Adjusted entry requirements which go into effect on January 1 come none too soon. The number of COVID-19 cases has been rising again, presumably due to the Omicron variant of the virus.
This mutant is highly contagious and therefore infects more persons who vaccinated compared to its predecessors, although much fewer than people who did not. The latter tend to get sicker too.
Making also fully vaccinated passengers take a test is sensible under the present circumstances. They can choose between a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test within 48 hours or antigen test within 24 hours of their flight’s departure, while unvaccinated travellers are limited to the former.
This obviously creates an extra inconvenience for potential guests, but they too will appreciate efforts to keep the island safe and protect its medical resources from being overburdened. Besides, adults who already received a booster shot – as many have done by now in the destination’s main tourism markets – can still come without a test.
Some argue that these sharpened rules should have been implemented earlier, since they were announced two days before Christmas. Others say the Dutch Caribbean country must go further.
For example, the Netherlands just introduced 10 days’ mandatory quarantining for US visitors, which can be reduced to five with a negative test result. However, up to Wednesday St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) had only two COVID-19 patients, both unvaccinated.
Because of the nature of the new variant, a possible renewed scaling back of business hours is linked to local hospitalisations. In case of between four and seven the closing time will be brought forward from the current 3:00am to 1:00am, and with eight or more even to 11:00pm.
Those who do not want to see this happen, including bar owners and staff, should do their part to help prevent such, by strictly adhering to existing protocols regarding admittance, maximum capacity, face-mask wearing, social distancing and hand sanitising, as well as – of course – getting vaccinated. That way, the year might still start on a relatively bright note.
This newspaper wishes its readers a happy, prosperous and above all healthy 2022.