After 70 days waiting to ensure they were safe of COVID-19, 33 Trinidadian nationals were finally released from the step-down facility in Tacarigua and allowed to return to their homes yesterday.
It brought to an end the long saga which had seen them in purgatory in paradise, as the Barbados government initially took them after they missed the deadline to return to Trinidad and Tobago before the borders were closed at midnight March 22.
The group was finally allowed to return to this country on April 21 and had been in 14-day quarantine at the National Racquet Centre until yesterday, when the group was officially cleared for release at around noon.
Within the hour, their relatives arrived to pick them up from the facility they had called a home away from home.
While most departing the facility expressed relief and joy and looked forward to home-cooked meals like barbecue chicken and curry duck prepared by their relatives, others thanked the media and waved as they left.
Phillip Ramdial told reporters many still did not understand what the group experienced in their quest to return home following a cruise in the Middle East.
“There were things that I felt and the group felt could have been better, could have been more, let we say lenient to us. Show a little more kindness, understanding while they might be right, they supposed to do things right also,” he told media as he was being driven out the centre.
“We felt a sense of not belonging to the country and we were hoping then they would have been a little more caring, a little more compassionate, understanding our journey, which I feel up to now they never understood where we went, when we went and our journey back.”
He added, “So I am hoping not too long from now, we will sort that out and they will better understand us. Why we were agitated, why we had hate, why we had all these things. At the end of it, today we are happy to return home. Our stay here is, we expect to be quarantined and we are happy to be returning to our homes.”
He promised to speak to the media again when the group had officially settled to explain their position.
“I will explain to you all our journey, when it started on the 25th of February, where we were when they say lockdown, what I did to get the people as close to home as possible in Barbados,” he said.
Ramdial, who had issued an apology for suggesting the Government’s initial stance not to reopen the borders to allow them to return had a racial undertone, said while he felt the comment was taken a little out of context, although he admitted it did eventually spur action on the matter.
“Immediately Philip Ramdial became popular and race remark and all of these things, but so be it and I think it help us along the way. Because decisions start taking place,” he said.
Ramdial said while he understood the Government’s stance, he did feel their public relations could have been better, as it led to significant frustration among the group, none more so than his wife Ann.
Ann Ramdial told reporters she had to be hospitalised at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex due to high blood pressure during her time at the centre.
“To tell your own citizens you cannot come into the country and stay put where you are. I still feel that hurt and anger and my health was deteriorating while in there because I spent a night in Mt Hope hospital because my pressure was high and today I might have to go back Mt Hope again because I feel that same anger again,” she said.
Before they left, the group took a picture with a banner thanking the Barbadian government for their role in getting them back home.