‘Com­ing home is like mi reach heaven’

Kingston air­port re­fin­ing pro­to­cols

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Danae Hy­man/Staff Re­porter danae.hy­man@glean­erjm.com

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.

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