COVID-19: Stranded Guyanese under financial strain while awaiting flight home from NY

– three repatriation flights cancelled


As she awaits an opportunity to return home, one Guyanse woman has been sleeping at a train station in the United States because she has no money to pay for proper accommodations. She is among the many Guyanese who are feeling the financial strain of being stranded in New York as a result of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and are desperate to return home. “So the Guyanese are really suffering,” Bibi Hussain, who is also seeking to return home, told Sunday Stabroek yesterday and related the predicament of the woman sleeping at the train station.           

The National COVID-19 Task Force has so far approved the controlled re-entry of approximately 300 Guyanese through the nation’s international airports providing they follow a series of guidelines, including securing a negative COVID-19 test using Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing. The first batch of stranded Guyanese to be repatriated arrived on June 6th, on a flight from Miami, United States of America (USA). The Eastern Airlines flight landed at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) with 109 passengers, who were mandated to undergo a seven-day quarantine either at a government facility or at home.

Subsequent to their arrival, senior government officials including Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence and Director General of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority Egbert Field said more flights would be undertaken this past week to help stranded Guyanese. However, two flights scheduled for June 11th and another scheduled for yesterday were cancelled for unknown reasons. The first flight would’ve brought stranded Guyanese in Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados home, while the second flight would have brought stranded Guyanese from JFK, New York, in the United States.

Upon hearing that the June 11th, flight was cancelled, Guyanese stranded in the US feared that the flight scheduled for yesterday would also be cancelled. It was. They were told, however, that the next flight would be on Wednesday, June 16th and they are hoping that it will not be delayed because of the difficulties they are facing in the US, including getting tests to prove they are COVID-19 free in accordance with the requirements of Guyana’s Public Health Ministry. According to Damian Jagroop, persons have to pay at least US$100 to get tested and many are facing financial difficulties.

Hussain added that officials had said that flights to bring stranded Guyanese back home would be every week because they “understood what we were going through.” She said that passengers do not understand the reason why the flight was postponed but they were told that the next tentative date would be on Wednesday. She said some do not seem to understand what the stranded Guyanese are going through financially. “Testing is a big deal all over the world and testing is limited all over the world even in the US. To begin with, the results take three to five days for us to get it and some of us will be fortunate to get it within a 24-hour period and because people would’ve taken the test in hopes of getting on the first repatriation flight, which was on the 6th and the validity period would be up by this weekend and many were hoping to get on the flight this week,” she said.

Meanwhile, Diane Basdeo told Sunday Stabroek that she is desperate to return home and has so far been tested twice for COVID-19 just so she would be allowed to return home on the flight yesterday. She said that she travelled from Connecticut to New York a few days prior to ensure that she got on the flight. “I have anxiety and I have no medication and I want to go home to my family and so I’m begging for the government to accept us,” she added.

Another said she did not intend to spend so much time in the US and was hoping to return home in March but was unable to do so since no flights were allowed to and from Guyana at the ending of March. She said that she is desperate to return home as her 81-year-old grandmother needs her. In addition, she stated that she has bills to pay in Guyana to ensure that her grandmother is well taken care of. A teacher said, “I need to get back home to do some work with my CSEC students and they [the government] need to communicate in a more effective manner, not waiting for the last minute to say that the flight is cancelled with no explanation.”

Another said that she has little money left and once it’s finished, she will be left on the streets while someone else added that his family is going through the same situation. He said that his family in the US can no longer sustain them and they cannot find a place to rent. “We have to find a place, which is hard because at the moment we don’t have money to survive much less to go and rent,” he said.

Jagroop also stated that he was told by stranded Guyanese that their visa will expire soon and they do not have money to apply for an extension. He said that another person told him that her husband has dementia and she asked her neighbours to look after him for 10 days but she has been stuck in the US since March.
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  • Jasmine  On 06/15/2020 at 1:36 am

    I find it very baffling that there are Guyanese who are unable to get out of the U.S. sleeping in a train station and others stating that they will run out of money soon and will be out on the streets. Where were these people staying to begin with? I’m sure that many were with family members or friends. Therefore, I cannot believe that their families or friends cannot continue to accommodate them fully knowing and understanding their circumstances. Where is the Guyanese community spirit in all of this?

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