(JAMAICA OBSERVER) – Twenty-seven Jamaican contract workers are currently stranded at Newark International Airport in New Jersey after their flight to Montego Bay was cancelled this morning.
The cancellation was the third by United Airlines, on which they were booked to travel from Newark to Montego Bay in the past two days.
It was not clear, however, if the airline had any other choice than cancel the flight, given that the Jamaican Government at 11:59 Saturday night closed the country’s international airports to incoming flights, as part of Government’s measures to prevent spread of the novel coronavirus.
The contract workers were travelling from the State of West Virginia where they were employed in the hospitality industry. However, the resorts where they worked were forced to close following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Another group of 15 Jamaicans who were employed to hotels in Boston, Massachusetts, and nine who are in Chicago, Illinois, have also been affected and are stranded in the United States.
Jamaica’s Consul General to New York Alison Wilson told the Jamaica Observer that her office was “in the process of doing whatever is possible to help those stranded in New Jersey”.
Said Wilson: “Where possible arrangements are being made to find accommodation with relatives in the tri-Sate area of New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey.” Wilson said that she is also working with Jamaican Diaspora leaders and organisations to find accommodation for those who will need to be accommodated for the next 14 days. She says if the consulate is able to help in that regard she would urge the workers to “use the [14-day] period to plan the way forward”.
Responding to questions about challenges faced by some Jamaicans who are unable to get flights home and who are concerned that the time granted to remain in the US on their visitor’s visa could soon expire, Wilson said the issue is being handled by Ambassador Audrey Marks and the Jamaican Embassy in Washington.
Wilson, meanwhile, has appealed to Jamaicans here “not to call the consulate unless [it is] for really important information”. She said the office has been “overwhelmed with non-essential calls” in recent days, which has been taking a toll on staff.
She said that in the coming days the consulate would only be able to deal with individuals by appointment only, urging the public to utilise its website at www.congenjamaica-ny.org.
Meantime, Wilson said that the staff member who tested positive for the novel coronavirus last week is on the mend and doing well.