photo: Map of corona cases/WHO

ORANJESTAD – While the government and health services of Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten inform the public about their response to the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes Covid-19, it seems that in reality these countries are not ready to deal with an outbreak.

This is due to the fact that the implementation of the international health regulations drawn up by the WHO hasn’t taken place yet. These regulations are supposed to stop the spread of infectious diseases such as the novel corona virus.

These health regulations, IHR, are a set of measures, laws, reporting systems, handbooks etc. that all the signatory states have to implement.

In reality it seems that these have not yet been implemented. This leads to more problems for Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten in their fight against the novel coronavirus compared to countries that have implemented these regulations.

A lot of general practitioners are hard to reach by phone

For weeks the Aruban health services has been telling its citizens to call their general practitioners (GP) when they experience symptoms. But a lot of GP’s are hard to reach by phone at the moment. Additionally there was no protocol which meant that different GP’s could draw different conclusions when someone called in.

A protocol was instituted on the 6th of March. Chair of the GP’s association HAVA, Joaquin van Trigt, says that a procedure has been set up in conjunction with the Department for Public Health and the HOH hospital. Patients should be able to call between seven in the morning and six at night. If that’s not possible they can call a hotline which will be answered within 30 seconds, says Van Trigt.

In any case the deployment of measures the WHO considers vital for the expedient detection and slowing of the spread of the virus are just now beginning.

No epidemiologist
Another important factor in the fight is the presence of experts. The Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) says that there are experts on all the islands. But Aruban government doesn’t employ an epidemiologist, the expert which has to monitor the situation and analyze the data to prevent the spread of the virus.

Remarkable however is that the HOH hospital on Aruba believes that they are in close contact with an epidemiologist. “That’s Eugene right? Oh, he’s not an epidemiologist? Then I don’t know”, says Marjolyn Maduro, infectious disease prevention expert at the hospital. She’s also never heard of the WHO health regulations IHR.

Central role: RIVM
The countries of Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten are themselves responsible for the implementation of the WHO health regulations. However five years ago the Netherlands signed a cooperation agreement with these countries. This happened because it turned out that the countries themselves cannot handle swiftly and adequately when there’s an outbreak of infectious diseases. The RIVM was