Fi­nal UK repa­tri­a­tion flight de­parts

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Paul Clarke/Gleaner Writer

THE UNITED King­dom (UK) on Mon­day evening capped its repa­tri­a­tion ef­fort for Ja­maica with its thirdTUI-op­er­ated char­ter flight from Kingston, bring­ing to nearly 5,000 the num­ber of per­sons re­turned home since in­ter­na­tional travel ground to a halt in March as the coro­n­avirus pan­demic swept the globe.

Scores of Bri­tish trav­ellers, Ja­maicans and for­eign na­tion­als with in­def­i­nite leave to re­main in the UK boarded the London-bound flight at the Nor­man Man­ley In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Kingston yes­ter­day.

TUI pre­vi­ously op­er­ated full char­ter flights to London Heathrow on May 7 and June 3, the lat­ter of which brought in, at no cost to the Gov­ern­ment of Ja­maica, $100 mil­lion worth of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals pro­cured from sup­pli­ers in the UK to boost the na­tional COVID-19 re­sponse. The Gov­ern­ment of Ja­maica was also able to bring a num­ber of it cit­i­zens home from the UK.

VUL­NER­A­BLE PAS­SEN­GERS

Yes­ter­day, a spe­cial eye was kept out for the most vul­ner­a­ble pas­sen­gers with more than 100 peo­ple need­ing as­sis­tance with mo­bil­ity and one need­ing oxy­gen for the flight. The UK gov­ern­ment had also given loans to Bri­tons who had ex­hausted other sources of fi­nance while stuck in Ja­maica.

Af­ter yes­ter­day’s flight, Bri­tish

High Com­mis­sioner Asif Ah­mad said that any re­main­ing de­mand for Bri­tish na­tion­als and others to fly back di­rect would have to be met via com­mer­cial op­tions.

“The over­all global gov­ern­ment char­ter ex­er­cise is com­ing to an end and so this was re­ally the last op­por­tu­nity to get on to this pro­gramme and book a flight to the UK,” said Ah­mad, adding that the high com­mis­sion will con­tinue to pro­vide con­sular sup­port to any Bri­tish trav­ellers who re­main in Ja­maica.

“We’re de­lighted that Ja­maicans who now call the UK home could also ben­e­fit from our spe­cial flights, a good few of whom qual­ify as es­sen­tial work­ers, through their ser­vice and role on the front line of the Na­tional Health Ser­vice,”he added.

Shift­ing fo­cus to the coun­try’s eco­nomic re­cov­ery post-COVID-19, the se­nior diplo­mat noted that the Bri­tish High Com­mis­sion has con­ceived a tourism re­ju­ve­na­tion project ti­tled ‘Re­turn to Ja­maica’ to the tune of US$500,000.

Ah­mad said this will en­able the Pass­port, Im­mi­gra­tion and Cit­i­zen­ship Agency as well as the min­istries of Health, Tourism and Na­tional Se­cu­rity to ex­plore ways in which tourists can come to Ja­maica with pro­tec­tion for them­selves and Ja­maicans and have a good time be­fore re­turn­ing home with warm mem­o­ries.

“It will also ben­e­fit Ja­maicans who want to come home,” he added.

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