President Donald Trump said his administration expects the peak of deaths in the U.S. coronavirus outbreak to be reached in about two weeks, and that he would extend guidelines for Americans to distance themselves from one another until April 30. By Kevin Keister
Haitians stranded by the coronavirus in the United States are finding that it’s a lot easier to get back home if you’re a U.S. deportee than if you’re a tourist stuck abroad.
Haitian Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe, confirming in a radio interview that the government is preparing to receive another 129 deportees from the U.S. on Thursday, has issued conditions under which stranded Haitian nationals can return.
They must, according to new Haitian government rules, have a confirmed flight reservation; present proof of a recent negative coronavirus test, and they must self-quarantine for 14 days at one of two Port-au-Prince hotels designated by the government.
“We will test them after 14 days, which is the incubation period for the disease, and everyone will go home,” Jouthe said Monday during an interview on Vision 2000’s “Guest of the Day” program with journalist Marie Lucie Bonhomme.
Jouthe’s public acknowledgment of the requirements, first issued to his foreign minister in early April, came as he confirmed that three recent deportees to Haiti from the U.S. tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, the respiratory disease.
In fact, he used the deportees’ positive infections as justifications for the new policy, which can cost Haitians anywhere from $100 to $150 a night in unforeseen hotel expenses.
“This is crazy. It is absurd,” said Kerline Philippe, who has been stranded in Miami for more than a month. “Do they know that some people are living at the airport? Do they know some people have no place to go? They were staying at a hotel and now they’ve run out of money?”
The irony of the government’s policy concerning those who went to the U.S. legally and those who did not is not lost on her.
“You are accepting 129 people who committed crimes to come to the country, who haven’t been tested, and us, who haven’t committed any crimes, are stuck here because of an irrational, sudden decision the government took,” she said.
Philippe said she was scheduled to fly back to Haiti on March 20, the same day that the country’s borders closed after the president confirmed the first two positive cases.
“Normally, a country gives you a 24-hour notice, or a 48-hour notice. But this was done all of a sudden,” she said. “What they are saying is that in order for you to come to Haiti you have to have money. And if you don’t have money stay there and die. We are here and we are stuck here.”
Unapologetic while also contradictory at times, Jouthe said Haiti was facing “a fait accompli” with COVID-19 while acknowledging “the measures are drastic, and they are unpopular.”
“We are obligated to think about the 11.5 million inhabitants who are living in the country,” he said. “I’m not thinking of the person who cannot pay $1,000 or $1,500 for a hotel. I don’t think about that at all.”
On Monday, Haiti extended its state of emergency over the pandemic while also welcoming the reopening of factories, a decision that the prime minister, again, defended.