19 June repatriation flight seen as a simulation for reopening

by Linda Straker

  • Repatriation flight scheduled to arrive on 19 June
  • Maurice Bishop International Airport reopens on 1 July
  • As of 1 July 2020, quarantine stay in a government facility will be shorter

Grenada is using US inbound repatriation flight scheduled to arrive on 19 June as a simulation exercise as it prepares to reopen the Maurice Bishop International Airport on 1 July 2020.

The airport was closed to commercial passenger traffic in March as part of measures aimed at containing the spread of Covid-19. The island recorded 23 positive cases since 22 March, with no deaths. All of the persons have been declared recovered. The last positive case was announced on 24 May 2020. The youngest person was an 8-year-old, while the eldest was 84.

Tourism Minister, Dr Clarice Modeste, said that 88 nationals who are stuck in the USA are scheduled to arrive on the repatriation flight, and rigid measures are being put in place as part of the health screening for Covid-19.

“Hopefully on Friday, we will see our first flight bringing in Grenadians repatriated from the USA, and from then on we will see what the airlines are offering. They have to be tested as part of the screening and there will be a more rigorous questionnaire to complete upon arrival,” she disclosed.

The new health protocol provides for health screening before approval from immigration and customs officers. At the arrival health screening area, all passengers will get a temperature check and allow the health officers to conduct a rapid Covid-19 test and a PCR test. The result of the rapid test will determine the passenger’s next step. A negative result will see the passenger heading to immigration and customs for clearance while a positive result will result in the person going into mandatory health quarantine.

The repatriated nationals will be placed in 14-days quarantine as a shared cost between state and passengers. However, as of 1 July, the protocol for passengers will change and will see arriving passengers spend a shorter period in quarantine once there is a negative result of the PCR test.

Modeste said that all persons on the 19 June flight will either have a wrist device that monitors personal movement or down a mobile app. “That will make it easier for us in the event that contact tracing becomes necessary,” she explained.

Foreign Affairs Minister Peter David said that once the airport is reopened, all persons entering Grenada will be tested at least 3 times before being allowed to intermix with the general public. “They are testing before they come and when they arrive, they are tested again, to reassure ourselves that persons do not come in with the virus. We do not want community spread,” he said.

During the peak of the lockdown, Grenada did not record community spread, but recorded a cluster of cases in one particular work environment. Government ordered the workplace closed and it was given permission to reopen once all staff were tested.

As of 1 July 2020, once a person is allowed to enter the country, the quarantine stay in a government facility will be shorter with the remaining days in self-quarantine with restricted movement. David said once the PCR result is negative, individuals will be able to go to their place of residence, but will only be permitted to leave home for specific reasons. “So, the stay at the government facility will be for about 2 to 4 days, and once the PCR test is negative, the remain mandatory 14 days will be at home but with strict guidelines,” he assured.

With the tracing mobile app on phones or the tracing wrist devices activated, the person will only be allowed to leave home to seek urgently needed medical attention. An individual under restricted movement is not permitted to visit church, attend funerals, be present at any social function, engage in any group sporting activity or to be part of any social interactions outside of limited contact with household members.

Modeste who is a registered medical doctor by profession said that all the protocols and guidelines for arriving passengers are in the interest of the nation. “It’s in the interest of public health and we are guided by the science and we are going to relax the protocol guided again by the science,” she said.

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