COVID-19: From the aircraft to quarantine, my experience in Dominica – Marie-Therese Junkere

The Champs Hotel – Picard. All photos by Cecil Clarke

As countries across the world grapple to control the Covid-19 pandemic, you could be forgiven for thinking that Dominica would have challenges in keeping up to date with appropriate protocols. On the contrary Dominica is one of the safest places in the world to be at this time.

IF YOU NEED TO ESCAPE TO AN ISLAND THAT HAS SOME OF THE BEST ENTRY PROTOCOLS TO KEEP COVID-19 UNDER CONTROL – DOMINICA IS THE ONLY CHOICE!!!

If you’re coming or planning to come to Dominica from a “high risk” country such as the UK, US, Guadeloupe, Martinique etc (check cdn.discoverdominica.com) then this article is a “must read”.

Having recently arrived from the UK, the whole experience – from arriving at Charles Douglas Airport until the end of my quarantine has left me feeling like a peacock!  I’m so proud be connected to Dominica.

I am hopeful that after reading this article you will arrive at the same conclusion as I have – that Dominica is safe.  Dominica’s strategic plan for controlling and restricting the spread of the Corona Virus is well-led and effective and that all the negative chatter on social media is really just that – chatter.  Of course, there are some of you who may not have had the same experience as I did.  However, quite a few persons that I know have come in to Dominica from high risk countries and their experience on arrival has been as positive as mine.

I was dreading coming back to Dominica as I’d received videos and been following all the “gossip” on social media about the horrors of arriving in Dominica, the hours of waiting in a “hanger” at the airport, transportation to quarantine and then stories about the stay in quarantine in Portsmouth.  Quarantine was what I was dreading the most!

The thought of having to go to a Quarantine Facility filled me with fear on the one hand and indignation on the other!  Why can’t I just go home if I have a negative PCR test and my rapid test result done on arrival in Dominica is also negative?

The first Covid case, after borders were opened in Dominica, was a gentleman who arrived from the UK with two negative PCR test results and who also had a rapid test on arrival in Dominica that was negative.  He was home quarantined but living with his mother.  Several days later, he tested positive for the virus!

Existing protocols were revised and people like me, coming in from “high risk” countries such as the UK, would have to be more closely monitored in the first few days of their arrival in Dominica.  The objective is to stop the spread of the virus.

If you are coming from ‘high risk”, countries even with a negative PCR result, you are a potential carrier of COVID -19 as the virus takes a few days to show up and you could catch it after you have been tested, in the airport or on the plane for example.  So, whatever your reason for coming to Dominica, you need to understand the protocol for entering Dominica and you can find this at cdn.discoverdominica.com.

I had familiarised myself with Dominica’s protocol prior to entering the country and knew that I would need to produce a negative PCR test less than 72 hours old on the day I arrive, as I was coming from a “high risk” country.  I was going to need this in any event to board my flights to get to Dominica. At least 24 hours before flying I had to complete Dominica’s online health questionnaire which is at http://domcovid19.dominica.gov.dm/. This form is part of the process to obtaining the “health clearance” document that you must have, when travelling from a high risk country, to enter Dominica.  You are required to upload a copy of your PCR test result in order to submit the form.  Remember your PCR test result must not be more than 72 hours old when you arrive in Dominica.

Beware! Filling out the questionnaire is not clearance to enter Dominica.  You must receive email confirmation which is known as the “health clearance” document.  I can tell you from experience that if your uploaded PCR test result is more than 72 hours old when you submit the questionnaire, you will receive a refusal of entry into Dominica.

Very important….when you upload the questionnaire a screen will pop up informing you that your “submission has been received”.   Please read the rest of the information on that page.    A code is generated when you submit your completed questionnaire.  I suggest you make a note of that code as you will need to quote it if you have to call to follow up.  The code that I got was QU20200….

You should receive an email confirming you have health clearance to enter Dominica, within 24 hours of submitting the questionnaire.  If you don’t receive that confirmation then call (+1 767) 276 7986 Mr Lodrick lodrickk@dominica.gov.dm or the COVID Helplines 448-2151/2153 or 611-4325.  Remember you may be asked to quote the code which is generated when you submit the questionnaire.

So, armed with your negative PCR test result and your health clearance email, you can now enter the country.

Airlines flying to Dominica are well informed of the protocol and will ask you to produce the confirmation you have received from Dominica allowing you to enter the country.  I witnessed a passenger who was not allowed to board the flight because she could not produce the health clearance document!

So I’ve got my negative PCR test.  I also received my confirmation email – I was so happy but wait a minute…where was I going to stay?

