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‘Emotional roller-coaster’ for travellers mistakenly sent home

Returning passengers come through LF Wade International Airport (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Returning students have been put through an “emotional roller-coaster” when they were mistakenly sent home only to be put into mandatory quarantine days later, frustrated parents told The Royal Gazette this weekend.

It came as Opposition MP Michael Dunkley highlighted the case yesterday of a returning resident who was contacted by health officials on Saturday, on day 13 of staying at home, to be told they had to spend their final day in one of the Government’s approved hotels for 14-day supervised quarantine.

The Ministry of Health announced on Friday night that 17 travellers to the island had been mistakenly allowed to go home.

A ministry spokeswoman said the Government would cover the cost of their hotel stays.

The exemption to the mandatory quarantine, which is usually at travellers’ expense, should apply only to unaccompanied minors, or the medically vulnerable and their caregivers.

But the parent of a university student said her daughter had flown home from Britain on Tuesday after booking a hotel room for the compulsory quarantine, which the Government has imposed on unvaccinated travellers until September 30.

The woman said her daughter had only been able to receive one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine while finishing her studies.

The girl’s parents expected to take her to the Rosemont guest apartments in Pembroke, where her quarantine was pre-booked and food and toiletries had been left for her.

“This was irritating but we were resigned to it, as the Government had agreed to fund her stay,” she said. “However, when she went through Customs at the airport, she was told she could isolate at home if she had her own bedroom and was able to stay distant from others, which she can.”

She said the family was telephoned on Friday night by a government representative who told her she would now need to go to a hotel after all.

The woman added: “We don’t yet know which hotel and we await further details.

“Covid restrictions are becoming emotionally untenable and quite impossible to comprehend.”

She questioned how many other students had been put through an “emotional rollercoaster”.

Another parent said their unvaccinated niece had returned to the island, again from the UK, on Tuesday night, but had applied for and received an exemption to quarantine at her home and accordingly received a quarantine bracelet at LF Wade International Airport.

But, also on Friday, she was e-mailed by the Ministry of Health and informed that “the exemption was an error and she must report to a quarantine facility” by the next day.

Last night the woman told The Royal Gazette: “Everybody at the airport was completely friendly with her. Apparently there was no problem – they looked at her paperwork and said it was OK.”

She said her niece had been at home for three days, staying in a “self-contained apartment” below her family’s home, when she was abruptly told to get accommodation in one of the approved hotels.

The woman added her niece would only have to spend the remainder of the 14-day quarantine in the hotel, but likely would have opted to remain in the UK had she known.

Mr Dunkley said: “How do you expect residents to buy into the mandatory quarantining for the unvaccinated, pay over $2,000 and believe that it is in the island’s best interest - only for it to be revealed this weekend that 17 travellers were mistakenly allowed to quarantine at home when they should not have?

He added: “It is also about the costly and bureaucratic travel authorisation form for which other countries have found less onerous solutions while still protecting their borders.

“Just one of many calls I have received on this matter is from a couple who live on the west coast of the US and are frequent visitors to the island. With restrictions being lifted they booked a flight and filed the TAF. After one day with no reply, they frantically tried calling and e-mailing the hotline to no avail. Their trip was cancelled as the TAF did not arrive in time for them to make the plane.”

The mandatory quarantine policy has drawn flak from the public as well as the Opposition. David Burt, the Premier has defended it as a necessary measure to protect the island from variants of the coronavirus, several of which have proved to be far more contagious than the original strain – and more capable of causing illness in people immunised after receiving a full complement of the vaccine against the virus.

Protesters took to the grounds of the Cabinet office a week ago today in the island’s latest demonstration against the Government’s measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus, which has caused 33 deaths as a result of the island’s latest and most serious outbreak this spring.

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Published July 05, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated July 05, 2021 at 9:56 am)

‘Emotional roller-coaster’ for travellers mistakenly sent home

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