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Commissioner Zagers: Embrace new normal, accept economic realities

People will need to embrace the new normal under the corona crisis, accept that things will be different for a while, and be honest about the new economic realities moving forward. Commissioner Bruce Zagers has a straightforward message for the Saba community in the early stages of the easing of the lockdown.

“We cannot expect that our world will return to the normal we once enjoyed anytime soon. For now, it is prudent that we focus on some priorities. Opening schools which will ensure that our children are getting the guidance and attention that they need to further their educational growth should not be delayed. We must also allow for our business community to be able to open their doors in an attempt to salvage their business and save jobs,” he said.

Zagers stated that while at times physical distancing will not be possible and interaction with other households will happen, this risk will be present whether government allows these openings to happen now or in several weeks or even months. “We will have to accept certain risks and adjust our lifestyle to this new way of life until there is a proven cure or a vaccination for the virus, neither of which will materialize in the short term.”

According to the Commissioner, embracing a new normal is a small sacrifice everyone will have to pay to ensure that restrictions can be limited and hopefully continue to contain the virus if or when it is reintroduced to Saba. Physical distancing, good hand hygiene, extensive surface cleaning, not shaking hands or giving hugs must become part of people’s daily routines for the foreseeable future. He urged people to adhere to the recommendations from the experts and follow their guidelines for a new normal. “It is because of their directions we have been able to contain COVID-19 on Saba.”

Economic realities

Zagers said it was important to be honest about the new economic realities in moving forward. “It is difficult to predict when it will be safe for our borders to open back for tourism. It is even more difficult to estimate when people will feel safe enough to consider planning a vacation, when it again becomes possible to travel. These factors, amongst many others, will greatly impact when we will start to see tourists coming back to our islands. This global pandemic will have a much larger negative impact than what we have experienced after any hurricane.”

The relief measures of the Dutch Government will bring some assistance for the people and the business community. “Although these measures can help in the short term and are very much appreciated, it will not solve the economic problems for the long term. We will continue to have an open dialogue with the Ministries in the Netherlands with the hope of creating a relief package that will enable our small businesses to remain open and keep their staff employed during these anticipated tough economic times.”

The Saba Government takes the responsibility that it has particularly seriously, especially in these times. “From the local government, we will do our utmost to fast track projects that have been in the pipeline for some time. This will allow for contractors to continue working and hopefully even expand their personnel with local workers. We are taking steps to increase and diversify production at the government farm in Hell’s Gate.”

More self-sustainable

The community can contribute as well. “We can and should promote the idea of becoming more self-sustainable. I urge you to start a small garden, if possible, where you can grow some of your own food. I also urge you to support your local businesses like the farmers, fishermen and restaurants. With our support we can help ease their burden during these tough economic times.”

Zagers shared his deep appreciation for the frontline workers and encouraged others to do the same. “As a community we should all express our appreciation for the frontline workers who have worked tirelessly during the past weeks to support our wellbeing, to keep us safe, have continued educating our children, ensured that we received groceries and have kept our island clean. To everyone who has been a part of this movement, I say thank you. Thank you for being there for us when we needed you the most. Your efforts are greatly appreciated.”

Overcome

The Commissioner remarked that this crisis has also brought good things and that together, the Saba people will overcome. “There is a common saying that every cloud has a silver lining. For some of us finding something positive out of this will be difficult. However, during the last few weeks, it has allowed for more family time, and we have learned to appreciate the smaller things in life such as going for a short walk in the afternoons. It has motivated many to practice their cooking and baking skills. Some people have started their own vegetable gardens. I am confident that as a people we will become stronger and even more resilient. As Sabans, this is in our nature. We never shy away from any challenge and we always come out on top after every disaster. I assure you that this too shall pass.”

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