Persons in the “business bubble” boarding a flight to St. Maarten on Friday, January 15.
ST. EUSTATIUS–A group of sixteen persons from St. Eustatius boarded a Winair aircraft at F.D. Roosevelt Airport en route to St. Maarten on Friday, January 15. They were part of a trip planned by the public entity St. Eustatius to allow persons who need to conduct business in St. Maarten to be able to do so.
Island Council Member Clyde van Putten was part of Friday’s “business bubble” trip. He commended the government for the trip, but said Statia needs to move in the direction of opening up for visitors showing a negative COVID-19 test on their arrival.
He said Statia needs a new method to deal with the pandemic, “because you cannot keep Statia in lockdown forever. COVID is not going away anytime soon.”
Van Putten was critical of the public entity’s policy amid the coronavirus pandemic. “I am not suggesting that we should open Statia at random, only that the necessary measures be put in place to avoid the arrival of COVID-19.
“I believe that they are using this COVID pandemic to control the public. I think that if we continue this situation, what you are going to do is kill the economy like what is happening in Curaçao. I think the Dutch government in The Hague is using this coronavirus situation to control the movements of the people in the islands. I believe this is wrong and I know I will get some criticism for saying it.”
Van Putten said the government-organised flight to St. Maarten was “good,” but found the trip, which included flight and on-island transport, to be expensive. The group travelled to St. Maarten in a bubble. Therefore, they were not required to quarantine on their return, as persons travelling from a medium- or high-risk country are required to do on entry into Statia.
All expenses for the trip to St. Maarten had to be paid by the passengers who were able to conduct important business matters at the notary or a bank. A similar arrangement was made for patients insured with Health Insurance Office ZVK for appointments with medical specialists in St. Maarten. As there are more patients who want to make use of this “business bubble” scenario, another trip may be scheduled later.
Van Putten said that if the public entity is to organise another trip, persons should be given enough time to conduct their business. He said delays and time constraints were caused, as more than one person in the group visited the same notary or bank.
The plane left Statia at 7:30am, but the group did not reach downtown St. Maarten until 9:00am and by 12:00pm the group had to finish all their appointments to be able to make it on their return flight to Statia which arrived at 2:45pm, 15 minutes earlier than expected.
In Van Putten’s opinion, the population is being controlled like little children. “We have to get permission to go and permission to come to the island, but what I am seeing here is that they are allowing these front-line workers to come in from Holland or another country.”
He said that front-line workers having an adjusted quarantine and coming in contact with locals while not wearing masks is not a good thing. “They are supposed to be in some form of quarantine … and they are not supposed to have contact with a local person, but that is constantly taking place.”
Van Putten said he had informed Deputy Government Commissioner Alida Francis about front-line workers not adhering to the adjusted quarantine rules of wearing a mask while interacting with locals.
Francis stated in response to Van Putten that he had informed her that she had received signals from several persons about essential workers breaking COVID-19 guidelines. “I said to him to forward me the information that he had, because we are very keen on fact-checking, which is conducted by the police and the Public Health Department.”
She said that information pertaining to COVID-19 does not need to be brought to her attention but should be sent to email address
“We have a crisis manager, a crisis coordinator and a public health team. This is no time to politicise COVID, especially given that the same Mr. van Putten along with all the members of the Island Council on Thursday praised the Public Health Department and the Executive Council for their handling of the COVID-19 response.
“Mr. Van Putten had the opportunity to inform the COVID crisis team that there are certain reports [about quarantine violations – Ed.], which the crisis team would have investigated. We are doing our utmost to keep Statia safe,” said Francis.