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Passengers left ‘appalled’ by treatment in quarantine

Zaria Palmer, 19, a resident of Georgia, left a Bahamian government quarantine facility yesterday, saying health officials were not present at the time.

She was infuriated when she boarded her flight to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, yesterday morning.

Palmer was one of scores of Bahamians, residents and visitors forced to quarantine at a government-selected facility on Tuesday night without prior notice.

“I am angry about the way I, and everybody else, were treated,” Palmer told The Nassau Guardian.

“I don’t feel human beings with basic rights should have been subjected to conditions like that. I felt inferior and like a lesser being while I was under the control of the government and its enforcers for those 12-plus hours.”

She barely slept on Tuesday night because of the situation.

Palmer said she hurriedly purchased her ticket to fly from Freeport to Nassau after learning on the weekend that Grand Bahama’s international and domestic borders were set to close.

Palmer was one of the last people to leave the island before its border closure, which the prime minister ordered in response to a recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

“Bahamasair came late at 7:30 p.m.,” she said, adding that the flight was scheduled to leave the island at 5:30 p.m.

“We arrived in Nassau at 8:16 p.m. but the pilot announced we couldn’t leave because we needed clearance from the Ministry of Health.

“We didn’t get off the plane until 9:30. When we got to baggage claim, police officers and Royal Bahamas Defence Force [officers] informed us that we would have to be quarantined at Breezes (hotel).

“Mind you, this was the first time anyone informed us that we would have to be quarantined. We were in lines at the airport until 11:30. We were jammed up with no measures for social distancing.”

Palmer said no food or water was offered to the passengers as they awaited permission to leave Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) on Tuesday night.

She said some passengers “kept asking” for food and water and were ultimately given some.

However, according to Palmer, only seven passengers of the more than 70 were given food or water.

Julia Mellor, 20, a resident of Freeport, was one of those 70 passengers.

Mellor said they waited inside the airport until 11:30 p.m. “with no information as to what was happening”.

“We were only informed that there are buses to pick us up,” she said.

“I was very disappointed and frustrated, as I felt they were violating my human rights. Not only were we not informed but we were also not given any food or water.”

She said that after they were transported to Breezes, “We had to stand outside and wait.

“We were informed that we were getting rooms and that health officials would come in the morning.”

She said she had to wait for more than an hour to get a room.

“They placed the nine of us between two rooms,” Mellor said.

“The rooms had no toilet paper, no soap and no food. The other passengers had to travel to another hotel at 1 a.m., as they ran out of rooms at Breezes.”

Asked how she felt about the situation, Mellor replied, “I am appalled at how we have been treated. I feel like a prisoner; there is military watching us 24/7 and we have zero rights.”

A young mother, who was quarantined with her baby and young nephew, told The Nassau Guardian early yesterday, “I came in on the Freeport flight yesterday. They put us into quarantine at Breezes hotel last night. We asked for water. They didn’t give us any.

“We have kids, young babies crying for food. It’s now the following day, still no water or food was given. I asked if someone could bring me food or I could buy food from the cafe. I was told no. My baby is crying for food and water.”

The young woman asked that her name not be used.

It was unclear whether she was still at the hotel last night.

Mellor, the Freeport resident, was able to leave, however.

Around 6 p.m, she tweeted, “We’re free.”

Up to 2 p.m. yesterday, Jade Thompson, 22, a resident of New Providence, who was returning from a family visit on Grand Bahama, was still being kept at the facility.

“We were fed and got some water,” Thompson tweeted.

“I am 100 percent grateful. I do not want anyone to misinterpret my tweets or my stance on the matter. Quarantine is perfectly fine with me. It was the manner in which we were treated as to where the problem stood.”

She added, “Nonetheless, I’m grateful for life. It could’ve been worse. Just wish the situation was more organized. This is a mess.”

It was unclear just how many people were held in quarantine after they landed on New Providence on Tuesday evening.

In addition to a flight that originated out of Freeport, Bahamasair also conducted a flight out of Fort Lauderdale. The airline dropped off 57 passengers in Freeport then flew to Nassau with 79 passengers, who were placed in quarantine, The Nassau Guardian understands.

Other flights were reportedly also affected, but the government did not provide any details yesterday.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Delon Brennen told The Nassau Guardian on Tuesday night, the quarantine took place as a result of a Cabinet directive.

In the House of Assembly yesterday morning, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis apologized for the “stress and duress” caused to travelers, but he said the action was necessary to ensure the safety of the country.

Minnis indicated there was a rush of passengers after his announcement that Grand Bahama’s borders would close as of 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Minister of Health Renward Wells is expected to provide more information on the matter in a communication in the House of Assembly this morning.

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