Wednesday , December 6 2023

St. Maarten back to code yellow, Saba, Statia green

As was anticipated, on Saturday the Dutch government placed St. Maarten, Aruba and Curaçao back on code yellow, enabling leisure travelling to and from the islands. St. Eustatius and Saba have been placed on code green since there are no active coronavirus COVID-19 cases there. Bonaire will become code yellow on Wednesday, May 19.

As of Saturday, May 15, people in the Netherlands can again come to the islands on vacation. On Friday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that per May 15, the mandatory COVID-19 test for returning to the Netherlands from Aruba and Curaçao would be eliminated. Quarantining upon return to the Netherlands from these two countries would also no longer be necessary per May 15.

No announcement was made about St. Maarten, Saba, and St. Eustatius last week, as was made for Aruba and Curaçao, but it was expected that St. Maarten would reopen for Dutch tourists as a code yellow destination on Saturday, and that Saba and St. Eustatius would become green. Saba and St. Eustatius are the only two destinations in the world that the Netherlands has put on code green.

St. Maarten, Aruba and Curaçao joined 10 other countries/island(s) in the world that have been designated as yellow: Finland, Ireland, Malta, Portugal (including the Azores and Madeira), the North and South Aegean Islands (part of Greece), the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands (both part of Spain), Rwanda and Thailand.

Bonaire is an exception and will only reopen four days later, on May 19. This has to do with a law change that still needs to go into effect following the decision of the Dutch government to no longer mark the island as a high-risk area.

Last week, the Dutch Ministry of Public Health, Welfare and Sport VWS made the decision to change the travel status of Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao and St. Maarten from orange to yellow, and of Saba and St. Eustatius from orange to green, based on a decision of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment RIVM.

However, government’s decision to place Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten on yellow, and Saba and St. Eustatius on green was not officially published on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs until early Saturday morning. On this website, the Dutch government indicates the official travel advisories on the basis of colour codes.

Codes yellow and green mean that tour operators and airlines can again offer packages to the islands and that there are no longer restrictions for persons travelling from the islands to the Netherlands, including a mandatory negative COVID-19 test result. The other way around, travellers from the Netherlands to the islands still have to show a negative test result due to the high number of infections in the Netherlands.

Dutch tour operators immediately noticed an increased interest in vacation bookings to the islands, especially to Bonaire and Curaçao. Royal Dutch Airlines KLM and TUI have increased their flight frequencies to Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao.

Considering the positive epidemiological developments in Bonaire, including the continuously low infection figures and a reduction in the number of hospital admissions, the RIVM advised to no longer mark Bonaire as a high-risk area for the Netherlands.

As such, persons travelling from Bonaire to the Netherlands per May 19, no longer have to show a negative test result. Bonaire will remain a high-risk area for Saba and St. Eustatius because there is no COVID-19 on these two islands.

In a recent COVID-19 update letter to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, Minister of Public Health, Welfare and Sport Hugo de Jonge referred to the accelerated vaccination campaigns in the Caribbean part of the kingdom.

Point of departure of these campaigns was that all adult residents who wanted to get vaccinated could get their first dose before May 1. Vaccination capacity was augmented and the Netherlands sent more vaccines to the islands ahead of schedule. Vaccination envoy for the Dutch Caribbean Marc Sprenger visited Curaçao, Bonaire and St. Maarten mid-April.

The accelerated campaigns have yielded positive results: in Curaçao 60 per cent of the adult population has received a first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, in Aruba 55 per cent and in St. Maarten 25 per cent. In Bonaire, 65 per cent of the adult population has received at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Bonaire has deployed mobile teams to the districts to vaccinate people.

The vaccination campaign in Saba has been more or less concluded with 91 per cent of the adult population having been vaccinated twice with Moderna. In St. Eustatius, almost 43 per cent of the adults have been vaccinated at least once with Moderna.

On all the Dutch Caribbean islands, authorities are trying to get groups that are harder to reach vaccinated, such as undocumented persons, persons without transportation and people who are in doubt as to whether or not to be vaccinated.

On Friday, it was announced that on the order of the Dutch minister of infrastructure and water management, the travel ban for 17 countries will be extended until June 1. The countries concerned are: India, South Africa, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chili, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The extended ban for travellers from these countries to the Netherlands was based on the advice of the RIVM, which noted that this ban was necessary “as long as the quarantine advices were barely adhered to and a strictly monitored mandatory quarantine for travellers from countries where worrisome variants of the coronavirus circulated was not realised.”

The Daily Herald.

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