The UWI St Augustine Campus is the newest quarantine centre to be set up locally as 140 students returned from the UWI Mona Campus in Jamaica on Saturday.
Canada Hall will be their home for the next 14 days as the students observe strict health and safety guidelines set out by the Ministry of Health.
Their return is in keeping with the promise by Government to bring home students who had remained in various Caribbean territories after their exams are completed.
The students reportedly landed at the Piarco International Airport around 4 pm Saturday and were met by health officials following which they were directed onto four Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) buses to be taken to the St Augustine campus. The students arrived just around 7 pm on the southern side of the campus.
Accompanied by both police and soldiers who will remain with them for the duration of their stay, the students were unable to freely disembark as they waited for Santec officials to set up misting machines for them to be sanitised along with their luggage.
Directed by health officials who were clad in full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), the students were given medical checks and assessments before they were allowed to go to their assigned rooms.
It is expected that health officials will return to the campus on Sunday to continue carrying out assessments on the group, even as the second batch of students numbering between 20 and 30 are expected to return on Sunday as well.
The Sunday Guardian understands that to ensure the students are comfortable during their enforced stay, a fan, along with groceries such as tea, coffee, sugar, milk and oats; toiletries such as sanitary napkins, soap and toilet paper; as well as cleaning products including brooms, pails and mops were also placed in each of the dormitory rooms.
A senior official from the North Central Regional Health Authority (NCRHA) said this was part of the collaborative effort by the Ministry of Health, the T&T Defence Force, the NCRHA, and the Country Medical Office of Health (CMOH) to assist the students before their parents could take them home in the coming days.
Officials have said that anyone wanting to drop off care packages can do so at the Carmony Hall carpark daily between 9 am and noon.
Senior campus officials said Canada Hall and Milner Hall were both handed over to the TTDF and the NCRHA for use during this part of the COVID-19 relief measures. They said the campus was asked to facilitate the students who will require internet access as some are still engaged in online exams.
When the Sunday Guardian arrived at the campus around 2 pm on Saturday, MTS workers along with personnel from the NCRHA were seen removing trash and clearing the front of the building which was being patrolled by soldiers.
Officials have said close to 300 students from both Cave Hill, Barbados and Mona, Jamaica, are expected to return home before the month ends.
NCRHA officials said the rooms have all been refurbished and will provide adequate accommodations for this set of returning nationals.
Several curious passers-by last evening expressed happiness over the move by Government to allow the students to return home once their exams were over.
A woman who works nearby said, “It is good they get to come back. They are children and would already be scared of being on their own and away from their parents. This way, at least they are here and will be going home after the two weeks. I’m happy for them.”
A couple walking along the perimeter fence as they exercised said they were not bothered by the return of the students or worried that any of them could be diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus.
A PH driver dropping off passengers in the vicinity of the campus southern gate was initially perturbed to learn that students returning from Jamaica were now being housed on the campus as his girlfriend was a student there.
However, he relaxed after being told the campus remained closed to the student population and that online learning would continue until September when all schools and tertiary education facilities reopen.
Meanwhile, some relatives took vantage points close to the Piarco Airport to welcome their loved ones with warm greetings written on placards.