Neither graphic reports of the horrors experienced by some in State quarantine nor Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ explanation that there is simply nowhere to house them, have dampened stranded Disney Fantasy crew members’ pleas to be allowed to come home.
They are relieved at reports, making the rounds on social media, of others in State quarantine who are having a resort-like experience. But even that is not a big factor in their yearning for the island’s shores. They just want to come home.
“There is nowhere like home,”one crew member told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
Others are concerned about money, and how their families in Jamaica are faring.
“I stop getting paid because my contract is finished. My money on my pay card done. My wife and two girls need to eat,” said one of the more than 200 Jamaican crew members on the vessel which on Friday dropped off its Honduran crew. If he comes home, he explained, he would be able to access his savings and provide for his family. He is opting not to share his banking information with his wife so she can access the funds. “All men have money women don’t see,” he explained in a brief moment of joviality.
He believes the Government is being short-sighted in its assessment of their situation. Cruise line crew who return home, he said, would contribute to economic growth. “If 2,000 Jamaicans [are] here on ships and each spend US$100 in the supermarket how much money [flows into] the economy?” he argued. “Some are building [houses] so they pay the mason for days work, some have car loans, some have mortgage. The longer we stay out here the less money we can put back in the system. Eighty-five per cent of us [are] not coming home to be a burden on the Government or health system. Only five per cent of us are stuck on ships [with cases of the] coronavirus.”
Disney Fantasy crew members have insisted they are COVID-19-free, though they say they have not been tested due to a shortage of kits on board. Many other cruise lines have had confirmed cases, prompting the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to establish a protocol for crew disembarking in US territories. The rules, first outlined in March then later amended in April, stipulate that cruise lines would only be allowed to let off crew in US territories if they agreed that they do not use public transportation, do not mix with the public on the way home, and do not stay at hotels being used by the general public.
Disney Fantasy crew members have been intently watching all of this as their ship sails to various countries to allow other colleagues to disembark. While generally singing the praises of their employer, many complain of a lack of information from the cruise line which they appear to be relying on to negotiate their journey home.
The Jamaicans were hoping a scheduled March 25 stop would still be on the cards, but that is highly unlikely as the Government has made it clear it needs at least two weeks to process those now in State quarantine. The Government has also pointed to ongoing efforts to have some incoming passengers self-quarantine at home. The concern is that some may not follow the rules, as seen in the past.
“We are willing to sign [off on rules that say] if you are caught breaking the quarantine you will be charged. We would adhere to two unannounced visits to our house daily and we are willing to sign [documents indicating] that all information given is factual, including health status and home address,” one crew member told the Sunday Observer yesterday, making the case for a return home.
Another fell back on the argument that, as Jamaican citizens, they have the right to be allowed into the country.
“Can you please help us to speak out to our Government that we need to come home to Jamaica,” he said. “We are here from March 14 under quarantine and still our leaders of the island don’t want to accept us. The Government needs to understand that we work on the ship [but] we don’t live here. We are Jamaican citizens.”
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