Many Vincentian crew members on cruise and other ships are stranded overseas amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, unable to make their way home.
“There are Vincentians who are still out there who want to come home, just as Vincentians, overwhelmingly, took the opportunity on come home between the 18th and the 28 [of March] when we had the last flight,” Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said on WE FM on Sunday.
He said some employers want charter flights to bring these Vincentians home.
“But, clearly, from where they are coming, it is going to be important that they be tested and that their employers, for instances, in the case of a cruise ship who may like them to come, they’ll have to organise here, under our own supervision in quarantine facilities after they had been tested properly overseas,” Gonsalves said.
“We can’t deny our citizens the right to come home but we have to put the parameters and the protocols in place under which they can come.”
The prime minister said he knows some people will say that he should let Vincentians who are overseas stay where they are.
“And there is merit in that, eh. But there is the consideration on the other hand. We are not rushing on that because we will ask for certain test to be done and certain protocols to be clearly and precisely established, particularly that you have the raging of the virus in New York.”
The prime minister said that the country has had some difficulties, especially with nationals who have returned from overseas, especially sailors, who have been breaking their quarantine.
He said these are “good people, who have made important contributions to their families and to this country…. We can’t just turn out back on them, they are citizens of our country, but they have to understand they cannot — you are on quarantine, you have to stay on quarantine.
“It’s irresponsible to break the quarantine. You have been spoken to, you have been advised, the overwhelming majority are following the advice, but there is a small group. I am not saying if you don’t hear you will feel, because that’s not the language for the prime minister. I say that the authorities are responding to any recalcitrance.”
It was the second time over the past few weeks that the prime minister was raising the issue of Vincentian sailors stranded overseas.
Speaking on the same radio station last Thursday, the prime minister said that there are 7,000 to 8,000 passengers on vessels off the coast of Barbados, which are being provisioned.
“In fact, one of them is Freedom of the Seas with 43 Vincentians and there was another one with I think, four — Royal Caribbean.”
The prime minister said he had asked the Port Authority to get the details.
He said he wanted to know, for instance, if on Royal Caribbean a doctor had checked to see whether these persons have any symptoms or had been tested for COVID-19.
“These are apparently just crew members on these vessels on these particular cruise ships,” he said.
Gonsalves further stated:
“I only say that by the way, because that’s in a sense, a work in progress and you have to have all irrelevant protocols. Because we can’t keep our nationals out if arrangement are made for them to come in, but we have to make sure that protocols are in place to protect the rest of the population and to protect they themselves too.”