RAW emotions surfaced on Friday among the 430 nationals stranded on board several cruise ships in different ports as National Security Minister Stuart Young announced plans to repatriate them.
Leader of the Band Xcite Sterling Howell was close to tears as he welcomed the news. He said he spoke to his mother and family in Trinidad and, like him, they were all emotional in anticipation of his return.
Howell has been at the forefront of a social media blitz to get all nationals back home following the closure of TT borders to flatten the spread of the covid19
He said being stuck in their cabins for the majority of the seven weeks and the suicidal deaths of five crew members from different ships, had taken a toll on their mental health.
In a statement on Friday Young said a schedule was being worked out with the Minister of Health Terrance Deyalsingh and CMOH Dr Roshan Parasram for the nationals to re-enter the country. He said it was being carefully managed to ensure the rest of the population was protected.
The statement came as 49 Trinidadians also stranded on board the Disney Fantasy cruise ship were in waters off Trinidad’s north coast while the vessel was being refuelled, but the nationals were not allowed to disembark.
Crew from that ship also took to social media expressing their heart break at seeing home but not being allowed to enter.
Nikeysha Bedeau said prior to Young's statement, "We taking fuel from Trinidad but we can't come home. As I see my country in the distance I feel happy and sat ad the same time."
Her co-worker Nalini Durgah, who has been advocating for their repatriation, also issued a big thank you to all who had an input in government’s decision.
Durgah criticised government’s failure to accept them when the covid 19 infection rate here was zero. She said Dominica, St Vincent, Grenada, St Lucia and other destinations had accepted their nationals and if TT government did not accept them they would have to leave with the ship for Orlando.
Young said government was challenged by the fact that it received a blanket application for 430 nationals as opposed to individual applications.
Howell was one of six musicians stuck on board the Caribbean Princess for seven weeks. Drummer of his band, Andy Edwards was not as overjoyed by the news.
Edwards said government, which wrote to their ship captain on Friday, had to move quickly as the ship which was docked in Barbados was expected to leave for Panama on Saturday morning.
“The ship should be leaving on Saturday morning for Panama so our window of opportunity is like Friday night or Saturday before five o’clock.
“So, we can’t celebrate yet. When we get confirmation we will.”
Howell said he was optimistic that the ship will remain in Barbados now that it had received correspondence from the TT government. He was holding out hope that the ship will be allowed to sail in TT waters sometime on Saturday and allow them to disembark.
Lead singer with the band Esther Dyer expressed some alarm by Young’s statement which expressed a difficulty in getting a proper breakdown of the number of nationals per cruise and where exactly they were located.