Borders reopened to belongers and permanent residents early this month. (Photo:GIS)

Government is dishing out $2.4 million to contract quarantine facilities for returning nationals and permanent residents until Sept. 14, but work-permit holders will have to pay for their own quarantine facilities once they are allowed back into the territory on a date that has not yet been announced.

“After the 15th [of June] a decision was made that we would not seek to have any further home quarantine space only because of the cost of security and the persons who have sought to violate this,” Health and Social Development Minister Carvin Malone said Friday in the House of Assembly. “It is a different criteria and different set of responsibilities for work- permit holders coming in, as they would have to underwrite the cost of being quarantined.”

Government quarantine

In the HOA, Opposition Leader Marlon Penn asked Mr. Malone to list all the designated properties secured for government quarantine, as well as the number of rooms, the owners, and the breakdown of the cost. Mr. Malone said he would not list the names of the proper- ties or the owners, claiming that the list was lengthy and would be passed to members in a document, which has not been provided to the public.

He did say, however, that there are 250 rooms from 12 properties at a total cost of $2,357,000 until Sept. 14.

Asked by Mr. Penn if food costs were included, he answered in the affirmative.

“It’s important to note the whole concept of mandatory quarantine, just like in other facilities, if you mandatorily have a person in quarantine, you’re responsible for feeding them,” he added.

However, he didn’t say whether work-permit holders would be responsible for feeding themselves in addition to paying for quarantine facilities.

Mr. Malone added, “Cabinet made a decision that we can contract up to 100 more rooms if necessary based on the bringing in of our people.”

Return process

At Mr. Penn’s request, Mr. Malone also outlined the process for nationals and permanent residents returning to the territory since June 2.

All travellers who have a “constitutional right” to re-enter the territory are encouraged to apply for a travel certificate through an online registration form, the minister said. A plane will only be allowed into the territory once all the passengers on its manifest are cleared by immigration.

All travellers have to submit a public health declaration form 24-48 hours prior to travel, Mr. Malone said.

At the airport, all travellers are subject to health screening, temperature screening and hand hygiene.

Anyone with symptoms must be taken to a healthcare centre, he explained, though he did not confirm if there were any people with symptoms. Those without symptoms were transported from the airport to quarantine facilities, he added.

In the initial period between June 2 and June 15, self-quarantine facilities — often at private homes — had to be approved and 24-hour security was provided at each of those locations.

24-hour security

Mr. Malone added that the cost for 24-hour security at each residence has been footed by the government, but he did not disclose the dollar amount of the contracts on Friday.

All arriving travellers had to social distance from family members, or family members also had to undergo a 14-day mandatory quarantine, he said.

“Each person in quarantine will be monitored daily by an as- signed client support service officer who is trained to provide necessary assistance,” Mr. Malone said.

At the end of the 14-day period, asymptomatic travellers are tested, and if the test returns negative, they are granted a release certificate and return-to-work form. Those who show symptoms or test positive will be placed in the hospital or isolation facility based on the severity of the illness, Mr. Malone added.

Twenty returning nationals have been released from quarantine after testing negative for the virus, and altogether, 200 travellers have returned from over- seas since June 2, Mr. Malone said Friday. An additional 71 people are expected to arrive by the end of June, he added.

So far, 557 people registered to return to the territory.

Rapid testing

Asked by Mr. Penn whether the territory has the capacity for rapid testing and if travellers are being tested in this way, Mr. Malone responded in the negative.

“I’m informed by the medical experts that they are in constant contact with Public Health England to determine if Pan American Health Organization and World Health Organization has approved one of the rapid test kits that are out there, and none of them has been approved as being reliable without having false negatives or false positives,” he said.

He mentioned that some travellers who take rapid tests may test negative when they first begin travelling, and then test positive for the virus upon arrival.

“That area of doubt has not led to the approval, globally, of any rapid tests,” he added.

Travellers are only tested at the end of their 14-day quarantine, not upon arrival into the territory, unless they are displaying symptoms of Covid-19, Mr. Malone explained.