It’s homeward bound – finally – for 13 Trinidadian students at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, as their government reverses its bar on even its own nationals returning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
And according to a spokesman for the group Chantal Seecharan they couldn’t be happier after receiving word today that the Keith Rowley administration has given the green light to their return to the twin-island republic in three weeks.
But the Trinidadian government is insisting on the students being quarantined twice for up to a month – both here and on their return home.
“Everyone is elated and relieved to wake up this morning and hear the news that we will be able to go home on June 2nd,” Seecharan, a final year law student, told Barbados TODAY.
It’s an about-turn on the part of the Port of Spain government which remained defiant that it could not re-open in borders closed to national and non-nationals on March 22 to curb the spread of COVID-19, despite a direct appeal from the students back in April.
Seecharan also revealed that anxious relatives in Trinidad are equally overjoyed.
She said: “Our families are [happy]. My mom, in particular, she is really happy, she is happy because her daughter is coming home. It is just me and my sister she is six. My sister is overjoyed because she misses me a lot. My Dad recently passed away in December, so it was even harder being away from them. So everyone is just calling us and saying you coming home on June 2nd, you coming home.”
National Security Minister Stuart Young today disclosed that discussions have already started with the principal of the Cave Hill, the Most Honourable Professor Eudine Barriteau and her counterpart at Mona on the students’ return.
He told journalists: “The students who wish to come back, this will be coordinated by the principals of these various institutions in Barbados and Jamaica. It is not a personal reach-out to a minister and a personal reach-out to anyone here in Trinidad. We are going to carefully coordinate it with the principals in Barbados and in Jamaica.
“What we will be going to be looking at is in the first week of June, and we have already spoken to Caribbean Airlines (CAL), we will be planning an operation for Caribbean Airlines to go to both Barbados and Jamaica to bring back our local students.”
But Young insisted their return was on the condition that the students must be quarantined – twice – for up to a month.
“Every student who wants to return via this very careful operation is going to be quarantined in Barbados and in Jamaica for 14 days -that is the first condition,” Young said, adding that the government is to “coordinate with Caribbean Airlines once we ascertain the number”.
He said that when the students arrive in Trinidad and Tobago, they will be put into state quarantine for a further 14 days.
Seecharan said the students will comply with the requirements and trust that they will be taken care of.
She said: “We are fully aware that we would have to go in quarantine; we knew that from before, sometimes you can be a little nervous about it, but some of us we have been trying to go home for over a month now and we are prepared and we are ready to go into state quarantine. To be able to get back home, we know that is necessary in terms of the protection of the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago and we trust our Government will look out for us and look after us.”
Meanwhile, exams started today but Seecharan said the students were unlikely to be affected.
She said: “The exam period started today. However, the format for exams are online take-home assessments, so we need proper wi-fi access. So as long as we have proper wi-fi access we will be able to do exams.
“The university is aware of our concerns, and have been for two weeks. Our deans are aware of what would happen if we had to leave during exams and they were making provisions for that, they were trying to find solutions to help us.”
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