ORANJESTAD – No cases coronavirus have been reported on Statia as of yet. The effects of the corona measures are immediately being felt by the island’s largest private employer: oil terminal GTI and its sub-contractors.
On an island with just 3.138 inhabitants, everyone is worried about job losses. Especially in the hospitality- and catering sector. The largest employer on the island is the government, followed by oil company GTI, which also creates jobs for its sub-contractors such as maintenance crews, catering companies, and transportation companies. After that follows dive tourism.
Statia is checking passengers and crew members of oil tankers who arrive at the port thoroughly. Tanker crews are also no longer allowed to switch out on land. This last measure endangers one of the most important sectors on the island.
Even with the concerns, local Walter Hellebrand considers these measures to be a ‘necessary evil’. “It’s just a bit easier to keep it off a small island. Although we shouldn’t act like Statia is located on a different planet.”
“Especially because we are a small island it means that when it goes wrong, the medical infrastructure is not prepared to deal with that.” There’s a medical center on the island, but there is no isolation capacity in case someone contracts the virus. “People are mostly concerned with their health.”
Totally dependent on import
Freighters are allowed to dock to bring in supplies. Statia is totally dependent on imports. People haven’t started hoarding yet, says Hellebrand. “The aisles are full here!”
Statia is totally dependent on imports but people haven’t started hoarding yet – Picture: Walter Hellebrand
“What became clear after hurricane Irma in 2017 and is becoming clearer now is that we need to depend less on imports for our primary needs. There are more initiatives popping up every day which encourage the cultivation of one’s own food”, says Hellebrand.
No local government
Statia doesn’t have its own government at the moment. The local council was taken over by the Netherlands in 2018. The island is being run by the government commissioner, Marnix van Rij, who only took over from his predecessor in February.
Van Rij says that the measures are necessary so that “no one slips through.” There are no known corona cases on the island at the moment. “I’m urging all Statians to follow the measures. You can count on us, but we’re also counting on you.”
Criticism government communication
But on the island there’s criticism of how the government is handling the communication efforts. According to Hellebrand a lot of government information is being spread on the governmental Facebook page and through radio.
“It’s odd that for such important information you’d choose to depend on social media’s algorithms which doesn’t necessarily show users all the relevant information.”
Hellebrand also noticed that the Hague is not aware of the infrastructure on the islands. “It’s ridiculous that the Hague stopped all flights from Europe and the US to Statia, Statia, seeing as there are none.”
Only flights from Sint Maarten
At the time of publication Statia allows flights from Sint Maarten to land, the only direct flight to the island. All passengers are screened to see if they’re flying in from Europe or the States.
Sint Maarten isn’t allowing any new visitors in since Tuesday. Only residents of the island are welcome and those returning from a high risk area need to got into self-quarantine for two weeks.