out for the most vulnerable passengers with more than 100 people needing assistance with mobility and one needing oxygen for the flight. The UK government had also given loans to Britons who had exhausted other sources of finance while stuck in Jamaica.

After yesterday’s flight, British High Commissioner Asif Ahmad said that any remaining demand for British nationals and others to fly back direct would have to be met via commercial options.

“The overall global government charter exercise is coming to an end and so this was really the last opportunity to get on to this programme and book a flight to the UK,” said Ahmad, adding that the high commission will continue to provide consular support to any British travellers who remain in Jamaica.

“We’re delighted that Jamaicans who now call the UK home could also benefit from our special flights, a good few of whom qualify as essential workers, through their service and role on the front line of the National Health Service,” he added.

Shifting focus to the country’s economic recovery post-COVID-19, the senior diplomat noted that the British High Commission has conceived a tourism rejuvenation project titled ‘Return to Jamaica’ to the tune of US$500,000.

Ahmad said this will enable the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency as well as the ministries of Health, Tourism and National Security to explore ways in which tourists can come to Jamaica with protection for themselves and Jamaicans and have a good time before returning home with warm memories.

“It will also benefit Jamaicans who want to come home,” he added.