Word of a COVID-19 vaccine that proved more than 90 per cent effective in early trials (see related story) is probably the best news this world has received since the pandemic started. It regards preliminary data and there are still questions to be answered, but with emergency US regulatory approval possibly in December, Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech SE say they could produce 50 million doses for 25 million persons by the end of the year, to be followed by a massive global rollout with 1.3 billion doses in 2021.
In practice it looks like wearing facemasks, hands-hygiene and social distancing may remain the order of the day globally at least for the next several months, including the upcoming tourism season. Despite the coronavirus-related crisis, once it starts getting colder more people in North America are going to want to head south for a sunny vacation with the necessary precautions like a pre-flight negative test result, certainly when all the drama surrounding the US presidential election is over.
While the requirements are often seen as inconvenient, other destinations have stricter rules including mandatory quarantining and some are even considered less safe. At the same time, many countries in the region are reopening their doors to guests, so the competition is not sitting still.
St. Maarten authorities must not waste a moment longer in urgently seeking a Dutch travel-risk assessment downgrade from code orange to yellow based on recent relatively low local infection numbers, especially as the Caribbean part of the kingdom is the lone place citizens in the Netherlands are not strongly advised against visiting at least until mid-January. The way things look now only Curaçao and Bonaire stand to benefit from this development because they are code yellow.
Something should also be done about St. Martin not admitting Americans because it has devastating consequences for the French side’s hospitality industry and ultimately the entire destination’s one-pillar economy. One can understand a high level of concern in the European part of France, but the situation in the Caribbean islands is quite different and there ought to be space for policy adjustments to their specific circumstances.