The soft reopening of Saba for Sunday, November 1 was announced by Island Governor Jonathan Johnson on Saturday. The reopening by no means indicates that anyone can come to the island at any time, without permission and without following the safety protocols put in place, and noncompliance will have consequences, he emphasized in an update.
The strategy for Saba remains containment. This means that the goal is to keep the virus out as opposed to mitigation in response to COVID-19, and requires very strict measures at the borders and for incoming travelers. On the other hand, it allows also Saba residents to live a relatively normal life, Johnson explained, who noted that this is similar to what New Zealand and many Asian countries are doing.
Saba’s unique situation has not changed with its vulnerability and limited medical capacity. However, the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) and the Island Governor have decided to allow more than just residents, medical students and essential travelers to enter the island per November 1. The idea is that anyone wishing to come to the island and stay longer than two weeks to quarantine are allowed to enter once they follow the proper procedures which include quarantining and testing. Persons wishing to enter the island should request this via firstname.lastname@example.org to get permission, and this will continue on a case by case basis.
These persons must then sign a waiver which states that they will comply with the local guidelines. A mobile surveillance team monitors these persons. One of the top priorities as OMT remains that persons who need medical care can get this. As such, on Friday, October 30, the Health Insurance Office ZVK started a pilot for medical referrals to St. Maarten for the day. This creates a sort of bubble for patients who will visit the same doctor. During the visit, a chaperone will be present, ensuring that all safety measures and protocols are adhered to, guaranteeing that these travelers can return and not have to quarantine upon their return to Saba.
If the epidemiological situation on Bonaire and St. Eustatius remains the same in the coming week, Saba authorities will assess the situation and lower the risk levels for these two islands. “We continue to take decisions that are in Saba’s best interest. They may not always be the preferred ones for everyone, but safety remains paramount,” Johnson emphasized.
State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops and a small delegation will arrive on Saba on Wednesday, November 4 for a short visit. Strict safety protocols will be in place for this visit and there will be no close contact with residents, Johnson assured the community.
The Island Governor specifically addressed and commended the Saba population in these trying times. “We have been going through the COVID-19 motion for almost nine months, and the end is still not in sight. I want to commend Saba’s population for following protocols and together keeping our island and ourselves safe. It has not been an easy road, especially for the people who continue to quarantine because of elective care or for persons that need to quarantine in general. Still, let us continue to stick together and navigate these uncertain times as a community.”
Johnson confirmed that he will be giving more regular updates, as this is something that people are interested in. From now on, he will give weekly updates, on Thursday afternoon.