photo: Saba top view

THE BOTTOM – The smallest of the Caribbean municipalities, Saba, has been closed off for air and sea travelers since Monday. An exception has been made for medical personnel and Sabans. Residents who return from a country other than the six islands have to go into quarantine for two weeks.

The lieutenant governor of Saba, Jonathan Johnson, says that these measures are needed seeing the ‘vulnerable position of the island and the limited amount of medical resources. Saba has nearly two thousand inhabitants and is the smallest island within the Kingdom.

Trauma helicopter from Statia
Saba has a medical center with enough beds for eight patients and only one isolation possibility. Patients have to be flown to the neighboring island, Sint Maarten, for operations and speciailist procedures. In case of an emergency, the trauma helicopter which is stationed on Statia has to be flown in. It takes 45 minutes for the helicopter to fly over to Saba’s airport.

On Thursday, the governor has decided to close schools, day care and bars. Restaurants may only provide take-out or delivery services. All persons entering Saba will have to go into mandatory quarantine. The two schools on the island are currently working on a plan for virtual classes.

Quarter of Sabans depend on tourism
All the traffic and transport happens via Sint Maarten. Sabans can also return to the island using the ferry service which departs from Sint Maarten. Cargo ships are allowed to dock. The supermarkets on the island are mostly dependent on imports. The measures could also have an effect on jobs and companies: around 25 percent of the population depends on tourism for their income according to the local tourist board.

400 international students
A lot of Sabans also get income from renting out homes to the 400 students of the Saba University School of Medicine. The current term will end in April and it remains to be seen if the students can return in May.
“The situation surrounding COVID-19 is developing at an alarming rate, which means that stricter measures could be put in place”, says Johnson.