The Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) has welcomed its first commercial flight in over three months bringing tourists from as far away as Switzerland and reuniting dozens of Barbadians with their families.
Air Canada Flight AC966 arrived around 2:30 on Sunday afternoon welcoming 132 people including Canada’s High Commissioner to Barbados Marie Legault under a range of new protocols tailor-made for the peculiar realities of Covid-19.
Those with negative COVID-19 PCR Antigen tests that were less than 72-hours old passed through the airport’s immigration and customs departments rather quickly while those without – approximately 15, were taken to the designated area to be tested and quarantined pending the results.
Family members, friends, taxi operators, rental car agents, and red cap porters were among the dozens of people waiting in the area of the arrival hall.
Journalists were not allowed on the inside, but Minister of Tourism and International Transport Kerrie Symmonds, who was accompanied by Home Affairs Minister Edmund Hinkson said he was “relatively satisfied” with the outcome. Passengers were serenaded with a rousing welcome from the Royal Barbados Police Force [RBPF] band, after which they were subjected to temperature checks before queuing to display their results.
Hugs and kisses were exchanged between loved ones before they walked briskly to the GAIA parking lot and were whisked away.
Among them was Janelle Knight, who had not seen her 20-year-old daughter Jovane Bowen since February when the latter returned to Toronto to continue a programme in American Sign Language and Deaf Studies at George Brown College. As the Covid-19 situation escalated in the North American country, loneliness started taking a mental toll on Bowen, who endured weeks in student accommodations without much contact with the outside world.
“It was only after she went back [to Canada] that the COVID thing started to take place. I think Canada has been handling the situation pretty well, but she was starting to get depressed being alone and not having anywhere to go while at her student residence,” Knight said of her daughter’s situation.
“I’m extremely happy that she has come home and hopefully [the depression] will subside,” she added.
Visitors described the airport protocols as “smooth” and explained that the instructions from local officials were very clear from the time Flight AC966 landed. Others lamented that Barbadians appeared to be considerably more relaxed about the need for physical distancing when compared to Canada.
“They were very clear that we needed to take the test 72 hours before and fill out the online forms. Once I got back the test results, I sent them to the email address and they acknowledged receipt and everything went smoothly,” said Jackie Vanderpool, 56.
“I actually had two tests. I had one last Saturday and another one right before coming here. I just did that as a precaution and now I am not very worried. In Canada, I was observing all of the protocols. I didn’t go out unless I needed groceries,” the returning national added.
Among the tourists who came into the country was a family of five. While they did not wish to reveal their identities, they told Barbados TODAY they had journeyed to Canada from Switzerland and were hoping to enjoy a five-week vacation on the island. (KS)
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