I had choices – either the government quarantine facility or the many government approved hotels and guest houses, adequately equipped to accommodate guests in quarantine.  I chose to stay at the latter and I’m so glad I made that decision.  You will understand why later.

Click on this link for the full list of certified quarantine accommodation bit.ly/CvdCrtAcc   There is now a dedicated helpline for persons needing to book quarantine accommodation  – +1 767 615-0051.

I arrived in Dominica mid-September.  I was dreading it.  I had no idea what to expect. What a pleasant surprise!  From stepping off the aircraft to arrival at my “quarantine” destination.

Everything and everyone was prepared for our arrival.  The Environmental Health Officer escorted us from the aircraft to the assessment area (also known as the “hanger”) – away from the main building.

The area was very clean.  All staff wore PPE and they were friendly, efficient and professional.  Based on the stories I’d read that was not what I was expecting!

A nurse checked and recorded my temperature, and I was asked to sanitise my hands before entering the area.  She even checked that my mask was on correctly.  I was then ushered to the first booth and asked to produce my photo ID, negative PCR test result and the “health clearance” document authorising me to enter Dominica.    After checking my documentation she returned my passport to me and asked me to move to the next booth to meet with the Police officer who again checked my passport and moved me along to meet with a nurse, who took my name, address, telephone number, where I was going to stay (quarantine – more on that later), my age (I didn’t want to tell her) and whether I had any health conditions.  She then asked me to move to the next booth and explained that I would have to give a finger prick blood sample for the rapid diagnostic test.

Booth number 4 is where you get pricked!!  The nurse was lovely.  She told me she had to take a blood sample.  I’m a coward. It hurt!

There are two waiting areas.  For the purposes of this article we are looking at the waiting area if you have come from a high risk country.  It’s called the “holding area”.  See photo.  It’s clean.  There’s a nice big fan and I noticed two lovely gold vases with dried flowers.  I waited patiently, listening to music on my headphones.  There were several other persons waiting in my area.  It was all very civilised and quiet.

About 30 minutes later, the lovely nurse who pricked my finger walked up to me, keeping a socially safe distance (which worried me just a tad at first).  She beckoned me to come towards her and I noticed she had some pink forms in her hand.  She was very discreet and spoke quietly.  She showed me a pink card and explained that my test had come back NEGATIVE and that I was free to go!  Hip! hip! hooray!  I was now allowed to enter the main airport building, go through immigration and retrieve my luggage.  The hotel organised my pick up by a government authorised taxi!

My quarantine period turned out to be a lovely impromptu holiday in lovely surroundings.   I meditated. I slept.  I spoke for ages with all my friends especially Tina, who herself was in a mountain top quarantine in Cockrane.  I had such a blast!

I found a rare gem hidden away in the heights of Picard that I never knew existed and it’s just about an hour’s drive from the airport along what I consider to be a scenic route.  Imagine that!  Five years in Dominica and I have just discovered The Champs Hotel in Picard! See photos below.

On arrival I was told about the protocols for persons in quarantine and the procedures up to and including how and when I would be allowed to leave.

  • I would have my temperature taken every day, recorded and reported to the health team in the area.
  • I had to wear a mask any time I was outside of my room.
  • I was not allowed to come into the restaurant or use the swimming pool if other guests were there.
  • I received a What’sApp message and that was to be my mode of contact with staff should I wish, for example, to order food.
  • I could not have visitors but a relative or friend could drop off goodies (snacks – you’re going to need them). They were not allowed to come to my room or interact with me.

I had a lovely sized balcony directly in front of my room with a table and chair I could use if I needed fresh air. I had good free wifi. There were lots of sockets so no problem plugging in or charging phones and laptops.  The room was fully air conditioned.

So here’s the thing; when I read the travel protocol I thought I would be in quarantine for 5 days.  Wrong!  The PCR test is done on the 5th day following your arrival in Dominica.  It takes at least 48 hours to get the results so, plan to be in quarantine for at least 7 days – not 5!

On the fifth day I was introduced to the health team.  They were so friendly – the Dominican charm from the health team in Portsmouth.  Before I knew it the test was over.  I was told it could take up to 48 hours to get my result.  Forty-eight hours later my test result came back negative.

My quarantine at The Champs was over.  I was totally relaxed – looking forward to going home.

