Abdias Samuel, Chairman of the National COVID-19 Task Force.

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts — The St. Kitts and Nevis government 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.

At present, any national or resident approved to return to the island must pay a US $500 fee to assist with the enormous cost of the quarantine. The quarantine is designed to contain any imported cases of the coronavirus,” said National COVID-19 Task Force Chairman Abdias Samuel. “The sum is just a fraction of what is required to operate the government-designated quarantine facility at the Ocean Terrace Inn.

“The facility is owned by TDC. We (government) pay according to the contract, US 500 per room,” Mr Samuel stated,” said Samuel. “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, which are at that facility providing security so that individuals will not leave the facility and go into the society and integrate, thus spreading the virus.”

Samuel stressed that cost-sharing is necessary to facilitate this tremendous public safety undertaking.

“The government is considering ways to provide additional assistance to persons who are not able to pay the US $500 cost of quarantine,” said Minister of Health, the Honourable Akilah Byron-Nisbett. A tiered-system, which decreases the cost for the most vulnerable, is being reviewed.

“We will see how much we can reduce the cost [for] citizens returning home,” the minister stated. “We are looking into that and 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 grappling with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

“St. Kitts and Nevis is no different,” Minister Hon. Byron-Nisbett said. “The related economic slowdown means that the government is not collecting revenue from the usual sources, particularly in the tourism sector.

” In addition, 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 continue to sustain the country as well as be able to meet the needs of all of our citizens,” Minister Bryon-Nisbett said. “Continued sacrifices will be necessary from all corners of society to flatten the curve of any second wave.”