Minister positive about lower COVID•19 numbers on islands

Dutch Minis­ter of Public Health, Welfare and Sport VWS Hugo dc Jonge is cautiously positive about the downward trend of COVID-19 infections in the Dutch Carib­bean.

In a 56-page update the min­ister sent to the Second Cham­ber of the Dutch Parliament on Wednesday, he dedicated a few paragraphs to the Dutch Carib­bean, and provided data of the individual islands per October 27. The highest numbers of active COVID-19 cases and cumulative cases are still in Aruba: respec­tively 164 and 4,422. Curacao is second with 282 active cases and 873 cumulative cases, followed by St. Maarten with 57 active and 789 cumulative. Bonaire has two active and 131 cu­mulative.

Aruba also has the most COVID-19 deaths with 36. In St. Maarten 22 persons to date have died from the virus. In Aruba, 12 persons remained hospitalised, in St. Maarten six, in Curacao four, and in Bonaire, St. Eu­statius and Saba, none.

St. Eustatius and Saba both have no active cases. Min­ister De Jonge was positive about the fact that St. Eu­statius was back to no ac­tive cases. St. Eustatius has a cumulative number of 14 cases, of which all have re­cuperated.

De Jonge was also content with the developments in Bonaire, St. Maarten and Aruba. “The outbreak in Bonaire is on its way back and in St. Maarten it seems that a cautious reduction has started. Also, in Aruba the number of positively-tested persons is decreasing. The pressure of the care for COVID-19 patients at the Aruba hospital is decreas­ing.”

About the developments in Curacao, De Jonge stated: “There is a limited growth of the number of new posi­tive cases, but for now this is not a cause to take addi­tional measures.” He stated that early October, the Min­istry of VWS provided assis­tance to Curacao in setting up a second test street and strengthening the source and contact investigation. The Netherlands is cur­rently in a high infection rate period. On October 27, there were 2,358 persons in hospital with COVID-19, of whom 529 were in intensive care. On an almost daily ba­sis, 10,000 persons are tested positive in the Netherlands. Despite the fact that the islands are doing relatively well, chances are great that the Dutch government, on the advice of the national Outbreak Management Team (OMT), will shortly is­sue a negative travel advice for all foreign destinations for the upcoming winter season.

The negative OMT advice has to do with the relatively large number of infections from persons who returned from a vacation abroad over the summer, and the fact that only a quarter of the persons coming back from a code-orange area went into the mandatory 10-day quar­antine.

If the Dutch government decides to follow OMT’s advice, this would be bad news for the already suf­fering hotel and restaurant sector in Aruba, Curacao, St. Maarten and Bonaire, because it would affect the traditional high season for the islands, a period when people from the Nether­lands travel to the Dutch Caribbean for a family visit or for a sun and beach vaca­tion. Aruba and St. Maarten are already on the code-or­ange list, meaning that non­essential travel is strongly discouraged.

In other related news, Member of the Second Chamber Nevin Özütok of the green left party Groen­Links submitted written questions on Tuesday with regard to a COVID-19 bonus for healthcare person­nel in the Caribbean Neth­erlands islands Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. Healthcare personnel in the Netherlands will receive this year a net bonus of 1,000 eu­ros for their increased work­load, but apparently this is not the case for healthcare workers on the three islands which are part of the Neth­erlands.

Member of Parliament (MP) Özütok wants Minis­ter of Medical Care Tamara can Ark and State Secretary of Public Health, Welfare and Sport Paul Blokhuis to explain why the healthcare workers on the islands do not receive this bonus, how many healthcare workers would have qualified, and how much money would have been involved.

“Can you indicate how the tireless input of healthcare professionals in the Carib­bean Netherlands differs from their colleagues in the Netherlands? Do you agree with me that there is no reason to refuse this bonus to Caribbean Netherlands healthcare professionals?”

Özütok suggested that the decision not to give health­care workers on the three islands a bonus like their Dutch colleagues infringed on the point of departure of equal treatment of citizens in the Netherlands and the Caribbean Netherlands.

She urged the minister and state secretary to give the Caribbean Netherlands healthcare workers a bonus “as a show of great appre­ciation and recognition for their contribution” to com­bating COVID-19.

The Daily Herald.

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