Returning nationals and residents arrive in The Bahamas on Friday.
By FARRAH JOHNSON
Andrew Rolle, 57, and his wife Sherrell Williams-Rolle, 47, are currently in self-quarantine at home after returning to the country during the first phase of the government’s repatriation of Bahamians and residents stuck abroad.
The pair were stranded in Miami, Florida, for two months after Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis stopped all international and domestic travel as part of the country’s COVID-19 response.
“My wife had a surgery in February and we went to Miami from then,” Mr Rolle told The Tribune.
“We flew back to Nassau, but two days after we came back my wife started to experience some difficulties, so I did an emergency flight back to Florida. The doctor who did her surgery wrote a document for her to go straight to the emergency room so when we arrived, my wife went straight to the hospital. That’s when the pandemic hit The Bahamas and they shut the country down so we were stuck there from then to now.”
Mr Rolle said after he and his wife took the mandatory COVID-19 tests, his wife received a message notifying them that they were on the repatriation flight list. Still, he said he believed the process in getting Bahamians home from Florida could have run more smoothly.
“After we took the COVID-19 test (at a medical facility) in Fort Lauderdale, nobody told us nothing,” he said. “Tuesday they were supposed to give us our results, but we never got them. The next day we called them to find out what’s going on (but) they ain’t tell us nothing.
“We tell them if we get on the flight let us know in advance because we don’t know where we going. You wouldn’t believe my wife got a Whatsapp (message) - not even a phone call or email - saying you guys are on the list to get on the flight and you all have to make your way from Miami to Fort Lauderdale to get on the flight because it’s first come, first serve.”
Speaking about the flight itself, he added: “First thing they do is walk on the plane, take our passports like we is criminals and ain’t tell us nothing and (when we arrived) we weren’t allowed to walk in the airport. They make us walk down the (plane) steps. They had to get four guys to lift my wife downstairs because she had a major surgery and can’t walk like that.”
Mr Rolle also said when they arrived they were told not to use their phones although they were eager to let their families know that they had arrived home safely.
“They took us to the hotel for quarantine,” he furthered. “There I spoke to a doctor, they took my blood pressure and they asked us some questions. They asked me how many persons (lived) in my house, and if we had running water and a stove. I tell them only me and my wife live here and we have all the essential supplies in our house, so the doctor who examined us signed off on this document. The Defence Force officers wasn’t going to let nobody out there unless the doctor have a signature saying they releasing you.”
Nearly 200 Bahamians returned home on Friday after being stuck abroad amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The passengers were boarded onto Majestic Tour buses and taken to the Breezes Hotel. The buses could be seen reversing into the resort’s parking lot, although the left and right side of the driveway to enter the building’s front entrance were barricaded off. Armed officers in camouflage could also be seen monitoring the buses on the premises.
On Friday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Health released a statement advising the public that the passengers on the repatriation flight would “proceed immediately to the Government-operated quarantine facility for evaluation”.
“They will remain at the facility until health officials are able to determine if it is safe for them to leave,” the statement read. “To this end, members of the public are advised to refrain from visiting the airport to collect family members. In the interest of public safety, visitors will not be permitted at the quarantine facility. If family members wish to send packages to their loved ones while they are in quarantine, the items should be delivered to the Ministry of Health in Nassau and Grand Bahama, and they will be delivered to recipients at the quarantine facility.”