By Shelton Daniel
Despite the recent announcement that home quarantine for COVID-19 would no longer be permitted, it appears the situation remains flexible and some persons may actually be allowed this regime on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of relevant health authorities.
Information Minister Melford Nicholas had previously said home quarantine was being discontinued because of the tendency by some persons to abscond and not honour the undertakings they give as conditions of being allowed to spend the mandatory fourteen-day period within an approved private setting.
He had then announced that, going forward, all persons requiring quarantine would have to spend the time at a government-provided facility where their compliance and movements could be monitored and traced.
One such government quarantine facility is the renovated Jolly Beach Resort. But with a recent surge in COVID infections requiring increased vigilance and screening, the number of persons needing to be quarantined and isolated has reportedly swelled to such numbers that the facilities were quickly utilized to capacity.
During the weekly post-Cabinet press briefing on Thursday morning, Nicholas was apprised of a case involving a person who had arrived from another OECS territory a week ago and was allowed to quarantine at a private home as the sole occupant.
The individual has told PointeXpress that upon arrival at the V.C. Bird International Airport she learned that she would be granted this concession because there was no more space at the available government facilities.
She also pointed out that she was permitted the home quarantine without being fitted with an electronic tracking bracelet, because, she claims to have been told, there were no more available.
The visitor, who expressed absolute commitment and adherence to the terms of her quarantine, said her only disappointment is in the non-fulfilment of a promise that nurses would visit her every two days during the quarantine period to evaluate her condition – but this has not been done even once in the seven days since her arrival.
When this was put to the Information Minister on Thursday, this was his response: “There are a range of options that the port health authorities [have] at their disposal, one of which is the public quarantine facility. They still have the authority under law to make a determination if, in exceptional circumstances, they would want to give consideration to home quarantine. And when those home quarantine situations are being considered, they have an additional option of affixing a bracelet to those persons to ensure that they remain honest to the options that would have been granted to them.”
Nicholas said he knew of situations where some of his own constituents in St. John’s City East, who were undergoing quarantine, had issues which they needed addressed. He said in such cases, numbers have been provided which they can call if the matter needs escalation to the attention of authorities tasked with attending to these matters.
Said the Minister, in conclusion: “Understand that we are working in a dynamic situation here, where persons are facing many different audiences, many different urgencies, many different meetings. So, sometimes there is slippage, but that does not change the fact that the health officials are working to ensure that the health of the community remains safe … But the general policy is that persons who are returning home to take care of their loved ones, to make a visit, will not ordinarily be permitted to stay in their homes. We have suffered the bad experience and the bad consequences of that during last Christmas. And so, they will be, as a matter of first choice, asked to spend time in a government quarantine facility.”