Deputy Government Commissioner Alida Francis. Photo courtesy Alida Francis.
- EUSTATIUS–Deputy Government Commissioner Alida Francis says St. Eustatius has returned to normal activities for the past several weeks, adding that unlike in many surrounding islands, there was never a complete lockdown.
“As we return to normal life we ask Statia residents not to dismiss the importance of practising social-distancing and exercising proper hygiene practices. COVID-19 is around and something that we will need to get used to. However, becoming careless or failing to be vigilant are no options,” Francis said.The public entity St. Eustatius has received requests for permits for large events. These requests require advice from the police (public order), the Fire Department (safety) and the Public Health Department.“We have been slow to respond and may not be able to honour every request, as we are not living in normal times,” Francis said.The island government is asking promoters to take this into account when requesting a permit and called on all promoters to refrain from advertising events before these have received formal approval, as they may be creating expectations that cannot be met due to the current coronavirus situation. Business-permit holders were also reminded to adhere to the guidelines of their permits.A meeting is scheduled this week with all promoters and organisers to explain the plan going forward. Crisis manager Pieter Glerum and Public Health Department official Dr. Gerwin Schobbe will give a briefing about the latest developments.The public entity wants to ensure that there is a possibility for “comfortable, reasonable social life and activities,” but “it is important for every resident to take their responsibility [in keeping Statia COVID-19-free – Ed.] seriously,” Francis said.COVID-19 is still around in the world and persons from low- and medium-risk countries continue to enter the island, Francis added. “It is correct that we cannot keep the island closed forever. It requires that we all learn to live and function in what is called the ‘new normal,’ yet also being responsible.”A so-called “ZVK bubble” has been created for residents who must travel abroad for medical attention. Patients travelling within the bubble are being asked to take their responsibility seriously. This means that patients who leave Statia will be collected at the airport of their destination, taken directly to their appointment with their specialist and returned to a location where they can have a meal and rest before returning to Statia. This mainly refers to St. Maarten, to which patients travel on a daily basis.If patients do not follow these guidelines they will be placed in quarantine on their return to Statia.Some patients are violating the ZVK bubble guidelines. Francis said this is not a good development, as they are putting themselves, their families and the community of Statia at risk.She appealed to all Statians to exercise caution. While there is a Hospitainer, Statia has not yet the capacity to test locally for COVID-19. The target date of July 15 has not been met, but Statia is working in close cooperation with St. Maarten Laboratory Services (SLS) to achieve local testing, Francis said.The testing machine has already been purchased and once it arrives on the island, workers will be trained in its use. The new target date for Statia to have its own testing capability has now been delayed until the end of August.An independent testing capacity is considered important because test results will come in faster and will make it possible to train the island’s health care professionals in the event of a second wave of COVID-19.“Together we have fought hard and we must continue that fight to keep the island free of COVID-19 or at least to minimise the risk,” Francis said. The positive case that was reported Wednesday, July 22, is proof that this will not always be possible, she said. “We must take note that not everyone adheres strictly to the travel and quarantine policies.”