Changes to regulation COVID-19 measures Caribbean Netherlands

A number of measures to mitigate COVID-19 in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba will be scrapped from the tempo­rary regulations that gave the island governors, or the government commissioner in St. Eustatius, the author­ity to impose measures in certain areas during the pandemic.

Dutch Minister of Pub­lic Health, Wellbeing and Sport Ernst Kuipers on Tuesday sent the adapta­tion to the Temporary regu­lation measures COVID-19 for each of the three islands to the Dutch Parliament for approval. They are expect­ed to be approved shortly.

Measures that were used in the past two years to close establishments such as stores, restaurants and bars, casinos, sports and fitness centres, educational facilities, day care, wellness centres will be annulled be­cause there no longer is a need to do so.

As part of the legisla­tion change, the measures for travellers arriving in Bonaire and Saba will be adapted. A negative PCR or antigen test result is al­ready not needed anymore for passengers from high-risk areas entering Bonaire. The requirement of a nega­tive PCR or antigen test result for people arriving in Saba will be eliminated per May 1 this year.

According to Kuipers, the National Institute for Pub­lic Health and the Environ­ment RIVM had advised to ease the testing measures for passengers arriving in St. Eustatius and Saba in phases. Saba will phase out the measures for arriving passengers and will classify all countries as low-risk. The intention is to drop all measures for arriving pas­sengers per May 1, the min­ister confirmed in the docu­ment that accompanied the change to the regulations.

Considering the relatively low vaccination grade in St. Eustatius in comparison with Saba, Bonaire and the Netherlands, and in com­bination with the higher number of infections espe­cially among young people, St. Eustatius will maintain the measures for arriving travellers. Therefore, oblig­atory test before travelling to St. Eustatius remains in place.

Arriving passengers can only enter St. Eustatius with a negative test result, while the Government Commis­sioner keeps a larger num­ber of options with regard to the size of groups that may gather in one place, closure times and events.

St. Eustatius has an “ex­tra light” COVID-19 policy since March 11 this year. This means that bars, res­taurants and contact pro­fessions may use 50 per cent of their capacity, and there are restrictions on the size of groups and events. Per April 11, these on-is­land measures were further downscaled.

According to Kuipers, the epidemiological situation in the Caribbean Nether­lands is favourable at this time. The number of infec­tions may be high, especial­ly in St. Eustatius, but there is no increased pressure on the healthcare system and the situation remains ten­able.

The large number of infec­tions on the islands is prob­ably the result of relaxed measures which are being implemented in phases. Due to the positive devel­opments in the epidemio­logical situation, the island governors (Bonaire, Saba) and government commis­sioner (St. Eustatius) no longer make use of their authority to appoint loca­tions where the COVID-19 measures apply.

As such, it is no longer necessary for the island governors/government commissioner to apply many of the measures that were introduced during the pandemic in order to com­bat COVID-19. “It is not expected that these mea­sures will again have to be implemented. That is why various articles can be an­nulled,” stated the minister. Articles that restrict events, opening times, group sizes or hygiene measures will remain in the temporary regulation. These measures have a smaller impact on society and can be effec­tive (re)introduced to stop or delay the spreading of the coronavirus when this proves to be necessary.

The articles in the tempo­rary regulations COVID-19 measures for the three is­lands with regard to the use of face masks in pub­lic areas will remain in the regulation so they can be directly (re)implemented when this proves necessary.

It is important to reduce the measures in the Carib­bean Netherlands in phas­es. This is to prevent a large influx and a circulation of the virus. “A small outbreak can have large consequenc­es due to the small size of the islands and the limited healthcare capacity,” stated Kuipers.

A number of factors play a role in the Caribbean Neth­erlands in the approach of the pandemic. Compared to the Netherlands, the islands have a vulnerable healthcare capacity, there is a large difference in the presence and effectiveness of existing surveillance methods to detect surges and virus variants at an early stage, and there is a higher percentage of peo­ple with an increased risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19.

Furthermore, it is more usual on the islands for multiple generations, in­cluding senior citizens, to live under one roof and the number of incoming travel­lers is higher in relation to the size of the community. “For these reasons, a quick response is needed in the Caribbean Netherlands in case of a new outbreak. Maintaining the face mask obligation in the regulation makes this possible,” stated Kuipers.

The Daily Herald.

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