Members of the T&T Defence Force stand guard outside the University of the West Indies’s Debe Campus yesterday, after a group of T&T nationals who returned from Suriname were quarantined there.

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After over a month of uncertainty, 70 Trinidad and Tobago nationals who had been stranded in Suriname since the closure of this country’s borders on March 22 returned home yesterday.

The group, including 69 nationals and one person who has permanent residency here, arrived at the Piarco International Airport via a Suriname Airways flight reportedly chartered for an estimated US$25,000 at around 10.25 am.

About 15 minutes after they set foot on Trini soil, their bus convoy arrived at the airport flanked by police escorts.

The convoy met the plane on the tarmac and passengers, guided by officials wearing protective suits, ushered them to the waiting buses. All the passengers on board appeared to be wearing masks as they left the plane to board the waiting transport. The drivers of the buses were also in protective suits and masks.

As they left the airport at around 11.15 am, several of the passengers aboard the buses waved to members of the media along Piarco Old Road.

Just about an hour later they arrived at the University of the West Indies’ Debe campus, where they will be quarantined for the next 14 days. Their arrival was met with a slight hiccup as the convoy initially attempted to enter through the wrong gate, but that misunderstanding was quickly rectified.

The group later settled in at the facility in various dorm rooms on the campus. Each dorm room was equipped with a refrigerator, a standing fan and toiletries. The returning nationals also received lunch upon arrival at the facility.

The return home yesterday ended the wait and see saga the nationals, who comprised mainly oil and gas workers, had to endure after they failed to beat the March 22 deadline to return to Trinidad and Tobago before the borders were closed as a part of measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Having missed the deadline for the closure of T&T’s border, the nationals were forced to stay put as they also ended up in lockdown in the South American country, who to date has reported 10 cases of the virus with one death and eight recoveries.

Speaking about the preparations in place for the group at yesterday’s COVID-19 media briefing, Chief Medical officer Dr Roshan Parasram gave the facility the thumb’s up.

“I visited myself yesterday (Thursday) to assure everything was in place. So the country medical officer is the commander for the Ministry of Health and she’s on-site to make sure everything is in place when they do come in.”

On Monday, Minister of National Security Stuart Young confirmed that he had given the nationals based in Suriname the all-clear to return.

They are the second group of nationals to be allowed to return to this country following the closure of the borders to international flights, following the return of 33 T&T nationals from Barbados on April 21.

The nationals who had returned from Barbados were immediately placed into quarantine for two weeks at the National Racquet Centre.