Prime Minister Allen Chastanet has defended the decision of his administration to impose fees for persons going into quarantine saying that the government has been paying an estimated one million dollars (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) monthly in the past for state quarantine facilities.
Chastanet has told reporters that while the imposition of quarantine fees was a difficult decision for cabinet to make, it was a decision that was necessary.
He said that while he also understood the reaction of some members of the public to the announcement of the fees, he emphasised that the government has basically been covering the quarantine cost that includes the cost of rooming, security, nurses, feeding individuals, and renting the facilities.
The government established several quarantine centers since March when the island recorded its first case of the coronavirus (COVID-19) that has so far infected 28 people here.
On Wednesday, Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Sharon Belmar-George, said effective October 15, fees subsidised by the government will be applied for single occupancy US$95.00; double occupancy US$165.00 and triple occupancy US$240.00
Chastanet said that the free state quarantine service was supposed to have ended in July.
“Clearly we saw the demand from overseas and understanding how successful the programme has been in maintaining the safety of St. Lucia, cabinet agreed to extend it by one month. It then became August and we realized we could not end it in August, so we extended it by and additional month – September,” Chastanet said, noting however that his administration could not carry the burden of the cost by itself.
“We also believe the bulk of persons who wanted to come home have been able to come home. So the good news is that for the most part, the quarantine period has been reduced to seven days,” he told reporters.
“So if you come in with a negative COVID test you go into quarantine for seven days and if on the seventh day you test negative, we allow you to go out and that’s where the monitoring bands come into place. So instead of having to remain in quarantine, we still monitor you from a contact tracing perspective,” Chastanet said.
Asked by reporters about provisions to exempt returning students and people coming back from medical treatment, Chastanet said the matter is till under consideration.
“We will just have to see, based on the resources we have, whether we can continue to do that but sadly, the cost of COVID has really been overwhelming for us,” Chastanet said, adding it is hoped that within the next two months the pre-testing programmes being done would be sufficient to allow persons to come home without going into quarantine.
“That’s the ultimate goal that we have,” Chastanet said.