The Temporary Regulation COVID-19 measures for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba have been adapted to secure measures in connection with the surge in infections, such as the wearing of face masks for five days and group restrictions for incoming travellers.
The adapted regulation, submitted by Dutch Minister of Public Health, Wellbeing and Sport Ernst Kuipers, Minister of Justice and Security Dilan Yesilgoz-Zegerius and Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Hanke Bruins Slot on January 14, went into effect the following day.
The adapted regulation was submitted in connection with the rapidly increasing number of COVID-19 infections in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba since late December 2021, mainly due to the highly contagious Omicron variant.
The large number of infections puts pressure on the healthcare system; despite the lower number of hospital admissions, puts a strain on testing facilities and implies a lot of additional work for public health authorities to do source and contact investigations. The number of infections among healthcare personnel adds more pressure.
Considering the increasing incidence (the number of positive COVID-19 test results per 100,000 inhabitants) and the large number of infections in the Caribbean Netherlands, several stringent measures are needed, it was stated in the adapted regulation. These measures result in stricter travel measures between the Caribbean Netherlands islands: all non or not fully vaccinated persons travelling between Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba have to do a test prior to their trip, just like non or not fully vaccinated people who travel from the three islands to the Netherlands.
Saba and St. Eustatius have been scaled up to risk level 2, as a result of which the public entities have taken measures to limit the sizes of groups and nightlife. Additional measures are needed to curb the further spreading of the virus as well as the influx of the virus.
To control the influx of COVID-19, additional measures have been implemented for travellers from (very) high risk areas. These travellers need to adhere to certain measures for the first five days after their arrival: they must wear a face mask and are not allowed to mingle in groups of more than 25 persons. The Island Governors decide where the measures apply.
The containment strategy that Saba and St. Eustatius have applied in the past two years are not considered a sustainable, long-term solution, and therefore the islands are slowly eased into re-opening. However, additional measures are now needed for travellers due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
The mandatory face mask measure and the prohibition for arriving travellers to socialise in groups of 25 and more persons for five days, prevents these persons from having to quarantine as was the case in the past. Combined with mandatory testing, this allows the islands to receive travellers in a responsible manner.
Because quarantining is considered to be a “very far-reaching measure,” while at the same time limiting the spread of the virus by incoming travellers, St. Eustatius and Saba developed an alternative policy based on which special temporary measures are implemented for travellers from high-risk areas.
By restricting these persons in the number of contacts that they may have at the same time and by prescribing a face mask, travellers form high-risk areas maintain their freedoms as much as possible while at the same time limiting the spreading of the virus.
Another item that has been adapted in the Temporary Regulation COVID-19 measures for Saba and St. Eustatius concerns the mandatory negative test result. Up to now, travellers from very high-risk areas could choose between submitting a negative antigen test up to 48 hours prior to arrival or a negative NAAT/PCR test result up to 72 hours prior to arrival.
Due to the increased number of infections in St. Eustatius and Saba and the limited health care capacity, the choice between antigen and NAAT/PCR tests has been eliminated. Travellers from very high-risk areas must now always show a negative NAAT/ PCR test result. Antigen test results arc considered less accurate than a NAAT/PCR test result. People with a vaccination or COVID-19 recovery proof may also travel to Saba and St. Eustatius from high-risk areas. This may be a Digital Corona Certificate of the European Union (EU-DCC) or another certificate.
Travellers from Saba and St. Eustatius now also have to show a negative test result when going to the Netherlands. The two islands have been added to the list of areas whereby passengers must show a negative test result before boarding a flight to the Netherlands.
The Daily Herald.