St. Eustatius will remain in a state of emergency due to the outbreak of the coronavirus COVID-19 until May 15, it emerged from the fifth emergency ordinance which came into effect Friday, May 1.
The new emergency ordinance is a continuation of the previous one. The only change is the proposed gradual reopening opening of schools from May 11.
Other emergency measures remain in force. No more than 15 persons can gather together in the same location. All non-essential businesses are closed, including restaurants, which can only offer takeout or delivery. Only 15 persons are allowed in large supermarkets at the same time, while observing a distance of at least 1.5 metres. Small supermarkets are only allowed to have five customers inside and one person at the counter.
Government Commissioner Marnix van Rij said that he and Deputy Government Commissioner Alida Francis appreciate how well most residents of Statia are respecting the measures laid out in the emergency ordinances.
“We recognise that it has not been easy and that we arc living in very uncertain, confusing times. This can put you and your loved ones under pressure. Many of you who are suffering economically as you cannot go to work, or their jobs and businesses are considered non-essential, or these businesses have chosen to close or were directed to close, let me assure you that in our eyes every job is essential here in St. Eustatius. They are essential because
this is how you all make a living,” Van Rij said.
He said the public entity has only allowed businesses that are “strictly necessary” for the island to remain operational during the pandemic, as the island’s public health is government’s only objective.
“To ease the new economic situation your local government together with the Dutch government are doing our very best to come up with extraordinary measures in these extraordinary times,” he said.
Van Rij stated that the social security financial package is to assist with the economic situation of businesses, entrepreneurs and individuals. Persons can apply for assistance at the Social Affairs and Employment Unit. “If you have not yet done so, we really want you to come forward to get help,” he said.
So far, 144 businesses, 66 self-employed persons and nine employees have asked for assistance.
A second financial package is to assist residents with the cost of water, electricity and Internet connections. The government commissioners held talks with St. Eustatius Utility Company STUCO and telecommunications company Eutel on Wednesday, April 29, on how the discounts will be implemented in the bills from May 1 until the end of 2020.
“We understand that these measures will not solve all your financial problems. Hopefully, they can help bridge the gap until we have more stable economic times on Statia.”
Many residents are wondering when the emergency measures will be downscaled.
“Going back to life as normal is our goal, but this is a long process. We cannot make hasty decisions overnight. We must take measures and decisions based on expert advice,” Van Rij said. “We will have to open up the island in the future because we cannot remain closed to the outside world forever.
“However, we do not know when that will happen. We have to remain very cautious in every decision we make. That is why we are so focused on increasing our medical capacity, because [re-opening Statia — Ed.] before that time would be irresponsible.”
Only essential workers and returning patients and their companions are allowed to access Statia. These persons must all be quarantined for 14 days on their return to the island. There is a maximum of 15 persons in quarantine.
“This has been the case, and it will continue for the upcoming two weeks, as the travel ban has been extended until May 15.”
Van Rij said the monitoring of quarantined persons will be increased because some persons have not been following the rules.
“We have dealt with that situation together with the Public Health Department,” he said. “We do see light at the end of the tunnel in regard to easing the measures taken, because the hospitainer which is currently being installed will raise the medical capacity.”
Doctors and nurses are being recruited to staff the hospitainer, which is expected to be operational within 10 to 14 days.
The Daily Herald.