Message re-opening St. Eustatius Government Commissioner, Alida Francis December 24th, 2021
Dear Residents of St. Eustatius,
For the past weeks Government has communicated its Long-term Strategic COVID Plan including the plan to re-open St. Eustatius effective January 3rd, 2022. I take note that this is cause for concern among the population, especially given the new Omicron variant has been identified and is spreading fast around the world.
The plan of Government is NOT to suddenly flip a switch stating we are opening back up. This would be extremely dangerous. You may recall when in October 2020 a curfew was introduced leading up to Island Council elections, many of you felt as if the light was switched off. Since then, there has never been a comparable level of restriction on St. Eustatius. Fortunately, we have not had any incident of community spread.
The Roadmap to Re-opening St. Eustatius” started in June this year. You can compare Statia’s re-opening strategy with the careful and effective use of a dimming switch. I want to assure you that, as we prepare to further open the island gradually and carefully, this will depend heavily on the covid situation here on St. Eustatius, in neighbouring islands and in countries where most visitors to our island come from. The dimming switch will not be turned up too quickly.
Covid spreads when people are moving and traveling. Globally travel restrictions have resulted in people becoming frustrated. Covid is a new reality. For how long? We do not know. But we can no longer allow this virus to curtail our collective freedom to travel; be it for the purpose of education, business, leisure or medical.
You have the commitment of Government that leading up to January 3rd we will maintain the current strict entry policy. As the Covid situation around us develops we will adjust our opening plan and inform you accordingly. This is what we have done consistently from the start of the pandemic almost 2 years ago. The fruits of our collective labour will NOT be compromised.
The current ENTRY policy allows vaccinated and non-vaccinated persons to enter St. Eustatius on a negative PCR pre-travel test within 48 hours. Upon arrival from very high-risk countries a Rapid Antigen Test will be done at the port of entry. Vaccinated persons will do will Rapid Antigen Test and will be in monitoring for 5 days considering the hygiene measures. A Rapid Antigen Exit Test is done on the 5th day. Non-vaccinated persons go into quarantine with a Rapid ANTIGEN Exit Test on the 10th day.
As of Monday December 27th, ALL countries will be categorized as very high-risk. This means that ALL incoming passengers will be allowed entry on a negative PCR pre-travel test 48 hours. All incoming passengers vaccinated and non-vaccinated will do a Rapid Antigen Test upon entry. Vaccinated persons will go into monitoring for 5 days and will do an ANTIGEN Rapid Exit Test on day 5. The non- vaccinated will go into 10 days quarantine and then do a Rapid Antigen Exit Test on the 10th day.
This strategy has prevented the virus from spreading within the community. For this trend to continue, there must be discipline and order and there STILL must be respect for the protocols.
The fight against the spread of COVID is not an easy task. As the ancestors would say “More hands make light work”; more people working to accomplish a task, the easier it will be accomplished. While there are currently no active COVID cases on St. Eustatius, experience has taught us that this can change. Therefore, the call for you to take personal responsibility remains unchanged. When we each take responsibility, it means that ALL of us can be kept safe.
I appeal to residents, who have decided to travel abroad for the Holiday Season to, upon your return, strictly RESPECT the monitoring and quarantine policy. For those of you visiting St. Eustatius from high-risk and very high-risk countries, we recognize the freedom that you feel when you arrive here. Please understand that the most vulnerable groups are persons who suffer from hypertension, diabetic and obesity.
For those of you here at home, you are reminded the government alone cannot prevent people from getting infected. You must exercise caution by following all the protocols. This is the most festive all seasons. For those of you attending public gatherings continue to follow existing advice including physical distancing, and wearing a mask, washing hands etc.
I take this opportunity to thank all frontline workers at the Public Health Department, St. Eustatius Health Care Foundation, St. Eustatius Auxiliary Home, Outbreak Management Team, social partners, Dutch Ministry of Public Health, Dutch Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM), Accessible Ventures, workers at the harbour and airport. Special thanks is extended to civil servants in the social affairs and labour unit who support their Public Health colleagues now in need of much rest.
The government pledges to keeping St. Eustatius safe, even if it means spending longer times to deal with safety concerns and persuading people. As always, we hope for the best, but plan for the most extreme circumstances to make sure we have resources and plans ready in the event we need them. Thanks to the entire community for the role that you have played in different areas.
Let us not get tired and let us not get careless!
On behalf the Public Entity St. Eustatius, I wish you a Joyous Holiday Season!