Jamaica says one migrant on U.S. deportation flight had coronavirus

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KINGSTON, April 27 (Reuters) – One of the 46 people who arrived in Jamaica on a deportation flight from the United States a week ago has tested positive for the new coronavirus, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness said on Monday.

Jamaica, which partially closed its borders last month due to the coronavirus pandemic, is the latest country in the region after Guatemala, Mexico and Haiti to have detected infections among migrants deported from the United States.

Holness did not give any further details on the health or whereabouts of the infected person.

The deportees were taken to a quarantine facility upon arrival where they are being screened twice daily, according to the government. They are set to be released two weeks after their arrival.

“They are being quarantined, and they have individual facilities dedicated to them including their own bathroom,” Holness told a news conference.

There are 364 positive cases of the virus in Jamaica, and seven people have died, with more than 50% of cases originating from one call center.

Despite the relatively low number of cases, officials have warned that a major outbreak would put a severe strain on the health system.

As a result, Jamaica has closed its borders to most incoming travelers and portions of the country are under curfew or lockdown.

Rights activists and some U.S. lawmakers have called for U.S. deportations to be suspended during the pandemic as they risk exporting the virus to countries more vulnerable to a serious outbreak.

U.S. President Donald Trump, however, said this month the U.S. government could impose visa sanctions on countries that refuse or unreasonably delay accepting people returned from the United States.

Still, Guatemala temporarily suspended flights deporting migrants from the United States 10 days ago after dozens of Guatemalan migrants deported to their homeland tested positive for the coronavirus.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has sent a mission to assess the situation and test the migrants, who remain in quarantine in a hospital.

The United States plans to begin testing some migrants in detention for the coronavirus before deporting them, an official familiar with the effort said last week, adding that the agency is unlikely to have enough tests for all deportees and will need to prioritize. (Reporting by Kate Chappell Editing by Robert Birsel)