When the ship docked at the Falmouth pier at mid-day, scores of family members and well-wishers lined the roadway outside the pier to welcome home the Jamaican ship workers who were all enthusiastic just to be at home in Jamaica after weeks in quarantine.
While waiting disembark the vessel, the Jamaicans were so emotional to once again see the shores of Jamaica, they broke out singing the national anthem.
Although grateful to be home, one of the ship workers said she was disappointed at the government's handling of the process for their repatriation.
One of the passengers told a Gleaner reporter "usually when you are arriving in Jamaica by sea or by plane, the feeling of excitement usually take you over so much you can’t wait to touch Jamaica land we love. And when I was coming in today and saw the security forces I felt a sense of melancholy grasp me, then I looked forward across the streets and saw a citizen waving a big Jamaican flag and that's when a tear fell from my eyes to know that look there's is still hope in Jamaica," she said.
The woman said she felt indebted to that person. "I thank that one citizen in that moment for letting us feel somewhat welcome in our own country," she said.
The Jamaicans will disembark in batches of 200 every 48 to 72 hours and will be tested for COVID-19 and transported to the Bahia Principe hotel in St Ann to await their results.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness yesterday told a press conference that ship workers who test positive will go into a state facility for isolation while those who test negative will be allowed to quarantine at home for 14 days.
Individuals allowed to quarantine at home, he said, will need to consent to their locations being geofenced, using smart technology through the JamCovid19 app, and will be required to do a video check-in multiple times per day.
Geofencing is a location-based service in which an app or other software uses global positioning system, radio frequency identification (RFID), Wi-Fi, or cellular data to trigger a pre-programmed action when a mobile device or RFID tag enters or exits a virtual boundary set up around a geographical location, known as a geofence.
Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton, in the meantime, said that it will cost an estimated $81.2 million to quarantine the returning Jamaicans.
“We have to move into the home quarantine arrangement and the Cabinet is now actively considering that, and the mechanism that has to be put in place because as we live with COVID-19, institutional arrangements are going to become less frequent, even though still necessary, in some cases,” the minister said.
News of the ship workers dilemma was first mooted by Opposition MP Julian Robinson in Parliament
On May 12, during a special select committee of Parliament, Opposition spokesman on health Dr Morais Guy had asked Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton whether the Jamaicans aboard the Adventure of the Seas cruise vessel would be landed and quarantined in a Government-run facility, subject to the same processes that exist for those who return by air.
Dr Tufton, who chairs the committee which is reviewing the operations of the public health sector during the COVID-19 crisis, had outlined general protocols for repatriation, but said he did not have details on the particular vessel.
“Member, you seem to have more information than I; I will do some checks on that, but I am checking my CMO (chief medical officer) here and she is not aware of those details. I know there are discussions taking place around the possibility of seamen [Jamaican workers on ships] being repatriated.
We are in the process of trying to work out logistics around these arrangements, but I can't say that I have been given any specific date and so your level of detail makes you a lot more aware on the specifics of that particular approach,” Tufton said at the time.
At a press conference on Sunday, the Opposition spokesman on national security Fitz Jackson stressed that Government must immediately put measures in place to allow the Jamaicans aboard the Adventure of the Seas to disembark.
“We demand that our fellow Jamaicans now in distress and uncertainty be allowed to join their families and loved ones here,” he said.
Spokesman on tourism Dr Wkyeham McNeill cautioned against a souring of the relations between Jamaica and the cruise lines, even as the Government tries to reopen the tourism industry.
“We are talking about Royal Caribbean, but there is also MSC and Disney — all of them have workers on-board and all of them are trying to get in touch with the Jamaican Government to have a clear policy. They will not send the ships here until they have a clear agreement with the Jamaican Government… the cruise lines are having difficulty trying to determine who to talk to,” Dr McNeill claimed.
On Monday evening, after lambasting the parliamentary opposition for what he characterised as misleading the public, the prime minister, at a Jamaica House press conference explained that on Friday, the cruise line requested a conference call to make final arrangements to chart the way forward for the return of the Jamaicans, and that yesterday he met with the company's president and Chief Executive Officer Michael Bailey.
He said the meeting yielded positive results and was followed by Cabinet's approval of protocols, which would see to the ship docking in Falmouth at noon today.
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