Saba’s Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport will be closed for visitors and non-essential travel as per today, Monday, March 16, due to the COVID-19 coronavirus.
SABA--So far, there are no (suspected) cases of COVID-19 coronavirus in Saba. To keep this disease at bay, also in light of the island’s vulnerability and limited medical capacity, the public entity Saba has decided to take a number of additional measures following a meeting of the Emergency Management Team.
As of today, Monday, March 16, Saba will be closed for visitors and non-essential travel. This goes for both the harbour and the airport. An exception will be made for medical specialists and for island residents who want to return home, announced Island Governor Jonathan Johnson in a public address on Sunday morning.
He assured that as long as flights and boats come to Saba, it will be possible for residents to come home. However, returning residents will be subject to some conditions. All incoming residents will need to go into self-quarantine for 14 days when they are travelling back from countries or islands outside of the six Dutch Caribbean islands.
If residents are returning from Aruba, Curaçao, St. Maarten, Bonaire or St. Eustatius, and they have not travelled to other countries or islands within the past 14 days, self-quarantine will not be needed. These persons will have to limit social interactions and monitor for symptoms closely. This is subject to change as the situation develops.
Residents in Saba are asked not to travel unless it is absolutely necessary. This is in line with the advice of international health organisations.
Cargo, ferries continue
Cruise vessels cannot come to Saba for the rest of the high season. As for ferries, it was decided that Edge and Dawn II are able to continue travelling with residential passengers. Residents are reminded that the ferries’ schedule may change due to the decrease in demand. Cargo boats will remain welcome.
Johnson explained that government has been in contact with the supermarkets to share updates from both sides.
Chronically and critically ill patients will be contacted by medical personnel with instructions for the upcoming weeks. The hospitality sector and other parts of the business community will also be contacted to discuss the measures that will be implemented and the effects they may cause. The Saba University School of Medicine has been contacted to discuss measures that will be implemented.
Schools remain open
Schools will remain open for now.
“We see that other countries are closing their schools. Most of these countries have serious outbreaks, so they are minimising the social contacts wherever possible. That is not the case in Saba. The decision is that we will continue our normal life as much as possible, with the inclusion of the prevention measures. The schools will stay open for now. This might change when there is a (suspected) case and the public will be updated accordingly,” stated Johnson.
Visitors who are already on the island are reminded that they can get stranded because of travel restrictions generally being applied around the world and are advised to make additional travel plans.
Johnson urged residents and visitors to keep focusing on personal hygiene, as this is essential in preventing and containing the virus. People should wash their hands regularly, sneeze or cough in their elbow, not touch their face, avoid handshakes and limit cash going from hand-to-hand. People are asked to pay with their bank card or to put cash on the countertop whenever possible. Also, clean surfaces and objects that are touched often more regularly.
“If you begin to display symptoms which are related to COVID-19, such as fever, shortness of breath and coughing, do not go to work or school. Do not go into the hospital. Instead, call the hospital to describe your illness and you will receive instructions on how to proceed. Keep a distance of two metres from persons who are displaying symptoms,” stated Johnson.
“These measures are to help prevent the introduction of COVID-19 in Saba. We want to prevent a complete lockdown, and to also protect the vulnerable members of our community, we ask you to follow our instructions. This means don’t travel unless it’s absolutely necessary. Being an isolated island also presents the opportunity to implement measures which mitigate the risk of COVID-19 entering Saba. Our health is our priority.”
Johnson said it was important for the community to come together to help ensure the success of the necessary measures. “With your cooperation, we will stand together as the resilient people that we are. We must all work together to ensure that the introduction of COVID-19 to Saba is prevented as long as possible. As a community, we should combine our efforts, help each other as needed and work towards the common goal of keeping Saba safe and free of COVID-19.”
The community is urged to stay informed, but to do so only from reliable sources. Government will continue to provide updates on a regular basis.
“We will inform you of any necessary changes or additional measures if/when they are decided on. The situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to develop rapidly, which means that each day the situation changes and our measures may have to change also,” stated Johnson.