Returning national recounts ‘stressful’ encounter with quarantine officials

Photo of the meal served at the quarantine facility, courtesy Gwendolin Albarado)
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By Elesha George

[email protected]

Returning national, Gwendolin Albarado believes that the quarantine process in Antigua and Barbuda leaves a lot to be desired.

Albarado, who was born in Trinidad & Tobago and is currently a Permanent Resident in the United States, arrived in Antigua on Monday 11th, January, believing that she had met all the Covid-19 requirements, as stated on the Antigua and Barbuda website and posted by her airline – American Airlines.

“I arrived with all my documents. I quarantined the day before I travelled, which was part of my requirements. I fully expected to at least have one week of quarantine because I have my negative test and I have no symptoms,” she told Observer.

When she arrived at the VC Bird International Airport, the woman expected to be able to quarantine at a private accommodation, before moving on to renew her personal documents once she was eventually cleared by health authorities. 

However, she said that she was treated unfairly by representatives of the Quarantine Authority who forced her to stay at the government quarantine facility at Halcyon by Rex Resort.

“When I arrived in Antigua, you’re ushered to an area where they take your temperature. Nobody instructed you that that was going to happen; you’re just waved through that. The person who was doing the procedure was a bit flustered and it was a bit chaotic and after they take your temperature, they wave you on to a junior agent,” Albarado explained.

That agent, Albarado said, asked about where she would stay while on island and the purpose of her visit. It was then she was advised that the private apartment in Hodges Bay where she intended to stay was not on the Covid approved list.

“Nowhere on the website did it say that where you were staying had to be on a Covid-approved list,” she remarked.

She said she was then directed to a supervisor who then forwarded her to a manager, who she said was “very stern, not very helpful and actually very ill informed”.

The woman said she was then asked to make a reservation at a Covid-approved property, which she did.

“She [the manager] then decided by the time I made that booking at Blue Waters, that she was not going to allow me to go because I was there on business and that I will go out in the community and spread. That was the end of the discussion with her. For two hours I was held in their Covid authority area and interrogated.”

The woman was later informed that she would be taken to the government quarantine, to which she replied: “I have lived here for a number of years, I have worked in the hotel industry and I know for a fact Halycon is a dump, it’s derelict and that it was closed down for a number of years”.

Albarado said the woman seemingly took offence to her assertion and ultimately proceeded to make arrangements to have her transported to the hotel. The taxi that she had booked to take her to her private accommodation was also called off.  

The woman said she refused to be housed at the hotel and wanted to book a return flight home but was not allowed to do so at the time. An airline agent eventually provided her with a number to call, she said, adding that she asked to see the manager again but the woman never returned. 

“Some guy appeared with mask and an apron, took me around to the back of the airport, took my bag and got me on a bus through the back of the airport, through Hodges Bay and deposited me at Rex Halcyon.

“When I arrived there, the gentleman who received me was wearing a pair of slippers, three quarter khaki pants and a t-shirt. That was my welcome to that place,” she explained.

Albarado said the man escorted to a room which she recalled had a musty stench in the air and mould on the walls.

“He said to me, ‘you can’t lock the door because there is no key’; if I locked myself out I had to find him so that he can let me back in,” she recalled.

The returning national explained that “the bed sheet looked clean but when I eventually got on the bed, it was smelling of whomever was sleeping in the bed before I got in. The bathroom hadn’t been cleaned. The shower curtain was dirty”.

She also recalled muck that had accumulated in the bathroom from what she assumed was bad plumbing, having no hot water to bathe with and no drinking water was available. There was also no wireless internet, the food was unappetizing, and Albarado said a nurse who was expected to come to the hotel the following day never showed.

Meanwhile, Albarado said her husband – Christopher James – was worried sick after being unable to contact her for some time.

James told Observer, “It’s just unbelievable. I just decided to be a thorn in the guy’s side to call him literally every 10 minutes to say what’s going on? Otherwise she would have been there until whenever,” he remarked.

“There was just zero urgency and again not to have water, a basic thing as water; you’re treated like some kind of prisoner. If you’re going to provide quarantine for people, you need to provide the facilities to sustain that,” a frustrated Albarado remarked.

She said was finally able to leave the quarantine facility after her husband booked her a flight back to the US, and that she was escorted by police to the airport.

“I was tired from travelling, I hadn’t slept the night, I was hungry and not knowing what was going to happen. I don’t expect as a returning resident to have been treated like this,” she told Observer.  

According to her, “the people who were there and the people who are working – the defence force, police officers – they are disgruntled and they are tired of people coming there and shouting and carrying on with them for something they have no control over. This is like a nightmare of something you see on a movie and you don’t expect that to happen to you returning home”.

The woman said she hoped to have been treated with a little more respect and wished she would have been allowed to stay at the hotel and was prepared to follow whatever rules had been put in place for health and safety.

Since the incident, Albarado said American Airlines has updated their site with the correct information to better assist travellers.

Observer has contacted the head of the quarantine authority, the Chief Medical Officer Dr Rhonda Sealey-Thomas for a response to the accusations.

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