Panic on-board

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Panic on-board

'I want to come home,' cruise ship worker pleads

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Senior staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, May 18, 2020

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A woman who said she is pregnant is among the more than 1,000 Jamaican crew members on-board Royal Caribbean Cruise Line's Adventure of the Seas pleading with the Jamaican Government to accept them into the country once their 14-day quarantine ends on Saturday.

The crew members are expected to arrive in Jamaican waters near Falmouth today, where they will remain in quarantine until May 23.

Their latest quarantine period began on-board the ship on May 9, as part of a supposed deal between the cruise line and local authorities something the Jamaican Government has denied knowledge of.

“This is a voice to the Government. I'm four months' pregnant on the Royal Caribbean Adventure of the Seas and we're on our way home. Now we're getting from the captain that we haven't gotten any confirmation from the Government; however, Sir, I'm appealing to you. I am pregnant and what happened to Ms [Jodian] Fearon I don't want it to happen to me. Honestly, it's heartbreaking. I need to go home. I need medical care,” the woman who requested anonymity told the Jamaica Observer in a phone interview.

Fearon, a 23-year-old first-time mother, died last month after being denied access to health care at several of the country's hospitals.

The cruise ship worker, who told the Observer that she was unaware that she was pregnant when she signed a seven-month contract with the cruise line in December, said the situation aboard the ship has become unbearable for her.

“I'm not trying to complain, but it is difficult. I want to come home. We can't be locked in here like this. This is not good for me in my situation now. I mean, the food, it's not enough for my body and the baby. I don't mean the quantity; I'm talking about the nutrients that I'm supposed to be getting. The company is trying but I need to go to the doctor. You understand?” said the expectant mother, who last visited the doctor in early March when the ship made port.

“To be honest with you, it's terrifying. I'm feeling so much discomfort sometimes I have to lie on the floor. We've been locked away; we can't go out. We can't do anything. I'm just asking that Jamaica, please, let us in when we come, please. I'm sure our company is not lying to us. They are reaching out. They are reaching out [but] they can only do so much. We need to go home,” the distressed woman let out.

Declaring that it has done its part, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line told the 1,044 Jamaican crew members that it is now up to the Jamaican Government to do the rest in ensuring that they make it into the country.

Audio obtained by the Observer, said to be that of the ship's captain, has suggested that the company has been in contact with Jamaican authorities but that a definitive answer as to whether or not the Jamaicans will be allowed to disembark has not been given.

“We are now setting course towards Falmouth. Our target was the 18th, however, we have not received any confirmation from the Jamaican authority, but we're on our way there regardless. Now I must say everybody has done their part in this case. The company has provided the ship for the Dominicans to return home. The Dominican authorities did their part to allow them to come back home,” the man in the recording said.

His announcement followed the repatriation of Haitian crew members, whose Government also played its part, he said.

“The next topic is, of course, your situation, and once again the company has done their part with the ship. You have done your part, Lord knows. You have been in isolation for a month, most of you, and now we expect the Jamaican authorities to do their part. The company is putting as much pressure as it can on the authorities to allow you to disembark, but the decision is still to come from the authorities,” the man said, adding that he is hoping for the “quickest solution to the problem”.

He also told crew members that the ship will remain “on-site” until May 23 when they should be disembarking.

Several of them, who were transferred from other Royal Caribbean vessels, have been in quarantine for several weeks.

But yesterday, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said his ministry has no knowledge of a ship coming into harbour “and neither do we have any information or any knowledge of any arrangement for a specific date for this action to be taken”.

He said the ministry has been actively participating in negotiations that have been underway for the repatriation of Jamaican crew members and the consultations are being held to determine the safest method for this to be done.

“Given the state and nature of the discussions, there was no reason to believe that a ship could be on its way to Jamaica without the knowledge and consent of the Government of Jamaica,” he said.

In a letter dated May 1, 2020, which was posted by Foreign Affairs Minister Senator Kamina Johnson Smith on social media, Royal Caribbean said that it was in discussions with the Jamaican Government to “repatriate crew via ship”.

It said the required quarantine period would take place on-board the ship.

However, in a recent interview with Radio Jamaica Security Minister Dr Horace Chang denied knowledge of the ship's arrival.

He said unless ships receive clearance from respective government agencies in charge of the country's seaport none can dock.

Additionally, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has said that while the Government has gone “above and beyond” to facilitate the return of Jamaicans, these efforts have stretched the capacity of the country's public health system and front line workers.

He said, too, that quarantine facilities have reached capacity and that the Government cannot continue to overextend as this is likely to increase nationals' risk of contracting the dreaded COVID-19.

Holness said that the Government cannot facilitate the repatriation of Jamaicans before next week, but will, in the meantime, explore ways to increase quarantine and logistics capacity.

Yesterday, Jennifer Housen, the attorney representing 55 of the crew members, said the Government's lack of information regarding their circumstances has resulted in them being “anxious, worried, and distressed”.

She has also asked the Government to confirm whether or not her clients will be allowed to disembark the ship on May 23, and if the period served in quarantine aboard the ship will be taken into account, in allowing them to go home to their families on arrival.


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