Monday, January 25, 2021

Repatriating 5,000 Jamaicans could cost taxpayers $822m

Taxpayers will fork out $64 million to pay for accommodation and food for 330 Jamaicans stranded overseas by the COVID-19 pandemic who will arrive back home this week.
But Gleaner analysis projects that taxpayers would have to cough up another $758 million, at the Government’s new peg of US$1 to J$145, for accommodation and food if the remaining 4,670 Jamaicans who have applied were to be state-quarantined at US$80 per day per person for 14 days.
All told, the price tag would hover around $822 million.
The Jamaicans, including ship workers fatigued by circuitous holding voyages, have been mounting pressure on the Holness administration to allow them to repatriate after the country shut its doors to incoming passenger traffic on March 24 as part of coronavirus containment measures.
Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Kamina Johnson Smith made the announcement yesterday evening during a Jamaica House press briefing but noted that other costs, including logistics, transportation, and medical care, were absent from that computation.
“State quarantine for persons returning – which is mandatory – is not free to taxpayers. It comes at a negotiated cost of US$100 per day per person inclusive of accommodation and three meals per day,” Johnson Smith stressed yesterday.
The quarantine period is for 14 days, but if COVID-19 is detected among the batch, the accommodation period would be extended.
“People have been asked within the framework of the JamCovid app to make a contribution of US$20 per day or to make family arrangement in respect of meals. It was, however, decided by the Cabinet that in recognition of the particular challenge and the particularities of this week’s arrivals and the circumstances under which they have been operating over the past two months, that the Government will absorb the full cost of state quarantine.
“The cost of this will approximately be 64 million. This is a significant cost and one not to be downplayed,” she said, arguing that “you can’t put a dollar figure on the importance of our nationals”.
On Wednesday, 115 will be returned to the island from the United Kingdom.
The number includes 75 crew members, including 43 of the Marella Discovery 2 and six other ships from the same cruise line.
“The additional 40 will comprise Jamaicans stranded in the UK who have been affected by the global pandemic in different ways and who have been in touch with the high commission or the ministry regarding their particular challenges,” the foreign minister announced.
A cohort from the United States will also be arriving in the island this week.
But even as the 330 are set to rack up $64 million for accommodation and food, other costs to taxpayers for their care are still being tallied by the Government.
“What I have not mentioned is the other logistical cost, the cost of the security, the cost of the security forces to transport them, the testing and the health monitoring that takes place, [and] not to mention the cost of the prep work that’s taking place now to receive them. Those are not covered in the $64 million,” Johnson Smith explained.
The foreign minister disclosed that the Government has received 4,682 applications from Jamaicans wanting to repatriate.
The application portal was launched a week ago.
“The Government of Jamaica has to look at almost 5,000 persons who have applied to come in, plus those who are on cruise ships who have not yet applied,” Prime Minister Andrew Holness said at the press briefing.
“… So the Government of Jamaica has to be fiscally responsible and absorb the cost of state quarantine of a large number of Jamaicans.”
Cruise lines that have indicated the number of Jamaicans expressing a desire to be repatriated here.
Disney Line – 215
Holland America – 37
Carnival – 342
Norwegian – 130
Royal Caribbean – 1349
Saint-Nazaire – 37
MSC – 31
Exmar – 32
Ships off Brazil – 10

Stay Connected


Latest news