JetBlue to resume Haiti flights after canceling over COVID-19 requirement

AP file

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A day after canceling flights to Haiti, U.S.-based carrier JetBlue says it will now resume flights into Port-au-Prince beginning Friday.

JetBlue spokesman Derek Dombrowski said the decision was taken after “a clarification of requirements” by the Haitian government.

Haiti’s Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe had announced that effective Tuesday, the country’s land border with the neighboring Dominican Republic would be closed, and all flights from Europe, Canada, the Dominican Republic and Latin America would be suspended in order to protect the country from the coronavirus. Only flights from the United States would be allowed, Jouthe said, but incoming U.S. passengers would need to show medical proof that they had tested negative for the coronavirus, which causes the respiratory COVID-19 disease.

On Tuesday, the Miami Herald reported that JetBlue had canceled its daily flights into Port-au-Prince out of Fort Lauderdale and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, as well as from Orlando and Boston certain days of the week. Sources cited the government’s medical clearance requirement for Haiti-bound passengers, which is almost impossible to obtain unless someone is hospitalized or has been in contact with an infected person.

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The airline did not specify what the clarification was. Haiti’s government also hasn’t responded to the Herald’s inquiry about whether it is no longer seeking the documentation.

On Wednesday, the country was forced to amend its border closure after local embassies and others raised concern about foreign nationals being unable to get out. Foreign Minister Claude Joseph announced at a press conference that planes would be allowed to fly into the country empty to pick up foreign nationals seeking to leave.

The foreign ministry, he said, is working with diplomatic missions in Haiti to enable their nationals who want to leave Haiti to return home.

Joseph insisted that the international ban on flight remains, but said flights from Cuba would be authorized to land. He also said that the authorization of U.S. flights is the result of “our agreement with the American government.”

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Haiti currently has no confirmed case of the coronavirus. Officials on Wednesday said they are investigating a suspected case of COVID-19 in northeast Haiti after a university professor returned from the United States and alerted authorities he wasn’t feeling well. The man has placed himself under self-quarantine.

In the meantime, Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina plans to close “the country’s borders by land, sea and air, for the next 15 days,” effective 6 a.m., allowing only planes to ferry foreign nationals out. This is in addition to his decision earlier in the week to suspend all flights to and from Europe, China, Korea and Iran, and requiring two weeks of isolation for anyone who has recently visited those countries.

Medina also banned all cruise ships at Dominican ports, and suspended classes until April 13. The Dominican Republic reports that it has 21 cases of confirmed COVID-19, including a woman who recently died,

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