No charges have been brought in connection with the person under COVID-19 quarantine who allegedly held a house party.
Last Saturday, the government obtained court orders for 80 persons who arrived from the United States on an American Airlines flight to quarantine themselves for 14 days.
The passengers, most of whom are Vincentians, also signed a document and surrendered their passports temporarily as part of an undertaking to isolate themselves for 14 days.
However, on Monday, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said that the public had told police of one person under quarantine who had held a house party.
“The public called the Ministry of Health and say one of the people who came in, one of the 80-something who came in on Saturday, had a party at his house. Well, I think they are dealing with him this morning,” Gonsalves said on WE FM.
“They might take him to the court. He broke the quarantine by bringing people to him. We have a court order on all of those who came in. So this is now a breach of the court order,” the prime minister said.
“So that person, I hope that the authorities who have the job of enforcing this, that they take him today to the court. And the issue of the passport, that is a separate issue which the government is open to say to cancel it.
“Whether it would do so is a different question and what the magistrate would do with such a person, that is in the hands of the magistrate. But we have to use important levers to have the effect of what we want without necessarily going draconian where everybody is hurt, like with a state of emergency or with a curfew.”
The court orders, surrender of documents and signing of an undertaking to quarantine oneself are the latest in a series of steps that the government has taken as it keeps the nation’s borders open even as it tries to avoid the importation of more cases of COVID-19.
However, some persons have noted that the fact that the government finds it necessary to quarantine someone means that that person is a suspected case that is best eliminated by testing.
Further, they have noted that before arriving at the place – most often a home—where a person is undergoing quarantine, they would have come into contact with a number of persons.
For instance, while Gonsalves was on radio on Monday, he responded to a WhatsApp question from one of the American Airlines passengers who inquired about having his passport sent to Bequia after he completed his quarantine there.
The prime minister defended his government’s decision to have persons surrender passports as a condition of entry into the country.
“The Vincentian passport is the property of the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” he said.
He said that as it relates to other nationals, if they don’t want to surrender their passports, that is fine but they would not be allowed entry.
“It is a condition of entry and you sign to that. There are two things we sign to: the quarantine at your own expense and the surrender of your passport if you are a non-national. If you are a national, you surrender it because we ask you for it. It’s our property – the property of the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And then, of course, you have to do the quarantine.”
A non-national sent a question on WhatsApp saying they were on quarantine and whether the passport can be sent to the immigration office in Bequia. The prime minister said yes that is the case but they just have to indicate to the chief immigration officer.
“If you break the quarantine on any day, let’s say you do three days of quarantine and on the fourth day you gone about the streets of Port Elizabeth, your quarantine begins from the day when you break it. The 14 days start to run afresh. And if you are a non-national and you break the quarantine, you can be brought to the court because the condition of your stay now goes by the board and you can be taken to the court for deportation, if you are a non-national.”
Gonsalves said he likes how the communities are reporting to health authorities if someone who should be on quarantine breaks the quarantine.
He said that in addition to the quarantine, the immigration officer and the health personnel would check to see if a person arriving has any of the symptoms of COVID-19 or has been in any country to which the quarantine applies.