View of Curaçao’s Western part from KLM aircraft. (Suzanne Koelega photo)
THE HAGUE/WILLEMSTAD--The Dutch government is urging all Dutch tourists, interns and students who are currently in Curaçao to immediately return home due to the very high number of COVID-19 infections on the island.
The Dutch Representation in Willemstad VNW and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague late Thursday issued an urgent appeal to Dutch visitors who are temporarily in Curaçao to leave the island as soon as possible if their stay on the island is not strictly necessary.
“The current COVID-19 situation in Curaçao is very serious. Health care capacity is possibly insufficient and the pressure on health care will further increase due to the high number of infections. Medical care is not guaranteed. Regular care has been reduced,” it was stated in the appeal, which is valid until at least April 15.
People in the Netherlands are also strongly discouraged from travelling to Curaçao at this time. “Think really well whether it is absolutely necessary that you have to travel to Curaçao,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated on its travel advisory website. Curaçao currently has over 3,000 active cases and more than 500 new COVID-19 infections, mostly the British variant, are reported every day.
Dutch tourists will have to show a negative PCR test result before departing Curaçao and upon arrival in the Netherlands quarantine at home for at least five days. It is estimated that 2,000 to 3,000 Dutch visitors are currently in Curaçao. There are multiple daily flights from Curaçao to the Netherlands carried out by Royal Dutch Airlines KLM and TUIfly.
Today, Friday, the Netherlands will send 30,000 additional vaccines to Curaçao and Aruba, to be transported by the KLM. The Ministry of Public Health, Welfare and Sport VWS in The Hague is looking into sending additional nursing personnel to Curaçao. More ventilators are also expected from the Netherlands shortly.
The emergency situation in Curaçao led Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Attje Kuiken of the Labour Party PvdA to submit written questions to Minister of Public Health, Welfare and Sport Hugo de Jonge and State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops on Thursday.
Kuiken asked what measures would be taken to support Curaçao and when. She also repeated her call to send the Dutch Navy multi-purpose ship Karel Doorman to the islands to secure the availability of health care in Curaçao. She wanted to know when the ship would be deployed, similar to the situation in April last year when the ship was dispatched to St. Maarten as a back-up for health care.
Additional medical assistance is direly needed because almost all Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds are occupied and so are the beds for regular COVID-19 care. The Curaçao Medical Centre (CMC) has already placed more beds in areas outside the ICU and is preparing beds in the old St. Elisabeth Hospital.
Aruba is preparing to assist Curaçao by freeing up hospital beds. Aruba is down-sizing its regular health care to create an additional 30 beds for COVID-19 care and six ICU beds at the Horacio Oduber Hospital for Curaçao patients. As of next week, there will be 62 beds for regular COVID-19 care and 22 ICU beds available.
The CMC in Curaçao has 300 beds of which more than half are used for COVID-19 patients, while the vast majority of the 42 ICU beds are occupied. Bonaire on Thursday sent 10 additional ventilators to Curaçao. These ventilators, purchased by the Netherlands, were in storage in Bonaire in case of a crisis there.