Returning Trini: Let me explain

Health Minister Terrence 
Deyalsingh
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh

A 34-YEAR-OLD MAN who was among those accused of refusing to sign quarantine forms upon returning home sought to clear the air on Thursday, saying a mix-up between two hotels and the cruise liner which employs him is what led to the accusations.

The man, a Port of Spain resident, contacted Newsday the day after Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh claimed returning citizens were refusing to sign quarantine documents, thus putting the health and lives of the public at risk. The man, he insisted, purposefully refused to sign the documents.

The man said he was supposed to be quarantined at a hotel after his employer – an international cruise ship company – paid for accommodation for the 14-day quarantine. The man, who asked not to be publicly identified, said that on arrival he was not only told he would not be going to the hotel booked by his employer but  would have to go to another and also pay $14,000 for a room.

Now, staying at a state-run quarantine facility, he is taking to task the hotel where his employer booked a room, describing its handling of the situation as “embarrassing.”

The man said when the borders were closed on March 22, he and other Trinis working on the cruise ship were in Australia. He said they found out about the closure through social media.
“We were very nervous,” he said. “The majority of passengers on the cruise ship were let off in Australia but we stayed on. We were all immediately quarantined in our rooms, only coming out to eat.”

He said they were quarantined in their rooms for almost a month and on their flight back to TT, the company made sure to pay for two seats each for them on the aircraft, so they could maintain physical distancing. The man said his company said it would pay for accommodations at a well-known hotel for a 14-day period.

“My company did not want to take the chance that the state-run facilities would not have any room, so they paid for a hotel.

"When we got to the airport, we were given a form. I was told I would be accommodated in one hotel, but the form had the name of another hotel. I thought it was a genuine mistake, so I scratched off the name of the hotel and wrote in the one booked by my employer,” the man said.

But when he called the hotel he was supposed to be booked into, he was told it did not have a room. His lawyer later called the hotel and was told payment for a room did not go through. He said even the cruise ship company also called the hotel, only to be told no room had been booked.

“They put us in a bus and took us to the other hotel, then ordered us off,” he said. “Then someone went in and spoke to people at the hotel and when they returned they ordered us back on the bus.” The man and other  repatriated nationals were then taken to the Couva Health Facility.

He said his employer sent a message to the Ministry of National Security and the Health Ministry indicating willingness to pay for a hotel for him. Both he and his employer are yet to receive a response. He believes incompetence or unprofessionalism by the hotel is what led to the mix-up, which in turn led to Deyalsingh publicly rebuking him and others for refusing to sign quarantine documents.

“It’s unfortunate that the minister went on TV saying we refused to sign the forms. He was not there and does not know what took place,” said the man who did not want to be identified as he fears public rebuke, or worse, because of Deyalsingh’s utterances. “We don’t mind staying here (at the state-run quarantine facility). It’s just the principle of the thing that I have an issue with.”

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"Returning Trini: Let me explain"

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