COVID-19 regulation Saba, Statia amended

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.

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