More Canadians share stories of being stuck in Jamaica after testing positive for COVID
Posted December 16, 2021 1:46 pm.
Last Updated December 16, 2021 3:10 pm.
Just days after CityNews first told you about what some travellers call “flawed” COVID testing at resorts in the Caribbean that delayed their return trip home, several more people have come forward to share similar concerns.
“Everything that happened to the people in your article is happening to us,” Chrissy Flowers said as she cried into the phone.
She and her boyfriend, Joshua Brown, were also staying at the Royalton Negril Resort in Jamaica.
The Kingston, Ont., couple got the news Tuesday that Brown tested positive for the virus.
“It doesn’t make sense,” Flowers explained, “we brought along rapid COVID tests and took them everyday, including the morning before our PCR test here, all of them came back negative.”
The test at the resort was administered by a third party, which the resort told CityNews they have no control over.
As mentioned before, PCR tests are more sensitive and can better detect COVID compared to rapid antigen tests.
Flowers told us her boyfriend is showing no symptoms.
“We understand people with COVID can be asymptomatic and if he has COVID, then he has COVID,” she said. “What I am most concerned about is the lack of information we are getting here.”
Flowers claims her boyfriend is getting conflicting details on how long he will have to quarantine.
“We were told by someone at the Jamaican Ministry of Health that he has to stay for five days, but a document we were sent says 14 days. We don’t know what is going on.”
The resort gave her boyfriend options. He was told he could stay at the resort in an isolation wing they have set up and pay a reduced rate or go to a government-run facility, free of charge.
“We saw pictures from other travellers of the government-run quarantine hotel and we’re not going anywhere near that place,” added Flowers.
Those photos were posted to social media by people like Jochebed Essel, who spoke out in our original report. She decided to stay at a government-run facility in El Greco, Jamaica and also shared several pictures of her experience there with CityNews.
“I am not at all a snob but this place is very unclean,” she said. “Had I known it was going to be like this, I would’ve stayed at the resort.”
Meantime, at the resort, Flowers claims her boyfriend is forced to stay in his room. His only social contact is shouting to others, who are also in the isolation wing, over his balcony.
“There are people there from all over, Canada, the U.S., even Jamaica,” Flowers said.
Since she tested negative, she is clear to fly home.
Chrissy Flowers and her boyfriend travelled to Jamaica for vacation.
“I don’t want to leave him but I can’t get any answers here. He says I will be more help in Canada to make calls and try and get something done for him,” she said.
Flowers is scheduled to return home to Toronto on Wednesday.
Another couple shared a similar experience.
“My wife and I were forced to quarantine for eight days,” explained Paul Menezes, who stayed at the same resort as Flowers and her boyfriend.
His wife also tested positive for COVID at the nurse’s station.
She has since tested negative after returning home and taken two PCR tests. He reached out to CityNews after reading our story and, like the others, the Menezes’ were given the choice to stay at the resort or stay at the government-run facility.
The Menezes’ also chose to stay at the resort.
“At first they said we had to book two separate rooms but we refused. I said ‘If my wife has COVID, I likely do too, so what’s the difference?’”
The resort finally allowed them to stay in the same room.
The couple was able to arrange a second COVID test through the Jamaican Ministry of Health after spending five days in isolation. Both tests came back negative and they were allowed to return home.
“When we arrived at Pearson in Toronto, my wife happened to be randomly selected for another COVID test, once again, it was negative” said Menezes’.
The owner of the resort did not respond to our requests for comment on either the Menezes’ or Flowers accusations. They referred to a statement in our original report, in which they said resort staff is simply following protocols set up by Jamaican health officials.
“We work with a third-party provider who conducts tests for our guests, thus we are not involved in the testing process itself,” a spokesperson for Blue Diamond Resorts previously told CityNews.
“We have taken COVID-19 standards and response protocols very seriously, and actively enforce the necessary procedures on property to protect the health and safety of all our guests and employees.”
COMPLAINTS RAISED AT MORE RESORTS
Kathy, who did not want us to use her last name, stayed in a different resort in Jamaica — not at all affiliated with the one mentioned in our original article.
The Oshawa native travelled to the island in August and said they locked her in a room when she tested positive for COVID.
“My original room was wonderful but the isolation wing of this resort was horrendous. When it rained, my closet flooded and the smell of mold was so awful,” she told us by phone.
Kathy’s positive result came from the resort testing station. Like the others we spoke with, she took follow up antigen and PCR tests while in isolation, which showed she was negative.
“I even took a blood test after I got back home which looks to see if I ever had COVID. I did not.”
Kathy shared all of her test results with CityNews.
Weeks later, after she shared the blood test results with the resort and the agency she booked her trip with, they have all issued her full refunds.
“But that was only after I called and called to get them to do something.”
QUESTIONS ABOUT TESTING
So is it possible for so many people to test positive on one PCR test, but later negative on others?
“Perhaps,” said Dr. Peter Jüni, the head of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table. While he admits it would be very odd for that many people to test positive and then negative on follow up tests soon after, there could be a number of explanations.
“If the viral load at the time of the first test was at the threshold and then later was not, then the second test could be negative.” But he says it should not come back negative until at least 10 days have passed — maybe even longer.
According to Health Canada, “people may continue to test positive by PCR for several weeks or, more rarely, months, after recovery.”
Many of the guests we spoke with claim they tested for COVID a few days after they received their first positive results at the resort.
“If it was just a couple of days after the first test, then that would be very strange.”
But Jüni points out there could be other issues at play.
“The first positive test could be accurate and the second one could be a false negative. Or vice versa.” He added, “were there issues, like contamination at any of those labs where these tests were sent? I don’t know that.”
Jüni said if PCR tests are done with uncontaminated specimens and quality control measures in place, they should be very accurate in detecting COVID.
“I just want somebody to look into what’s going on here,” Flowers said, a statement echoed by other travellers who’ve gone through the same thing. She is hoping once she’s back in Canada she will be able to get some help for her boyfriend who remains in isolation.
“I’m not sure there’s anything left to do but I will try,” she said.