(JAMAICA GLEANER) – The 46 Jamaicans who were deported from the United States (US) yesterday are to be tested for the new coronavirus that has killed almost 180,000 people globally and six here, the Ministry of Health & Wellness has confirmed.
Those tests will likely be done at the back end of their quarantine.
News of the planned deportation, first reported by The Gleaner last week, triggered anxiety among some Jamaicans because of the scale of the coronavirus outbreak in the US. Up to late yesterday, there were 796,296 confirmed cases of the respiratory ailment in the US, with 39,507 deaths
“We have made arrangements for them, and yes, they are going to be quarantined for 14 days and they will be tested,” Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton told The Gleaner yesterday.
Tufton declined to disclose where the deportees are being processed and quarantined, but The Gleaner understands that they are being housed at The Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston. The budget for their accommodation was not immediately available.
Law-enforcement sources indicated that it was too early to determine if the Jamaican police have an interest in any of the deportees.
“There was no contemplation at this time of taking them to a police facility for further investigation, but during the interviews, something may come up which may cause the police to look further into an individual,” one source said.
“It’s quite possible, in this kind of operation, that we pick up something in the process. But we haven’t picked up anything yet.”
The police union that represents cops up to the rank of inspector acknowledged that some of its members who were tasked with processing the deportees harboured concerns about their safety.
However, Sergeant Patrae Rowe, chairman of the Police Federation, said he was “comfortable” with the measures put in place for police personnel. Rowe said that cops involved in the operation were well equipped with protective gear and described it as “well planned and well executed”.
“There are no complaints from my members at this time. I have gone into the centre and I have seen for myself the level of preparation that was put into today [Tuesday] and I am satisfied that my members have the necessary protective gear to protect them from any possible transmission of the virus,” he said.
The aircraft carrying the 46 males touched down at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston shortly after 1 o’clock. It was quickly surrounded by a contingent of police and health workers.
They were all fitted with face masks before they were allowed to exit the aircraft and placed in police vehicles parked on the tarmac. The deportees left the airport in a convoy of vehicles led by police outriders with sirens blaring.
Sanitisation stations have been erected at the quarantine facility and the men have been provided with care packages by the Ministry of National Security.
Last Tuesday, The Gleaner reported that within “a week or two”, the Jamaican Government would have to accept dozens of deportees from the US.
The disclosure by Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang came days after US President Donald Trump signed an executive order that imposes visa sanctions on countries that refuse to accept the deportation of their citizens, even amid the global new coronavirus pandemic.