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The writer of this article wishes to remain anonymous.
Opinion: The ongoing issue with the quarantine funding for returning sailors has lost its integrity because it has turned into a partisan political circus.
Sensationalism and partisan political winds are overpowering facts and the ability to discuss solutions to the issue.
Yes, it is supposed to be an election year, but most of the sailors don’t have time with that right now. They want an end to all this and to be able to come home.
So, let’s look at the issues beyond the partisan politics:
Issue number one: There is a view that the government wants money from the cruise ships and so, is preventing the Sailors from coming home.
Is this true?
Or, is it that the government wants the sailors to be quarantined away from their homes, at hotels or guest houses, due to the large number of them, for public health reasons, but that quarantine will come with a cost as the hotels will need to be paid?
Money in the government coffers? Or Money directly to hotels to help accommodate the sailors?
I mean the hotels (the only places suitable for the large number of Sailors) could offer to take them for free for 14-days and all this talk about $150 would be over, but, is that going to happen?
Another point is the payment for quarantine itself.
Let us be reminded that students and other returning nationals have to fund their own quarantine upon return, so what makes the sailors special?
Why can’t they fund their own return? Why is the government fighting up to cover the cost of their quarantine?
Could it be because the government knows that a mandatory 14-day quarantine at EC$150 per day (including meals) could put a $2,100 financial dent in the pockets of the sailors?
Could it be also that the number of returning students won’t be so large, so a public facility won’t be needed to house all of them?
Bear in mind that some other countries are putting returnees in a public facility and they have to pay for their own quarantine.
The Sailors cannot be blamed for their situation, neither the cruise lines nor the Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The country’s taxpayers cannot be pressured either due to the situation which could cost millions of dollars in an already cash-strapped situation resulting from Covid-19.
Is it too much to ask the employers to make a contribution towards the safety of their employees?
Another issue is the issue of coming home.
The US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), since early April, has put out stringent guidelines for the disembarking of ships of crew workers.
Ship executives cannot seem to agree to some of the requirements which seek to hold them liable for the actions of their employees when they leave the ships. This has created an impasse leaving as its main victim, the stranded sailors from many different nationalities.
Vincentian sailors are also wrapped up in this mess. How is the government to be blamed for that?
Now, some say a window was opened but sailors were deprived of the opportunity to use that window to come home due to ongoing negotiations over quarantine funding.
But, is that really true when even American ship workers were barred from leaving ships docked right at Florida, due to CDC regulations at that time?
The cruise lines have taken the matters into their own hands and have planned to drop their workers home, using their ships instead of planned airline charters, which cannot work since Sailors cannot leave the ships without risk of heightened culpability to the executives of these ships if stringent rules are not followed by the sailors once they leave.
Let us hope that the plan voyages home can actually happen and that an end comes to this nightmare facing our men and women on the seas.