Fri | Jun 5, 2020

‘I got scared’ - Caribbean students stranded in Ja amid pandemic tell their stories

Published:Saturday | April 25, 2020 | 12:23 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
University of the West Indies, Mona, students from Antigua Akilah Southwell (left) and Stevika Foster of Montserrat prepare to board a flight yesterday at the Norman Manley International Airport. Both of them were among a group of students who were repatriated to their respective countries after being stranded in Jamaica owing to the COVID-19.
University of the West Indies, Mona, students from Antigua Akilah Southwell (left) and Stevika Foster of Montserrat prepare to board a flight yesterday at the Norman Manley International Airport. Both of them were among a group of students who were repatriated to their respective countries after being stranded in Jamaica owing to the COVID-19.

Stuck in Jamaica following the closure of the island’s borders as part of measures to curtail the spread of COVID-19, Akilah Southwell, an Antiguan, and first-year law student at The University of the West Indies (UWI), was homesick.

When news came that her government organised a LIAT flight to take her home, Southwell was relieved and told The Gleaner yesterday that she would rather be quarantined in her country than to remain in Jamaica any longer.

As a result of restrictions here including the closure of its borders, 20 Jamaicans were also stranded in Antigua. They were allowed entry into the island yesterday in an apparent quid pro quo.

“It’s been approximately two months of quarantine. The experience being here was very lonely. I felt stuck like there was nowhere to go. I prefer to be at home with my family, especially in a crisis like this.

“I wasn’t locked up in my room and can’t leave campus, but we tried not to leave the campus. It was more self-quarantine, a personal choice. I am extremely excited to go home. You can’t see my face properly but I am smiling because I am excited,” she said while donning her mask.

As she waited anxiously in Jamaica, her family provided financial and other kinds of support as best they could from home in Antigua.

The law student said that more than 40 students might have been stranded in Jamaica and expressed gratitude to her government for stepping in.

Also among the group was Stevika Foster, a first-year medical student at The UWI, who shared that she began to panic after realising the COVID-19 pandemic would not be over quickly.

“When I first heard about the pandemic, I thought I could wait it out if it’s a month, but then I realised it was not a month and we would be in quarantine for a while and the cases were just rising. I got scared and was ready to go home,” Stevika said.

The Gleaner spoke to her mother, Naomi Foster, last night, who is anxious to see her daughter. She explained that after arriving in Antigua by plane with the other students, Stevika will have to take a ferry over to Montserrat.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com