BARBADOS: Returning Bajan stumped by treatment at BRA offices

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(Barbados Today) – An apparent mix-up of the COVID-19 protocols has resulted in a returning resident being denied the services of two Government offices after being cleared by local health officials to conduct business as normal.

Twenty-two-year old Arrianne Toney told Barbados TODAY that she arrived from Canada on October 4 to visit relatives and conduct business.

Consistent with Barbados’ protocols for medium-risk countries, Toney was cleared to exit the Grantley Adams International after presenting a negative COVID-19 PCR test that had been taken within 72-hours of entry.

“I must say that the service at the airport was beyond exceptional and very welcoming. I was very impressed. Before exiting, I was told that I needed to check in daily with my temperature or any symptoms to the Ministry of Health.

“I was never told that I needed to quarantine, as I was coming from a medium-risk country. I also received a document supporting this,” the young lady explained.

Her pleasant experience however took an awful turn when she arrived at the Oistins office of the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) to get a permit for a driver’s licence in Barbados.

It was there that a customer service agent reportedly demanded that she leave the premises and quarantine.

In a letter to the Government department, she recalled: “The representative who dealt with me asked ‘when did you arrive in Barbados?’ and I responded ‘the 4th of October’. She then responded very rudely saying ‘what are you doing out? You should be quarantined!’”

The confused Barbadian resident who has been living in Canada for the last 18 months then reiterated the instructions given to her by local health officials the day before but was again instructed to leave.

Determined to secure the driver’s permit and convinced that the customer service representative was having a bad day, she attempted to conduct the same transaction at the BRA’s Pine, St Michael office. However, the embarrassing nightmare continued.

“While I was waiting in line, a gentleman came out identifying me by the clothes I was wearing. This guy then started shouting at me saying ‘I understand that you arrived on the island yesterday, what are you doing here?’ I took two steps forward and then he started shouting ‘stay back, stay back, like you want me to call the Ministry of Health for you’. He then started flagging down the police,” Toney recounted.

After leaving The Pine office, the embarrassed woman returned to the Oistins branch one more time. After contacting airport officials and health authorities, who confirmed that she was not in breach of national protocols, Toney accused BRA officials of denying her service for a third time.

“The manager was beyond rude. She walked away from the window and instead sent a security guard to me with a telephone number with the finance department.

“Eventually, I decided to leave the BRA and make my way home very frustrated and upset. I contacted [quarantine facilities manager] Alvin Hart and alerted him of the situation and he said he will be reporting this.

“I am asking that this situation be investigated as the service and embarrassment are beyond me. I cannot imagine someone else going through this the same way I did,” the disappointed customer said in her letter to the BRA.

When contacted, Hart told Barbados TODAY he was not at liberty to discuss the complaint but advised that the matter be taken up with Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth George.

Efforts to reach Dr George and Health Minister Jeffrey Bostic for any further clarifications about any misunderstandings regarding the COVID-19 protocols, were unsuccessful.

The developments occurred days after a suspected positive case came into contact with BRA’s staff at its Holetown, St James office. After quarantining and receiving tests, 15 employees were declared to be free of the coronavirus.

When contacted last Friday, BRA’s Public Relations Officer Carolyn Williams-Gayle told Barbados TODAY that she could not comment on the matter.

However, by Sunday, the revenue collection agency announced that from Monday, October 12, visitor’s permits would be processed online only and payments would be processed through SurePay’s online payment platform.

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