Be Careful Abroad

Word is there are many of us in our Caribbean community in the GTA patiently awaiting the further lifting of travel restrictions, which were imposed by regional governments after the deadly Covid-19 virus escalated into an all-out pandemic in March.

A number of these nations with lock-down bans on travelling has since reopened airports, and since then, we have been seeing movement from the GTA back to homeland countries as Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Grenada, and Barbados. However, a few airports are still tightly shut, such as in St Kitts and Nevis, Monserrat, Guadeloupe, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago.

There is no doubt 2020 has been a difficult year; that we are living in what is being described as “the new normal”, which is a lifestyle that has been severely curtailed by isolation, physical distancing, the cautionary wearing of face-masks, and rigorous hand-sanitising.

It has also been severely difficult for many of us here abroad who are keeping alive the ties that bind us to our homelands: with close family members, life-long friendships, and investments that require onsite visits for renewal, monitoring, and maintenance throughout the year.

So, it was with relief the news was received last week that the government of Guyana plans to lift its airport lockdown, most likely on October 12. While the news was met with relief in the GTA, and elsewhere in the diaspora, the response was notably accompanied with a realistic mix of concern and anxiety.

The anxiety is a good sign. It means the messaging for precautions and prevention has been received that Covid-19 is a dire and continuing visitation; that with its pandemic reach, to become infected, whether at home or abroad, could lead to suffering and death.

Consequently, we take this opportunity to issue the reminder, particularly to members of our Guyanese community lining up to venture back to the homeland, to do so with a healthy mix of trepidation and preparation. To forget that we are now living in precarious and perilous times could lead to significant hardships.

For those planning trips to homelands in the weeks and months ahead, we recommend a visit to the Canadian government’s website for travellers, with particular attention paid to its advisories. The main site is found at https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/advisories; for Guyana, https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/guyana; and for Trinidad and Tobago, https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/trinidad-and-tobago.

According to the Canadian government’s latest information, strict travel restrictions remain in place abroad; and that once we arrive there, the availability of options for international transportation remains limited.

Notably, the government is also warning that once abroad, we could encounter difficulty returning to Canada. As it notes, “While some countries are partially opening their borders, we continue to advise against non-essential travel outside of Canada”.

Also, “The governments of those destinations that have opened their borders to tourists could impose strict travel restrictions suddenly, should they experience an increase in cases of Covid-19. International transportation options could be reduced significantly, making it difficult for you to return to Canada. There are no plans to offer additional repatriation flights. Should you decide to travel despite our advisories, know that you might have to remain abroad longer than you expected.”

Canada’s government also warns that to travel abroad could lead to difficulties obtaining essential products and services; also, there could be sudden and strict movement restrictions; and episodes of quarantining at designated facilities could mean you covering its cost. The warning is also issued that your insurance may not cover travel or medical expenses; and the Canadian government may have limited capacity to offer consular services.

Earlier this week, Canada had 171,000 cases, with 9,530 deaths; Guyana, 3,188 cases and 90 deaths; and Trinidad and Tobago, 4,766 cases, with 81 deaths.

Please be careful when travelling abroad.