Hopeful new start

Hopeful new start

Today’s news that antigen testing has been included in St. Maarten’s COVID-19 entry requirements effective Wednesday, November 25, is no doubt being welcomed in the struggling hospitality industry. Such a negative result will be required within 48 hours of travel, while for the PCR tests that term remains five days.

However, the latter are not always obtained easily and quickly, so providing another option appears to be a worthwhile endeavour. Four types have been approved as what were called “the most accurate alternatives.”

Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Ludmila de Weever was on point in saying the destination should promote improved load factors now that airlines especially from North America are increasing their flights and seat capacity for the winter at often reasonable rates. This will to a large extent determine how resorts, other tourism-related businesses, taxi drivers, etc., and consequently much of the island fare during the coming months.

It was interesting to note that Air France reportedly allows the same antigen testing procedure for its service between Paris and Guadeloupe. Perhaps something can even be arranged so US visitors dearly missed on the French side may again stay there soon.

Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor VSA Richard Panneflek said they were also working on using antigen tests locally. He suggested this would enable mass testing and facilitate further synchronisation of related protocols with French West Indies regional health authority ARS.

Speaking of tourism, it seems a bit ironic that Curaçao with in the meantime more than 500 active cases is still code yellow for travel from the Netherlands (see related story). Aruba with 85 cases will shortly switch from orange to yellow (see related story), but for St. Maarten that is not yet under consideration. The current relatively limited number of tests performed throughout the community seems to be a significant factor that mass-testing could help address.

Mind you, this upcoming so-called high season will not be near what it was a year ago and certainly before Hurricane Irma, but does entail a hopeful new start for the economy, offering the possibility to – at least partially – restore the people’s livelihood.