Thank you, but...

Thank you, but...

Mixed feelings among Jamaican crew members approved for re-entry as colleague falls ill

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Senior staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

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AS Prime Minister Andrew Holness last evening announced the Government's decision to facilitate the re-entry of Jamaican crew on-board Royal Caribbean cruise line's Adventure of the Seas , a Jamaican who suffered a medical emergency was awaiting evacuation.

The crew member is said to be an expectant mother.

“We do have a medical emergency on-board. We will need to evacuate one crew member. The evacuation will be carried out by helicopter and we might turn the ship towards the Jamaican coast in order to get in the reach of the helicopter. I'm not sure that the evacuation will take place tonight. Normally they don't fly at night, but we are waiting for confirmation,” the ship's captain announced, in audio obtained by the Jamaica Observer last night.

Moments after, crew members who spoke to the Observer said the news that they would be allowed into the country after months on the high seas had evoked conflicting emotions, as one of their colleagues had fallen ill.

“I have such mixed feelings right now. This is actually the best news I have heard for a very long time, because it means there is a light at the end of the tunnel. As per docking tomorrow, we are very happy to be going home to our families. I just want to say, 'Thank you', to the persons who made all of this come to reality. 'Thank you, thank you', but at this moment there is a young lady who is sick and needs medical attention right now, so we are actually all broken about that. We are still just hoping for the best for her, so we are actually having mixed feelings about the situation,” one of the crew members, who asked not to be identified, said.

A second crew member, who also requested anonymity, expressed delight at the prime minister's announcement, noting that it was the “best thing” to have happened to her in the past two months.

“I'm lost for words right now, but I thank God for not turning His back on us. I just want to thank all who heard our cries and rendered assistance. I am overwhelmed,” the crew member said.

At the same time, she told the Observer that she is not averse to news that Jamaicans coming in under the Government's controlled re-entry programme might be asked to home quarantine using geofencing technology.

The woman, who said she is pregnant, expressed concern over news that a colleague was waiting to be airlifted after suffering a medical emergency, stating that it could have been her.

While speaking at last evening's virtual press briefing from Jamaica House in St Andrew, the prime minister said the Government had been in dialogue with Royal Caribbean since April 21, about repatriating the 1,044 Jamaicans who were spread across several of the cruise line's vessels.

He said since that time, the parties have been exchanging communication about how and when the process would be done.

Holness said although preparations were being made, because negotiations were still ongoing, the Government could not divulge the information to the public.

He said that while the position taken to hold the information was a risk to the Government, and created opportunities for individuals seeking relevance to create mischief and exploit a crisis for political gain, it kept Cabinet members focused on the task at hand.

News of the ship workers' arrival, which sparked controversy, was made public by the Parliamentary Opposition.

An announcement that the ship was expected to arrive in Jamaican waters yesterday was rubbished by the Government, with the ministers of national security and health and wellness denying knowledge of the development.

Yesterday, the prime minister explained that on Friday, the cruise line requested a conference call to make final arrangements to chart the way forward for the return of the Jamaicans, and that yesterday he met with the company's president and Chief Executive Officer Michael Bailey.

He said the meeting yielded positive results and was followed by Cabinet's approval of protocols, which would see to the ship docking in Falmouth at noon today.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness, he said, will create a sterile zone around the port to conduct testing.

The crew members will then be allowed to disembark in groups of 200 every 48 to 72 hours, the prime minister stated, following which they will be tested and transported to Grand Bahia Principe in St Ann, where 400 additional rooms have been secured. The 48- to 72-hour period is to allow time for the test results to be made available.

“Persons whose tests are positive will be moved into a State quarantine facility until they recover. All others will be allowed to go home and self-quarantine for a further period of 14 days from the date of disembarkation,” the prime minister announced.

Individuals allowed to quarantine at home, he said, will need to consent to their locations being geofenced, using smart technology through the JamCovid19 app, and will be required to do a video check-in multiple times per day.

Geofencing is a location-based service in which an app or other software uses global positioning system, radio frequency identification (RFID), Wi-Fi, or cellular data to trigger a pre-programmed action when a mobile device or RFID tag enters or exits a virtual boundary set up around a geographical location, known as a geofence.

Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton, in the meantime, said that it will cost an estimated $81.2 million to quarantine the returning Jamaicans.

“We have to move into the home quarantine arrangement and the Cabinet is now actively considering that, and the mechanism that has to be put in place because as we live with COVID-19, institutional arrangements are going to become less frequent, even though still necessary, in some cases,” the minister said.

In terms of training, he said that it's an ongoing process and that a cost has not yet been affixed.

Earlier, director of the Western Regional Health Authority Errol Greene told the Observer that from a capacity standpoint to facilitate the testing of the crew members, discussions were still being had.

“We're meeting to discuss it to see how best we can respond, you know. If it is a situation that we have to respond, we'll have to step up to the plate,” he said.

Thousands of Jamaicans became stranded overseas when the country's air and sea ports were ordered closed to incoming passanger traffic on March 24 amid measures to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has so far infected 520 people locally, with nine deaths and 131 recoveries.

Yesterday was Jamaica's second day, since the first case was confirmed on March 10, that the country has not confirmed new COVID-19 cases.


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