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'It was a nightmare'

Woman stranded in UK racks up 15,000 tab for near four-month hotel stay

Observer staff reporter

Thursday, April 22, 2021

THERE were mixed feelings among 27 Jamaican citizens and residents who had been stranded in the United Kingdom (UK) since December due to a ban on flights from that nation following discovery of a more infectious strain of the novel coronavirus, with one woman sharing how her two children had to battle time zones to ensure they were present in online classes.

Anastasia Myers told journalists that she is happy to have received her COVID-19 vaccine in the UK and was now elated to finally be home. She, however, lamented the rigorous routine her two young children had to develop and maintain to stay on top of their studies and shared how she had to fund their expensive stay in a hotel for almost four months.

“The children have been doing online school. As the schools were opening in the UK they still had to do online schooling in Jamaica with the time difference. It's been a challenge, but they have done it,” she said.

“...We went for Christmas for two weeks to visit my father and we have been stuck there ever since. We had a ticket booked for the 29th of December and then the flights kept on getting cancelled. Then [recently] we tried to go through Barbados, but the volcano erupted [in St Vincent].

“It has been a nightmare. I have been in a hotel for four months with no kitchen. I had to pay for everything. It ran me a lot money, like 15, 000.

“Still, we are vaccinated and we are happy to be home,” Myers said.

One man among the group was perturbed that he had to be confined to an upscale St Andrew hotel for quarantine shortly after landing at Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston. He expressed that he was unaware that he and other passengers would have to be quarantined, saying he had hoped to be able to hand over gifts to friends and relatives who had travelled to Kingston from St Ann to meet him at the airport.

“A mi yard mi waan go inna St Ann. Dem nuh tell we nothing. Is when I come to the airport [I was told about quarantine]. I am upset, because somebody came for some things from all the way in St Ann and haffi gone back. Mi never know nothing about this. I have been waiting to come home from November,” he said.

A woman, meanwhile, told the Jamaica Observer that she was excited to be home because she had missed a court date with a tenant to whom she had rented a property. She indicated that she would have to seek another date if the tenant doesn't move out from the premises soon.

“I have been there from December. I went for three weeks and had to stay right up until now. I went to visit my children and I was supposed to come back the 30th of December. It was very inconvenient. I was to attend court. The court date was cancelled, so if the tenant [didn't] move out I would have to sort out another court date. He sent me a text, though, that he is sorting stuff out to move out,” the woman said as she grabbed her luggage before marching into the hotel to be registered.

Unlike most of the UK passengers, one woman said she was “very happy and very grateful to the Jamaican Government for having [provided accommodations for quarantine].

“We know that it was at great cost to them. The experience was very good when we arrived. It was excellent; from the nurses to the Ministry of Health to the Jamaica Urban Transit Company people.

“I was away for eight and a half months, and it was three or four attempts I made to get home since the beginning of January. As hard as it was for me, I was with my spouse. There were some people who were trying to get home to their spouses. I heard there were some older people who couldn't get home. For me, it was hard, but not as hard as it might have been for others,” said the woman.

A man, who said he was a freelance journalist and businessman said the experience was not terribly inconvenient for himself and his wife because they were with family.

“We were glad when we got the information that we could come home. I own my own business. It's only tedious because you are not there to monitor the business. Sales have dropped. I just give thanks I get fi come home!” he exclaimed.

The 777 aircraft which brought home the Jamaicans was also scheduled to repatriate British nationals to the UK who had been on the island.

A number of Jamaicans have remained stranded since the Jamaican Government banned flights from the UK in December. The ban was set initially to end on January 31 was extended to April 13.

Last Tuesday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced an extension to April 30.