After months of speculation since the repatriation of Vincentian sailors, the public was finally informed about the logic behind temporarily seizing the passports for returning nationals.
“I am giving the public the other side, the true side of the story and I want our taxpayers to know that at least 25 of them, maybe more at the count I was told before I came here this morning on this programme” that we have paid for their hotel stay.
Prime Minister Gonsalves was referring to social media claims that the government was forcing nationals to quarantine in private hotel facilities which were unaffordable for the returnees.
A group of men and women who returned home last week protested having to pay $125usd per night without food for at least 5 nights while awaiting the all clear from health officials about their COVID-19 status.
Some of the travellers including students and vacationers from the United States said they could not afford to pay the charges.
However, a combative Prime Minister Gonsalves told the nation:
“They will have to pay that money. We will pay that money because I don’t want the hotel out of pocket. The government will pay the hotel but be sure, that you who are there for the 5 days and 5 nights or longer if you are tested positive” will have to pay.
“Why should I on behalf the taxpayer, on behalf of the poor farmer, the single parent who needs help with the child to go to school, to pay for someone who came in from New York, Miami, Atlanta wherever they came from and they know the protocols”.
“For every $1000 I pay there, that money could be given to farmers, to single parents, and I am telling them, the government will pay but mark my words , you can vex with me if you want, you can go on Facebook, you can go and become an internet crazy, you can call in on any radio station…you don’t pay the money after the government pays, you will not get back your passport” says the Minister of National Security and Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.
Prime Minister Gonsalves has also hinted that his government would be willing to take those who refuse to pay back the money to court.