(JAMAICA OBSERVER) – AIRLINE outfit Fly One Caribbean Limited has reached out to the 36 Jamaican students stranded at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill campus in Barbados, with an offer to fly them home pending approval from their Government.
The company, which is based in St Vincent and the Grenadines, reached out to UWI, Cave Hill Guild President Thacher Loutin in late April with the offer, following several appeals made by Loutin to the Jamaican Government since March, to help the students return home.
“The airline is willing to take us; however, we have not heard from the [Government] ministry yet [in relation to] our certificate of authorisation. We all signed up to return on June 15 after our exams [which] finish June 12th,” Loutin, who said payment arrangements have been discussed with the airline, told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
“When we fill out the immigration controlled entry form online, we have to wait on a certificate of authorisation — the Government has to tell us, yes, they are giving us the permission to come in; so that is what we are waiting on [to finalise with the airline].
“I called the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and they told me that they are not the ones dealing with it and I should get in touch with the Ministry of National Security and the Ministry of Health, and I was like, ‘I thought all three ministries were working together’. I am tired, I am really tired.
“The airline has confirmed with us and they just need approval from the Government to take us in on June 15th,” Loutin explained.
In the meantime, she said the wait has been an agonising one for the students, who have been anxiously hoping for any signal that they will be allowed to return home.
The Jamaican Government last month said it had developed a protocol for the controlled re-entry of citizens into the country, indicating that re-entry would be subject to the capacity of both the public health-care system and quarantine facilities, and that the process will first take into consideration “Jamaicans who are most vulnerable and are facing the most hardship”.
Jamaica closed its airports and seaports to incoming passengers on March 24, as part of measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, and they are expected to remain closed until May 31.
There is now a protocol in place to control the re-entry of citizens.
Jamaicans must submit applications through an online portal accessible at https://jamcovid19.moh.gov.jm/immigration.html or through the
JamCOVID19 mobile app, which is now available in the Apple App Store and will shortly be available in the Google Play Store.
According to information on the health ministry’s website, the portal will be used by health and immigration authorities to manage the controlled re-entry process.
Individuals are required to use an e-mail address at the start of their application to register on the website or app. Once that e-mail address is entered, a one-time password will be sent to that address in order to authenticate the individual and for them to continue the application process.
Prior to submitting the application, people are asked to: Accept responsibility for making their own travel arrangements, at their own expense, for returning to Jamaica; and agree to mandatory quarantine at a place designated by the Government of Jamaica for 14 days, or such further period as considered necessary by the Ministry of Health and Wellness. Applicants must also agree to be tested under the COVID-19 testing protocol and are also responsible for payment of US$20 per day for three meals while in mandatory State quarantine, or for making their own private arrangements for meals to be delivered at the quarantine location. According to the ministry, once all the information in the application has been assessed to be in order and there is sufficient quarantine capacity in the health system for the traveller, the application will be conditionally approved and individuals can proceed to make preliminary travel arrangements.
“We have advised the airlines that evidence of conditional approval should be provided prior to acceptance of travel bookings. Please do not make travel arrangements and purchase tickets prior to receiving conditional approval,” the ministry said.
It said after individuals have received conditional approval and have made travel arrangements, they will be required to again log in to the portal and answer the health-related questions again, at least 72 hours prior to the scheduled date of travel.
“If all is in order, you will then receive a final approval with an electronic travel authorisation document, which will be required for you to board your flight. Please note that conditional approval only allows you to make a preliminary booking. Only final approval in the form of a travel authorisation document will allow you to board your flight. You must, therefore, have the document with you [in electronic or paper form] when you arrive at the airport to check in for your flight,” it indicated further.
Fly One Caribbean offers flights to Barbados, St Maarten and Tortola, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and Guyana. It also offers flights to Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire and US territories such as St Croix, St Thomas (US Virgin Islands), Puerto Rico, and Miami. Under the humanitarian tab on its website, the company also lists support to disaster-ravaged countries for transporting supplies such as food, clothing or medicine. The airline also offers its services for private charters, medical emergencies, day tours, and aircraft management.