Lisa Adderley, 45, was one of 200 Bahamians who returned home today after being stuck in the United States after the prime minister ordered the borders closed in an effort to contain COVID-19.
“I am grateful that the government has made arrangements to bring us home because we were trapped over here for three months,” Adderley told The Nassau Guardian as she waited to board her Bahamasair flight in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
“My daughter had medical surgery. She just had one Tuesday. It’s a godsend.
“I’d like to thank the prime minister for bringing us home and especially [Bahamas Consul General in Miami] Linda Mackey.”
Adderley described the process for registering to return to The Bahamas as “smooth”.
Shortly after 11 a.m. today the first Bahamasair flight with returning Bahamians and residents touched down at Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA).
Many were stranded in the U.S. since mid-march when The Bahamas’ borders were closed.
The Nassau Guardian spoke with several Bahamians who were on their way back home.
Franklin Miller, 70, said he was prepared to “kiss the ground and then my wife” when he arrived at LPIA.
He said he was stuck in the U.S. for nearly three months.
“I came here on some business to get my son sorted out,” Miller said.
“He was in some sort of problems, so I came here to get him sorted out and in trying to get him sorted out I got stuck here.”
He said he was chosen to return home because he kept calling the Bahamian consulate in Miami.
“Even if the Lord had given me a set of wings to fly, I would’ve [flown] home or do what Jonah did and get a fish to swallow me and bring me back home,” Miller told The Guardian.
“I just wanted to get back home.”
But Miller, like all those returning, will not be able to see his family until “health officials are able to determine if it is safe for them to leave” the government quarantine facility. Bahamians had to test negative for COVID-19 before returning home.
On Thursday, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Delon Brennen said either the Ministry of Health or Department of Social Services will evaluate the homes of those returning, noting that those whose homes are deemed fit for self-quarantine would be permitted to return to their residences.
Marlon Newton, 45, said he will quarantine at home.
Newton said officials could not tell him “what government facility or where they’re going to place us”.
“So I said, ‘You know what, let me go home.’”
He said he has an issue with being forced to quarantine.
“Who wants to be locked in their house for 14 days?” Newton asked.
“We already been through the rigorous testing for the virus.
“They pushed that thing from your nostrils all the way down to your kidneys. It was uncomfortable. Since we’ve been tested…it means that we’re all good.”
In a statement today, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated that all residents returning will be taken to a government quarantine facility.
“The ministry realizes that Bahamians are eager to see their loved ones,” the ministry said.
“However, all returning nationals and residents, upon arrival, will 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. 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.”
The ministry asked that individuals “comply fully with these measures”.
It noted that law enforcement will be stationed at both the airports and quarantine facilities to ensure that there is “no breach of these protocols”.
The long-anticipated arrival comes amid controversy that heightened in the last week over the landing of permanent residents on private aircraft.
The arrival of a group of six on April 29 led to the resignation of Dr. Duane Sands as minister of health, over what the prime minister termed a breach of protocol.