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Jamaicans in Wuhan, China will have to live it out

THE Government, accepting professional advice, will not be repatriating Jamaicans from Wuhan, China, the epicentre of the deadly novel coronavirus.

Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson Smith, in a statement yesterday, said, “Based on the advice of its technical experts in the management of public health matters, it has accepted the strong recommendation not to proceed at this time with the repatriation of Jamaicans from Wuhan.”

The minister said she had been mandated by the prime minister and Cabinet to explore the possibility of repatriating Jamaican citizens from Wuhan and had followed through on the task.

“I reached out immediately to partner countries who were evacuating their citizens, explored regional partnerships with countries who also have students and teachers there, as well as a sole Government of Jamaica approach by charter of sufficient capacity to cover the distance. Regrettably, none of those options proved workable. We note that many foreign nationals remain in Wuhan as several countries who evacuated citizens focused primarily on government employees, and were also ultimately limited by capacity and other considerations,” said Johnson Smith.

“Through our continued dialogue with relevant MDAs (ministries, departments and agencies), they assessed the risks involved; the current circumstances including the still unabated dengue and flu season, as well as efforts being made to expand the capacity of the health care system to quarantine or isolate persons, based on the natural flow of travel to Jamaica. In that context, they recommended that this avenue not be pursued at this time,” said the minister.

The Government, she added, is encouraged by and continued to give thanks for reports that, to date, all Jamaican citizens in China remain in good health. She also assured the public that notwithstanding the current assessment, the Government will continue to monitor the situation in China and especially in Wuhan.

“We will do all that is possible to support Jamaicans in China even with our small staff in Beijing, along with the support of the Jamaican Association in China and the Chinese authorities, through our respective embassies.”

Johnson Smith expressed appreciation of the Government of Jamaica to the Chinese Foreign Affairs Offices for the support already provided to citizens in need, and the assurances of its continued efforts. She also commended the Chinese Government on the unprecedented levels of effort made to constrain the spread of the virus and to find a cure.

In the meantime, Minister Johnson Smith encouraged members of the Jamaican community to advise of any challenges with basic needs as the Government is assured that where challenges arise, the foreign affairs offices in the respective provinces in China will do their best to assist.

The foreign minister also encouraged Jamaicans in provinces where travel is still permitted to advise their groups or the embassy if they move or leave China, so they can be in the best possible position to help if needed.