COVID-19-stranded Canadians look forward to going home

TREASURE BEACH, St Elizabeth — When the Canadian husband and wife pair of Tom and Susan Little arrived here back in March, they had a flight booked to return to Toronto on May 15.

The thinking back then was that by May the crisis surrounding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) would have passed.

“We were coming originally for two months [as] we thought in two months it (COVID-19) would be all over,” a rueful Tom Little told the Jamaica Observer last week.

The Canadian retirees are among about ten tourists stranded in Treasure Beach as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic which led to the closure of Jamaica’s multi-billion-dollar tourism industry as well as incoming air passenger traffic in late March.

Repeated attempts by the Littles to travel home by Air Canada flights over the past five weeks have all come to nothing with the airline rescheduling on each occasion. They are now set to leave on June 20, following the Jamaican Government’s announcement last week of the gradual lifting of restrictions, including the reopening of the country to visitors and regular air passenger traffic on June 15.

“…Unless Jamaica introduces something else that would deter Air Canada from flying, I think we are good to go,” Susan Little told the Observer.

They are anxiously looking forward to seeing family and friends again. “We were disappointed when we heard our flight was cancelled from (next) Saturday…,” said Susan.

But there are also mixed feelings because they have been very “comfortable” and have felt “really safe” at the Sunset Resort at Calabash Bay, where they have been allowed to stay despite the 14-room hotel having been officially closed since March; and also because the flight back to Toronto is likely to be uncomfortable. They will be required to wear masks for the entire journey and then, they will have to enter two weeks of isolation before returning to the embrace of family and friends.

Jamaica has long been like a second home for the Littles, who live a three-hour drive north of Toronto. They have been coming here for vacation every year for more than 30 years.

“We have been coming here for a long time, 23 years to Treasure Beach and nine before that at Negril. Our son was married here at Sunset, our family has been here, our grandchildren have been here several times; it’s a special place,” said Susan.

They credited the Jamaican authorities for what they felt was a “wonderful job controlling the virus”, to such an extent that “we have felt safer here than we would at home… I have felt very safe”.

They had special praise for the proprietors at Sunset Resort, Kory and Janet South, who took them in after their previous accommodation closed down. “Even though they (Sunset Resort) were closed, they took us in…” said Susan.

And gesturing at the scenic surrounds, including beach and Caribbean Sea, Tom said: “Most of our family is more than envious…”

Despite the added expense, they are looking forward to again vacationing in Treasure Beach next year. “We are not rich but we are retired and we are okay for a while; we may have to have a shorter vacation next year,” said Susan, laughing.

Up to the weekend, Jamaica had recorded 596 cases of COVID-19 with 10 deaths. Globally, there have been more than 6.5 million confirmed cases with close to 400,000 deaths.

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