University of the West Indies Mona campus medical students Rajeev Ram and Amy Sankar at the Doctor’s Cave in Montego Bay, Jamaica. They returned home with a batch of other students over the weekend and are now in mandatory 14-day quarantine.

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As the country temporarily opened its borders for some 1,000 nationals to come home, the first batch of repatriated Trinidad and Tobago citizens are grateful to be here; even if they may not be physically on home soil yet.

University of the West Indies (UWI) students Rajeev Ram and Amy Sankar yesterday told Guardian Media that the quarantine period and facilities were better than they expected.

The medical students returned to T&T on Saturday from UWI’s Mona, Jamaica campus and are being housed at Canada Hall at the institution’s St Augustine campus.

In an interview over Whatsapp yesterday, Ram told Guardian Media the repatriation process was “very hectic.”

“We were uncertain of the steps to be taken for our return and we were constantly asking the Trinidadian High Commission and the UWI administration for information but things took a long while to be arranged,” he said.

“It was confirmed last Wednesday that we were going to get the chance to return on Saturday. Everyone had to sort out ticketing details with CAL (Caribbean Airlines Limited) to either use their old tickets or book new ones.”

Despite these initial hassles, he said they were all grateful to return home and the students have all since agreed that “the quarantining experience is much better than we expected.”

“The facility is clean, modern and comfortable for us to get our work done. The WiFi is excellent, handy for all of us who either have exams or classes online. We are given our meals on time and they are of sufficient quantity and great quality. All the members of staff (protective services and healthcare teams) are respectful, kind and helpful to us,” he said.

“We are lacking nothing here. I am extremely pleased with how this situation turned out. I am sure that all of us will leave here COVID-free, happy and eager to rejoin our families after being away for so long especially during these tough times.”

Ram said he keeps in touch with his family daily and said they were elated that he returned home.

“Although I can’t hug them in my arms as yet, I know that I’m not far from them. We look forward to spending a lot of time together and relaxing after the quarantine period is over,” he said.

As a medical student, he added that he needed to give kudos to the healthcare team looking after them. He said he was “blown away” by the treatment they received.

“Their professionalism and empathy is unmatched to anything I have seen in the public setting thus far. The public healthcare system has risen to the task of helping us manage through this tough time. For this I am grateful,” he said.

Meanwhile, a worker on board the Enchantment of the Seas vessel, which is being used to quarantine some 300 returning cruise ship workers from various liners, yesterday told Guardian Media the process has been a frustrating one for many of them but at the end of the day, they are happy to be closer to returning to their families.

“The repatriation process has been long, frustrating, anxiety-inducing, but also very eye-opening in terms of human nature and just humanity in general.”

The worker, who did not want to be identified, said for some of the passengers this was their fourth quarantine period.

“Bear in mind that all of our ships have already completed at least a minimum 14-day quarantine over the past two months, some ships did much longer than the 14 days. So for most of us, this is the second, third or fourth quarantine period that we are having to endure…We understand that it’s necessary…but it’s definitely not a fun or pleasant experience,” the worker said.

According to the worker, those in quarantine and their family members are all eagerly awaiting the end of the month to complete the process so they can return to their loved ones.