The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis continues to subsidize the cost of the 14-day mandatory quarantine period for returning nationals coming home to escape the COVID-19 pandemic, which is surging in many countries and territories around the world.
Currently, any national or resident approved to return to the island must pay a fee of US$500 to assist with the enormous cost of the quarantine. The quarantine is designed to contain any imported cases of the coronavirus.
Abdias Samuel, Chairman of the National COVID-19 Task Force, said that the sum is just a fraction of what is required to operate the government-designated quarantine facility at the Ocean Terrace Inn (OTI).
“The facility is owned by TDC. We (government) have to pay, according to the contract, US500 per room,” Mr Samuel stated. “That has nothing to do with the payment of the utilities such as electricity, water, cable, nor internet. And we still have our security forces who are at that facility providing security so that individuals would not leave the facility and just go into the society and integrate, thus spreading the virus.”
Mr Samuel stressed that cost-sharing is necessary to facilitate this tremendous public safety undertaking.
Minister of Health, the Honourable Akilah Byron-Nisbett, said that the government was considering ways to provide additional assistance to persons who are not able to pay the US$500 cost of quarantine. A tiered system, which decreases the cost for the most vulnerable, is being reviewed.
“We will see how much we can be able to reduce the cost [for] the citizens returning home,” the minister stated. “We are looking into that and so for now we are just asking persons to work with the government. We are trying our best.”
She explained that every country around the world is trying to grapple with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. St. Kitts and Nevis is no different. The related economic slowdown means that the government is not collecting revenue from the usual sources, particularly in the tourism sector. Additionally, the most generous COVID-19 stimulus package to date in the OECS over the past three months has meant that the government has been spending more and collecting less.
“We have to rework and see how best we will be able to as a government to continue to be able to sustain the country as well as be able to meet the needs of all of our citizens,” Minister Bryon-Nisbett said, adding that continued sacrifices will be necessary from all corners of society to flatten the curve of any second wave.
Main photo: ABDIAS SAMUEL, CHAIR OF COVID-19 NATIONAL TASK FORCE