Remember you now have a choice.  As long as you’ve got a negative PCR test, your health clearance document and you get a negative result on your rapid diagnostic test when you arrive, you can choose to stay in a government approved hotel or guest house to quarantine.   Use this link to book your accommodation bit.ly/CydCrtAcc or call the Helpline on +1 767 615-0551.   Since my arrival yet more improvements!  Guests in quarantine can now go hiking, diving etc whilst in quarantine!  This is called “managed experiences”.  This allows visitors to be able to get out and about without interacting with uncertified locals.   For more information call the Helpline or check out  the “Safe in Nature – The Managed Experience” brochure which you will find at cnd.discoverdominica.com.

So, you’ve come from a high risk country.  You’re here for 10 days.  For at least 7 of those days you’re going to be in mandatory quarantine.  That of itself is a turn off.  However, if you are able, through careful planning and observing the strict protocols, to go hiking or take a tour around the country without interacting with locals (masked up and in your pre-approved vehicle) surely that is a bonus.

Dominica’s travellers’ protocol is a lot better than we’ve been led to believe.  Personally, I think that if all the countries in the world adopted the approach that Dominica has, to control this dreaded Covid-19 virus, there would be a lot fewer Covid cases worldwide.

I’m immensely proud of Dominica and the various agencies working together, the protocols in place for the entry of travellers, especially those from high risk countries.

I hope that after you have read this article you will start planning your return or your holiday to Dominica.  We need you.  We are safe.  We give you options that I believe no other Caribbean country is offering and we do with charm and grace.  You will be pleasantly surprised and honestly, if you follow the travel advice and the protocol to get into Dominica, you will find that all the “chatter” out there is “much ado about nothing”!

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32 Comments

  1. Proud Dominican
    October 7, 2020

    Alas look at all the negativity in the comment section. “How much did they pay her” …”she must have a lot of money”

    News flash to the uninitiated WE ARE STILL IN THE MIDST OF A GLOBAL PANDEMIC…SO OF COURSE TRAVEL IS GOING TO BE UNCOMFORTABLE, Its incredibly foolish to believe otherwise!

    Given the situation, I tend to agree with the article, we have done well. Countries with much more resources than us are struggling to manage the pandemic….but so far we have managed to keep it manageable. I didn’t even know they figured out a way to let people go hiking during quarantine….kudos to the organizers for figuring that out.

  2. pureblackmagic
    October 7, 2020

    It really sounds like you are singing for your dinner. You know that you are not speaking the truth, shame on you. That’s not what you said she we last spoke.

  3. The Truth Be Told
    October 7, 2020

    Oh the naysayers who do not even believe themselves. Terrible isn’t it when all you do is not have confidence in anyone not even yourself. May the good Lord have mercy on your souls. Negative, negative, negative. When will you all grow up? And act normal.

  4. As I See it
    October 6, 2020

    So after 5 days you get ur test result, your ok email from government, your ticket to fly to one of the islands there is no guarantee you will get a connecting flight the same day. On top of that you still have to quarantine for 14 days so the money you have to pay for your loved ones funeral has to be paid to government for quarantine. Yet you too late for funeral. Bajans, Antiguans, Lucians, Grenadians would all be able to bury their loved ones except Dominicans. By now the government should have put something in place to accept nationals with a negative PCR and negative quick test upon arrival, even if they had to quarantine for 5 days.
    So what the lady confirmed is that Dominica is a backward , last in everything and pm is using covid-19 to make the people poor while he and his friends make money through quarantine. Taxi drivers, hotels, farmers can’t make money because of quarantine but Skerrit and friends can. So she just gave more reasons why we should stay away.

  5. As I See it
    October 6, 2020

    I believe she was paid to write this promotion but yet, she got me more discouraged about visiting home than ever before for the following reasons:
    1. I would understand that quarantine between March to August when we were all learning the pandemic. Now we are in October and by now we should have a more welcoming protocol in place. To still have people, especially returning Dominicans in jail for 14 days and a bill of over $1000 is a turn off.
    2. Imagine you are in the US, Uk, Canada and your mother, spouse or child dies and in October you still can’t bury them because of the unfriendly protocols. You have 72hrs to get a negative test, upload the result and get them to approve your request to come to your country, which means you can’t buy a ticket before you get approved. Now remember we have no direct flights to DA and connected flights are not daily either. So if you did the test Monday and got the results Tuesday and you don’t get ok to travel by Wednesday, you can’t travel

  6. Nutsaboutnuts
    October 6, 2020

    Great piece of free advertising for the DDA chairmans property and a great bit of propaganda for the incompetent government. How about free advertising for the other ‘approved’ hotels and guest houses. Nassief, Raphael… what do you all say?

