Red Cap porters at the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, St. James, were visibly elated on Monday (June 15) as the airport resumed operations after a near three-month closure of the country’s borders due to the coronavirus (COVID 19).
The airport welcomed six flights Monday, with a mixture of 523 Jamaican nationals and stopover visitors.
The Red Cap porters assist in the transporting of luggage for travellers.
In an interview with JIS News, President of the Montego Bay Airport Red Cap Porters Association, Hopeton Burnett, said its 72 members are happy to be back at work after almost three months at home.
“It is good to be back at work. You know in every aspect of life, it is very important for your earning, because you have responsibilities. So, therefore, not earning, you would have been at a disadvantage. Now we are happy that it has opened,” Mr. Burnett added.
He hailed the Government for balancing the “health and wealth” of Jamaicans, noting that the country’s economic engine must keep running, despite COVID-19.
“Yes, we have to be thinking about health over wealth, but at the same time, no country can remain closed and not getting taxes. The persons within the country have to earn something so they can take care of their responsibilities,” he said.
At the same time, Mr. Burnett is urging his members to adhere to the stipulated health protocols implemented to ensure the safety of staff and travellers.
“All they have to do is maintain the social distance and continue to sanitise. We as Red Caps had been sanitising way back before COVID-19, but now we are going to be more robust and will be sanitising our carts as well, which we normally do,” he said.
Aston Bernard, of Granville, St. James, who has been a red cap porter for over a decade, expressed joy for being able to return to work
“It feels nice, but we still have to be on the safe side. Adjust yourself to be at a safe distance from each other – my co-workers and the guests who are coming in. As workers, we are trying to adjust and be on the safe side,” he said.
Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, who was at the airport on Monday for the arrival of the first American Airlines flight from Miami, described the phased reopening of the airport and the tourism sector as a silver lining for the over 5,000 workers at the airport.