‘Coming home is like mi reach heaven’
Kingston airport refining protocols
SINGING THE praises of airport staff and health officials after emerging from the arrival halls of the Norman Manley International Airport yesterday, Norma Kelly returned to Jamaica with a new lease on life and a sense of liberation.
The Jamaican national was elated at returning to ‘The Rock’ after being stranded in Florida for two and a half months as global travel ground to a halt as coronavirus containment measures took effect.
With the borders reopening on June 1 for all Jamaicans who wish to return home, approximately 60 public-health officials, along with the security forces, have been deployed to assist with the processing of incoming nationals and the collection of samples.
“They were very professional; I have no complaints. The nurses out here, the soldiers, the police and even the doctors were so friendly, so nice,” said Kelly, who had some misgivings about the discomfort of submitting to the invasive swabbing required for Jamaica’s testing protocols.
“Coming home is like mi reach heaven, like mi just come out of prison. I am so happy,” she told The Gleaner.
Approximately 100 Jamaicans arrived yesterday on a commercial JetBlue flight from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton and his team did a walk-through of the airport, visiting various stations and assessing inter-agent coordination.
Tufton said he was satisfied with the initial implementation but expressed caution that the real test would be in the days to come.
“We will have to re-evaluate once we start to scale, because it will mean a lot more people and a lot more processing,” Tufton said.
Returnees will be subjected to home quarantine and monitored by a geofencing mechanism on the JamCovid app that would be downloaded to their smartphones.
During the period June 1-14, all persons entering the country will be subject to coronavirus testing, except for those entering from designated ‘travel bubble’ countries – nations with management and profile results for COVID-19 similar to Jamaica’s regarding spread, death rate, infection prevention, among other protocols.
The health minister said that one potential drawback of the process was the number of moving parts that could create a bureaucratic backlog if problems emerged.
“What I would like the country to do is to appreciate the newness of the approach because of the virus and the fact that there is no set way that can achieve the objective,” Tufton said.
“It really becomes the issue of risk assessment and then decisions that flow from the risk assessments.”
In the meantime, the health ministry said that more than 1,000 community health aides across the country were being employed, as the COVID-19 response would require additional personnel.