  7. Still in quarantine
    October 6, 2020

    News on line you all are bias. I posted a comment. I saw it and then it disappeared. My comment was about the shabby condition at ……………….where I am presently quarantined. No basic needs like toilet paper, soap, no sanitation. Roaches and ants in galore. They can do better.

    ADMIN: We did not publish that comment as the claims could not be verified.

    However, we are willing to publish as an article personal accounts of the quarantine experience non-anonymously as we have recently done.

    You can email us the account of your experience to news@dominicanewsonline.com

  8. Still in quarantine.
    October 6, 2020

    I am presently quarantined in Portsmouth beach hotel. The conditions are very shabby. No drinking water, no toilet paper , no soap. These are basic needs. Ants and cockroaches galore. They can do better than that. No sanitization what ever. It’s just a money making.

  9. Jack is Black
    October 6, 2020

    Government sponsored FAKE NEWS!!!

  10. Me
    October 6, 2020

    A not too subtle plug for DHTA chairman’s hotel. Trust they gave Mary-Thérèse a decent discount for her services.

  11. October 6, 2020

    Nice………….

  12. Sabrina
    October 5, 2020

    This is great & contains a lot of information I was not aware of. Very well written article and super informative. Much needed before my trip to DA in November 8) . Thanks :-D

  13. October 5, 2020

    I arrived in Dominica mid-September. I was dreading it. I had no idea what to expect. –Marie-Therese Junkere

    This alone confirms the fear of buying an airline ticket to travel to Dominica. My airline ticket from Canada is at least $1500.00. The first problem is: When do I purchase that ticket, in that “my PCR test result must not be more than 72 hours old when I arrive in Dominica”? How do I make preparations to travel in 3 days, in that, that is the only way according to the protocols?

    Toronto is a City of 3 million people, from where in a place like that can I get the result of a Corvid-19 test in less than 3 days?

    With all of those protocols, including your “feel like a peacock idea” the fact that I may not be allowed to enter Dominica is enough to keep me worried from the time I live Canada until I arrive at Dominica’s airport. I believe that is why Dominica ranks best in preventing the spread of Corvid-19, nobody is going there.

    • RoRo
      October 7, 2020

      Your ticket from Canada cost $1,500. Why do you worry? Your PM will pay for it because he must at least owe you that for you constantly broadcasting his propaganda on here.

  14. The Calabash
    October 5, 2020

    Guess the tricky part is that 72 hour PCR test. One must have booked a flight well before. Then commute to Dominica must be within 48 hours after the day of the test. One cannot, therefore, have overnight connections. Based on current limited flights, it is not inconceivable, coming from the US southwest, to have to overnight in Miami and potentially again in Barbados or Antigua. Finally, who has seven days to be quarantined and more time to actually visit, vacation, or do business. Shame…. would love to getaway to DA.

    • October 6, 2020

      @The Calabash, you worded my very thoughts. This lady spoke about “feeling like a peacock” I don’t get it. The fact that I have to spend 14 days away from my people in a place that I do not want to be is enough to cause to stay where I am right now –how unfortunate?

  15. Thelma James
    October 5, 2020

    I am in quarantine at the moment, I have to pay so much money and they don’t even give you water. I am not a criminal, I can’t drink tap water cos it will make me ill.. Water is life, it is needed, they should provide water. Simple😡

  16. Fake News
    October 5, 2020

    This seems like a paid ad to me. Don’t believe it one bit. Left Dominica over the weekend with the test that’s required to leave. “Negative PCR test” No one asked any questions about it. Knowing the lack of communication in government agencies in Dominica, that’s an easy $100 towards the PM residence.

  17. Righteous
    October 5, 2020

    Marie-Therese Junkere thanks for sharing your perspective on your travels to Dominica during this challenging times and your experience with the process and quarantine. Sounds like if one follows the protocols put in place by the Ministry of Health, the experience will be great.

    “You will be pleasantly surprised and honestly, if you follow the travel advice and the protocol to get into Dominica, you will find that all the “chatter” out there is “much ado about nothing”!-MTJ

    MTJ, thanks for sharing your exeperience of traveling to #Dominica #TheNatureIsle during the COVID-19 pandemic and going thru the quarantine process.

    #OneLoveDominicans #OLD

  18. Msybe
    October 5, 2020

    Who pay you to to write that in a flat you living in the UK so you had to talk so you see heaven which Dominica has better house than UK god help you

  19. SN
    October 5, 2020

    While this may be seen as wonderful and needed, it is a practical solution for countries with fewer arrivals. It may not be practical for higher volume countries. I am pleased your experience was pleasant.

