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J’cans in Canada react to travel suspensions, question target countries

Published:Saturday | February 6, 2021 | 1:10 AMNeil Armstrong/Gleaner Writer

Alvin Knight buried his son in Toronto at the end of January and had planned on flying to Jamaica with his wife this week to organise the funeral of his 96-year-old mother, Margaret Rose, who died on January 25 in May Pen, Clarendon. She had been an evangelist in the Church of God of Prophecy from the age of 17.

As the only child of his mother, he says he is responsible financially to take care of the funeral arrangements, and had booked a flight with WestJet, which travels to Montego Bay on Saturdays.

But Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that, as of Sunday, January 31, all Canadian airlines with flights to the region and Mexico will suspend those routes until April 30.

Knight says that, in light of the suspension of flights by four airlines – Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing and Air Transat – mandatory testing, and a three-day hotel stay at the expense of the traveller when returning to Canada (in excess of $2,000 each), he will have to revisit his plan.

“Now, nothing is happening. So, based on it, I have to clear my head right now to make some other arrangements in the long run. I don’t know if I really want her to stay at the funeral home until April. That would be a long time to keep her body,” says the retired meat inspector who worked with the federal government. He says he may have to rely on relatives to organise the funeral, but it bothers him that he will not be able to do it himself.

He has since written to the Liberal Party of Canada, via a link it sent him for donation, to say, “I wasn’t happy with the decision made by the prime minister. There should be some consideration for emergency purposes.”

Sandra Sylburne, who arranges Jamaica tours, says she has been fielding numerous concerns from potential travellers, including about return flights being potentially cancelled, and the requirement that they pay more than CDN$2000 to stay at a hotel for three days.

She says persons are also concerned that they were not given adequate notice, and about the length of stay in quarantine at these hotels.

“They are feeling down but, at the same time, they realise that ... they have to get it under control a bit, ... but some people are not understanding why all of a sudden it has to happen.”

Lloyd McDowell, proprietor of Gems Wholesale Meat & Fish Shop, Gems House of Jerk and Gems Grocery and Meat, in Brampton, Canada, believes it is a bad decision.

“I mean, yes, we totally understand that people’s lives are important and limiting cases is important, but whey mi no understand is why just the Caribbean and Mexico. Why only those places?

McDowell wondered why this was not applied to travellers from other countries such as India and China and thinks flights should be suspended from everywhere.

His businesses, he says, have been impacted by the lockdown, and now flight suspension. McDowell says, while he can get dry goods, he can’t get perishable items, like escallion, thyme, pepper, green bananas, fruits, or anything from the Caribbean.

“I think the protocol of getting tested and hotel quarantine is sufficient, flights don’t need to be cancelled. But then again, it encourages less movement,” says Shavaun Brown.