…over 1000 stuck in US – GCAA Director
Some 137 Guyanese returned to home soil on Saturday after being stranded in the United States amid the coronavirus pandemic for over three months.
The passengers arrived at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport via Eastern Airlines flight 321, which came directly from the Miami International Airport. Some 1000 Guyanese have been stranded in the United States following the closure of Guyana’s borders, including airspace, from March 18 – one week after recording its first imported COVID-19 death.
A feeling of relief combined with a whirlwind of other high emotions consumed the passengers who relayed to Guyana Times that they are delighted to be home with their families.
“I love this country, and I could not wait to come home, and I thank God that I am here and without no sickness. I was over there since the 8 of March, and I was quarantined over there all the time, I never leave to go anywhere,” those were the words of Drupattie Mohan – a Guyanese who had been stranded in the US for three months.
Another incoming passenger, Nicole Griffith, stated that she was in the US since February but got stuck there before she could have returned to Guyana.
“I am happy to be back. It is an extraordinary feeling to be back where I belong, but it does not end here. There are a lot more people that are left behind, and the struggle continues for them,” Griffith explained.
Further, this publication caught up with former Deputy Mayor of Georgetown, Lionel Jaikaran, who explained that he is happy he is alive and well given that the US is one of those countries that was walloped by COVID-19.
“I have been out of Guyana since February 19, 2020, and it feels fantastic that I have a second life right now being back in Guyana. I miss my country terribly…When the aircraft touch down, tears came. I am happy to be home,” he posited.
These stranded Guyanese have been pleading with authorities to help them return home, as such, last month, they received approval by the Guyana Government to be repatriated.
However, before they returned, they had to complete a repatriation form and submit a COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test 48 hours prior to arrival, which had to be sent to the Foreign Affairs Ministry and then to the Public Health Ministry. Only persons with negative results were permitted to return.
Director General of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), Lt Col (ret’d) Egbert Field stated that he is happy that these persons were able to return home without any glitches given that the Foreign Affairs Ministry only started the process two weeks ago.
“A lot had to be done for this to be very successful. There were a lot of logistical problems because some of these passengers were scatted all over the United States,” he stated.
The Head is calling for the Foreign Affairs Ministry to start the selections process early, given that there are over 1000 stranded Guyanese in the US.
Once that is done, he is urging the authorities to allow passengers to provide their test results to the airline rather than having it submitted to the Foreign Affairs Ministry and then the Public Health Ministry.
“From the GCAA, I would advise that those PCR tests should not be sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Ministry of Public Health. They should be retained by the passenger and the airline should take the responsibility to ensure that the passengers [have] a negative PCR test,” the GCAA Head posited.
He also explained to this publication that the relevant authorities in Guyana are currently working on having some stranded Guyanese in Trinidad and some 70 students in Barbados repatriated to Guyana in the coming weeks.
He noted that another flight is expected to arrive sometime during the new week.
Further, in welcoming the passengers, caretaker Public Health Minister, Volda Lawrence stated that the flight was possible due to measures put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“The fact that today [Saturday] we can be able to open our airport for Guyanese who are in various countries, today [Saturday], we specifically looked at the USA to begin to come home is because we would have been able to put in place several elements needed to ensure that we will be able to cushion any effects that will spill out from persons travelling from high-risk countries to Guyana,” she stated.
These persons are now mandated to spend one week in self-quarantine at home. Over the course of the seven days, they are not permitted to leave their homes for any reason other than to seek emergency medical attention. (Shemar Alleyne)