JA first choice
New York doctor vacations here on COVID-19 breakTuesday, June 16, 2020
BY MARK CUMMINGS
MONTEGO BAY, St J ames — An American doctor who has been treating COVID-19 patients in her country for several months was among the more than 500 tourists and locals who arrived in the island on six flights from the US yesterday, saying that she decided to vacation in Jamaica on the first break she got from her gruelling job schedule.
“From here on out we're gonna have a good time. I’m setting up good vibes. Right now, I just wanna eat,” Dr Tobitha Locklear, a first time visitor to the island, told the Jamaica Observer just before boarding a tour bus for a resort on the famed Jimmy Cliff Boulevard in this resort city of Montego Bay.
The New Yorker, who was accompanied by a female friend, who is also a US resident and a first-time visitor to the island, said they both seized the opportunity to visit Jamaica to have a good time.
“I am a doctor in the United States; we are here on vacation, it’s time to get a break and we have heard that the people here are really nice,” said Dr Locklear.
She added that she was hoping to hear a good calypso band and “we’re gonna doctor it up”, referring to the famous Doctor’s Cave Beach. She also expressed a desire to “have some good rum punch”.
Dr Locklear told the Observer that she and her friend plan to spend seven days on the island, which yesterday welcomed visitors for the first time since the borders were closed to incoming passengers on March 24.
She expressed disappointment, however, with the protocols at the airport for arriving passengers.
“I was expecting a calypso band and some rum punch to greet me, but instead I got a Q-tip up the nose and in my throat and four hours of waiting in the airport. I hope the calypso band and the rum punch are coming,” she told the Observer.
“I was also hungry. If I had known that the process would have taken so long I would have been prepared, I would have brought food or something, but now I’m like irritated, tired. I don’t even feel like I’m on vacation, I feel like I just been through, I don’t know what. Four hours after you get off the flight is just too long. But everyone I’ve encountered has been extremely nice,” she said.
She added that the system at the airport was extremely disorganised.
“As soon as you came in you should have gotten your information, they should have swabbed you, you should have gotten your suitcase, and you should have left. It was drop your suitcase over here, give your name over here, it was just extremely disorganised. That’s my personal opinion, but everybody was very kind, the people here are very nice, and I have a lot of Jamaican friends. And I know that you guys are good people,” she said.
Aneif Jones, a Jamaican who resides in the US, was also peeved by the long delay in the processing of passengers.
“It took us four hours to get out of the airport after we arrived. They really need to see what can be done to lessen the time. What is happening is not good and should be fixed,” he stressed.
Earlier, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton, Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association President Omar Robinson, and other stakeholders, visited the airport to observe the raft of measures implemented to prevent spread of the novel coronavirus.
Some 100 health workers were also on hand to sensitise and test passengers.
Throughout the day, passengers were observed wearing masks as they went through a series of checkpoints before leaving the airport.
Tufton said passengers were given a ‘pep talk’ while on their flight.
“After disembarking, they went through a series of steps, starting with the instructions as to what the processes will be, to include sanitising, the wearing of masks, and the collection of data. This data is further reinforced in terms of uploading on the JamCOVID App. The passengers then received their luggage, go through Customs, and then their samples are collected for testing following which they are ushered off to their respective destinations in conjunction with the hotels or otherwise,” he explained.
Asked about the complaints of long wait times inside the airport, Tufton said the first flight came in near midday and the last person was processed at 6:00 pm. “We processed 523 people; therefore, we could not have taken four hours for one passenger. We would be there all night if that were so,” he said.
“It was a good day. There were a few minor issues, but those were dealt with and all passengers were tested,” he said.
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