ORANJESTAD – Statia reported on Tuesday that it had confirmed cases of the coronavirus, becoming the first Caribbean municipality to do so. The inhabitants of Statia are critical of the way that the government has been dealing with the crisis and are sad, scared, and angry.
On Tuesday the government commissioner Marnix van Rij announced that two individuals on the island had tested positive for the virus. The two are young Dutch nationals who arrived on Statia on the 15th of March. According to the island government the two individuals were put into self-quarantine as soon as they arrived. On Tuesday their test results came back positive.
Criticism because of ‘slow government’
The news has caused a stir on the island. The relation between the inhabitants and the government have been strained since the Netherlands took over governing the island in 2018. Some of the inhabitants believe that the government of Statia dragged their feet.
According to them the island should have been locked down sooner. But most of the criticism is directed towards the self-quarantine and its supervision. “People who came from Sint Maarten had to self-quarantine in their own homes and weren’t allowed to be on the streets for two weeks”, said one of the island’s inhabitants who doesn’t want to be mentioned by name.*
“But more often than not there are different family members in the same house, who are allowed to go outside.” Additionally not everyone takes the self-quarantining seriously. “Everyone saw them walking outside this week, you could easily pick them out of a crowd.” Not following the self-quarantine rules are now considered a crime; it carries a fine of 2800 dollars.
Inhabitants sad, scared, and angry
According to the government commissioner Van Rij and his deputy Alida Francis, the two infected individuals have not been in contact with anyone since their arrival. They are cooperating fully with the self-quarantine and the corresponding tests. Francis says that they can count on the full support of government.
“We are maintaining contact with them and their family. They thought that they were going to start a big new adventure in a different part of the Kingdom, they couldn’t have known that this would happen.”
Van Rij and Francis currently provide daily updates through social media, radio, and tv. According to Francis the reactions to the corona infections have varied ‘from sad and scared to angry’.
Statia is vulnerable. There are no medical facilities on the island which can treat corona patients. There’s no Intensive Care, there are no separate quarantine rooms. Blood that needs to be tested for corona has to be sent to Sint Maarten.
The island, which has a bit more than 3.000 inhabitants is almost entirely cut-off from the outside world. The airport is closed and the port is off-limits for civilians.
Ships that dock at the oil terminal are checked and can be put into quarantine. Exceptions are only made for medical emergencies. The supply of goods, such as fresh produce, is allowed.
More than 60 individuals in self-quarantine
At this point in time there are 66 individuals in self-quarantine. The crisis management team on the islands is in contact with amongst others the RIVM in the Netherlands. Van Rij spoke of ‘extraordinary times, which calls for extraordinary measures’.
Schools, the hospitality industry, gyms, and hairdressers have to close. Gatherings of up to 50 people were allowed up to Wednesdays. That number has been lowered to 25.
For some, these measures are not enough. That’s the opinion of the inhabitant who wishes to remain anonymous: “It has to be zero. We’re such a small island, we don’t have anything here. We have elderly individuals with diabetes, with cancer. One case on an island, on our island, is one too many. No one knows what will happen now.”
(*) The name of this individual is known to the editorial staff