By Demion McTair. Updated 7:05 a.m., Monday, May 25, 2020, Atlantic Standard Time (GMT-4).
Kingstown, St. Vincent (ONE NEWS SVG) – Some forty-five (45) Vincentian students are currently in quarantine in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), having left Jamaica last week.
The number is about 57 percent of the 78 students who had initially expressed an interest in travelling home.
One News SVG understands that some students have decided to stay in Jamaica until after the exam period which ends in early July for most students.
The students who came home were transported on Fly One Caribbean Airline.
The airline has so far made two trips to Jamaica. The first flight was on Monday, May 18 with 30 Vincentian students on board.
The second flight took place on Thursday, May 26, with 15 Vincentian students onboard and 16 Dominican students.
The Vincentian-based airline landed in Dominica first, then to base in St. Vincent at the Argyle International Airport.
The cost of each ticket was EC$975 for the one-way charter flights.
One News SVG was informed by parents of students that they, the Honorary Consul for St. Vincent to Jamaica – June Barbour, and Fly One Caribbean negotiated the flight on behalf of students.
One News SVG also understands that the government of SVG, through the Service Commissions Department was in the process of paying a stipend of EC$1,500 to the students overseas to help with difficulties.
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said on radio that the money was not to help cover the cost of flying home but that students can use it towards that purpose if they wish to.
He said there was no consensus among the students to come home and the decision to grant the stipend was based on “mature judgement, having received all the facts”.
Some students told One News that they have received the stipend.
There was much regional and national media attention on the students’ request to travel home in the wake of a proposal by cash-strapped regional airline LIAT to charge the students a discounted $USD$ 1,339 per ticket to travel home to St. Vincent, if 56 students were willing to take the flight.
Charters are generally expensive.
But, several individuals including some of the students and opposition leader, Dr. Godwin Friday had publicly decried the cost of the LIAT ticket, branding the proposal as “outrageous”.
The proposed LIAT ticket was more than three-times the cost of a one-way ticket to St. Vincent from Jamaica on a regular commercial flight.
Fly One Caribbean Airline’s charter was USD $364 dollars less than the LIAT cost.