More deportees coming

BY ARTHUR HALL, Jamaica Observer,

Another group of deportees from the United States (US) is slated to arrive in the island next week, adding more pressure on the Government which is already struggling to find quarantine facilities and money to house Jamaicans returning home amidst the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Jamaica Observer sources yesterday confirmed that the deportees, estimated at 40, are now being processed in the US in preparation for the flight, which historically has taken place on the last Thursday in each month, but could take place as early as next Tuesday.

“We are not sure about the exact number, but right now we expect 40, and the day for their arrival is still undecided, but we are preparing for Tuesday,” a government source told the Observer.

“They will be housed in a Corporate Area hotel for 14 days as part of the standard quarantine process for persons re-entering the island, but it will not be the same one that was used for the set of deportees from the US last month,” added the source.

The US last month deported 46 people to the island, the first return of Jamaicans from overseas after the country’s borders were closed by the Government on March 24.

At that time the US Embassy in Kingston declared the deportees would have been tested for COVID-19 and would not be deported if they were ill, “as the health, safety, and well-being of detainees in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody are among the US Government’s highest priorities”.

But after they arrived one member of that group tested positive for the virus.

Since that time the US has seen a steady increase in the number of COVID-19 cases and the number of people infected who have died.

Yesterday, data compiled by Johns Hopkins University showed the US COVID-19 death toll approaching 100,000, with more than 1.58 million people across the country infected five months after it recorded its first case.

Before its latest update yesterday evening the Ministry of Health and Wellness had reported that, up to Thursday, Jamaica had recorded 529 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 234 cases related to the workplace cluster in St Catherine; 50 imported cases; 206 cases who were contacts of confirmed cases; 26 who were local transmission cases not epidemiologically linked; and 13 who were under investigation.

With the US numbers at scary proportions, Observer health sources yesterday expressed fear that the latest group of deportees could increase the number of imported COVID-19 cases in Jamaica and questioned the wisdom of continuing to accept them.

Before the arrival of the deportees last month Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang argued that Jamaica had no choice but to accept the Jamaicans being sent home from the US.

He said then that the Government would divert funds from other areas to deal with the quarantine of the deportees.

There was no official word from the security ministry up to press time yesterday on the latest group of deportees heading to Jamaica’s shores.

Photo: Some of the deportees from the United States on their arrival at a hotel in St Andrew last month