  20. Own Mind
    October 5, 2020

    Happy to hear of your pleasant and memorable experience through to quarantine but you should have refrained from discounting other people’s experiences. We want to believe theirs as much as we want to believe yours. Be aware that their experience would be as real as yours. Should one discount yours, it would not cause yours to be false.

    You were privileged to be able to exercise the hotel quarantine option. Some of those who went the government quarantine facility way had to wait long hours toward the end of the day to be transported there as the vehicle at that time only made one trip there. And other hiccups and limitations did occur which cause them to count it as less than pleasant.

    Then too as time passes by it provides the opportunity for tweaking and seeking to better the operation from which you could now experience better.

    Just remember it was their experience and each experience is different.

  21. Both or All sides
    October 5, 2020

    Thanks for providing another side to the experiences reported as Dominica riskily opened its borders amidst the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. You obviously are an experienced traveler and knew, from before your trip, how to prepare for everything that could have come up. This article should be made available to all travelers. The experienced ones, who just need a nudge in the right direction, will be thrilled for the clarity of the information provided.

    The inexperienced travelers also would find good guidance on how to travel here with minimum stress. They should realize that they need to make provisions for their comfort besides what can be realistically expected from Government.

    It is always best to get both or all sides to an issue. This makes for a better solution.

  22. Aged Rum
    October 5, 2020

    Reading through this very carefully, this rather sounds like a dose of government propaganda mixed in with a promotion for the The Champs Hotel. I know the owners of this place. They are well in with Skerrit and his regime. In conclusion the writer got probably got a free stay courtesy of the DA government and the Champs. 2 weeks quarantine is not my idea of a vacation even if it’s free of charge and in a beautiful place like Dominica.

  23. Sooze
    October 5, 2020

    Well good for you.
    But not many people have the resources to make their quarantine experience as comfortable as yours.

    A Dominican resident.

  24. Red Neck
    October 5, 2020

    A few people in Dominica will tell you life is sweet with them, though the majority and truth on the ground says the opposite. In fact a lot of Laborites will tell you in private that things are rough but in public they will say life is sweet. What Marie-Therese Junkere posted about her stay in Da is far from the truth!
    As a Dominican residing in the US and just got back to the US, I can say that my experience in Da, especially from the airport to quarantine was the opposite of everything she said. But what struck me the hardest is, I landed in DA together with ten Chinese and from the time we landed I didn’t see them again. Instead of going through immigration and the health protocol, they walked to a different room with an officer and some other top guy and were not seen again. Not even in quarantine! So while I am a risk to Dominicans, though everyone knows me and can report me, the Chinese that no one knows can just walk out and be on the streets of Dominica spreading covid-19

  25. Jepson C Josephs
    October 5, 2020

    I had the same experience on my entry into Dominica. The writers view is very accurate and factual. We do have one of the best protocols so far encountered for arriving into Dominica.
    I want to commend the authorities for the measures taken to mitigate the spread of this deadly virus. Keep up the good work

  26. Hotel The Champs
    October 5, 2020

    The list of approved hotels and guest houses can be found on the digital guidebook Experience Dominica dot com

    • VereTere
      October 7, 2020

      Too late for damage limitation. Your ‘guest’ should have thought of that before!

  27. Magway ca
    October 5, 2020

    Ok now tell us how much money you paid for lol that shinanigans

  28. Not Me Alone
    October 5, 2020

    You must be one of theirs and I don’t expect anything different from such people. You are just like Charles Savarin or Levi Peter’s that can see no fault in Skerrit. But as for me, someone that is not a spokesman of Skerrit, or the opposition, I can say my experience in Dominica was very disappointing. I was home from the US from August to the last week in September and my two weeks of quarantine in Portsmouth could be described as being sentenced to two weeks at Stockfarm prison, for committing no crime. No doubt the staff at the airport was great but that’s about it. The ride from the airport to Portsmouth was terrible and the facility was dirty, full of mosquitoes singing in your ears day and night and needless to make mention of the food which was a disgrace! If you suffer from high blood pressure or you are a diabetic, please think twice before you go to Dominica and even those who are healthy should just avoid Dominica unless you must go.

  29. Michèle GUERIN
    October 5, 2020

    merci pour ce long article très précis, il répond à plein de questions que je me posais, il me reste cependant une question :
    je n’ai pas trouvé la liste des hôtels certifiés, est ce qu’ils renseignent sur les prix, et je suppose que c’est vous qui avez payé Des Champs Hôtel ?
    encore merci
    Michèle

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