Vincentian sailors and oilrig workers hoping to return to St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) amidst the COVID-19 pandemic must have a certificate of health issued by the authorities in their country of departure.
This is one of eight requirements of the “Protocol for the Repatriation of Vincentian Crew Persons” that Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves detailed on WE FM on Sunday.
He said that on arrival, the returning nationals will be probed for signs of COVID-19, including a temperature check, and may be subjected to a rapid test for the viral illness.
The health certificate, the prime minister said, must include information about the person’s exposure to any COVID-19 positive or suspected cases and any objective screening for COVID-19 the returning Vincentian has undergone.
The document must include the name of the screening agency and the date when the test was conducted.
Hundreds of Vincentian sailors in the cruise industry, many of whom have been quarantined aboard their cruise ships for over a month, are anxiously waiting to return home.
Of the 15 cases of COVID-19 in SVG, at least seven of them were cruise line workers.
Gonsalves said National Emergency Management Agency’s (NEMO) health services subcommittee developed the protocol.
The aim of this protocol, he said, is the safe repatriation of Vincentian nationals in a manner that reduces the risk of the importation and subsequent transmission of COVID-19 in SVG.
Its objectives are to establish the nationality of the returning individual; establish the status of exposure of returning individual to COVID 19; and, establish the appropriateness of the site of the quarantine.
According to the protocol, cruise lines must also provide the government with the following information:
·Total number of persons to be repatriated
·Mode of arrival: boat or plane.
·Full name, date of birth, passport number contact number and address in departing country
·Address of the proposed site of 14 to 21 days of the quarantine
·Contact number of persons residing where the person proposes to stay in SVG or who can facilitate the inspection of the proposed quarantine site.
·Commitment of the repatriating company or individual to pay for the accommodation of those persons without an appropriate quarantine site
·The repatriating company to secure an alternate site approved by the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment.
The prime minister said that there is a disembarking protocol for cruise workers returning to SVG by air.
The protocol says all passengers will be screened before entering the arrivals area and that the screening will mainly include “probing for symptoms and temperature check”.
Under the protocol, persons with adequate home facilities for quarantine will be allowed to leave while those going to a government facility will be boarded on agreed transport to await departure. In this context, “government facility” refers to whatever hotel is selected, which the cruise line will be paying for.
Vincentians returning by sea will be subjected to the same protocols.
In addition, the vessel will berth at the cruise ship terminal in Kingstown and disembarkation will be in groups of 10, or more, if possible.
Hand hygiene will be enforced, the prime minister said, adding that photo identification is required for all the seafarers.
The area of screening will be sanitised after each group is screened.