Jamaica: $822m Return Bill – Repatriating 5,000 Jamaicans Could Hit Taxpayers Hard

Taxpayers will fork out $64 million to pay for accommodation and food for 330 Jamaicans stranded overseas by the COVID-19 pandemic who will arrive back home this week.

But Gleaner analysis projects that taxpayers would have to cough up another $758 million, at the Government’s new peg of US$1 to J$145, for accommodation and food if the remaining 4,670 Jamaicans who have expressed an interest to return be state-quarantined at US$80 per day per person for 14 days.

All told, the price tag would hover around $822 million.

The Jamaicans, including ship workers fatigued by circuitous holding voyages, have been mounting pressure on the Holness administration to allow them to repatriate after the country shut its doors to incoming passenger traffic on March 24 as part of coronavirus containment measures.

Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Kamina Johnson Smith made the announcement yesterday evening during a Jamaica House press briefing but noted that other costs, including logistics, transportation, and medical care, were absent from that computation.

“State quarantine for persons returning – which is mandatory – is not free to taxpayers. It comes at a negotiated cost of US$100 per day per person inclusive of accommodation and three meals per day,” Johnson Smith stressed yesterday.

The quarantine period is for 14 days, but if COVID-19 is detected among the batch, the accommodation period would be extended.

“People have been asked within the framework of the JamCovid app to make a contribution of US$20 per day or to make family arrangement in respect of meals. It was, however, decided by the Cabinet that in recognition of the particular challenge and the particularities of this week’s arrivals and the circumstances under which they have been operating over the past two months, that the Government will absorb the full cost of state quarantine.


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