photo: Tim van Dijk

THE HAGUE – The inhabitants of all the six Caribbean islands can count on an extra 42 intensive care beds and other forms of medical support from the Netherlands, writes minister Raymond Knops (Kingdom Relations) in a letter Tuesday to Parliament.

The first IC-beds will be made available this week. Aruba, Curaçao, and Bonaire will receive thirty extra IC-beds. Because the situation is more urgent on Sint Maarten, the Defense department will make 12 IC-beds available to them this week.

The aid package also contains medical equipment such as ventilators. But medicine and personal protective equipment such as masks, goggles, and jackets for medical staff will also be flown in.

Tests should be carried out faster on the islands
Experts who have advised the governments during the last few days suggest that the islands should test ‘liberally’ and that the tests should be ‘easily accessible’. In this manner the spread of the coronavirus can be tackled rapidly.

On the advice of experts, individuals who present with symptoms on the Caribbean islands, will be tested more quickly for corona than those in the Netherlands. At the moment – due to the high number of cases and the scarcity of tests – only vulnerable individuals, patients in hospitals, and medical staff are being tested in the Netherlands.

The laboratories on Aruba, Curaçao, and now Sint Maarten are competent enough to test for the corona virus. These islands will also be assisting the Caribbean municipalities of Bonaire, Saba, and Statia with this.

Financial help for Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten? 
All eyes are now pointed towards the emergency financial aid for Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten. Due to the unprecedented economic and social blows brought on by the corona outbreak, these islands have requested help by invoking article 36 of the Charter of the Kingdom. The article states that the Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten will help and assist each other.

In her letter, Aruba asked for a gift of 800 million florins (400 million euros). Curaçao estimates that it will need an amount of 760 million guilders (390 million euros). Sint Maarten will need 254 million Antillean guilders (130 million euros).

Kingdom council of Ministers of Thursday
On Thursday there will be another Kingdom council of Ministers in the Hague, where the Dutch ministers and government representatives for the three islands will debate about the financial aid.

According to minister Raymond Knops (Kingdom Relations) they will have to wait – as is usually the case – on the advice of the Board for financial supervision (CFT). The advices have already been received.

Knops himself distinguishes between the short and long term, where the islands also have to sacrifice something. That means that the islands will have to cut back even further.

Aruba allowed to borrow hundreds of millions

The Kingdom council of Ministers has approved Aruba’s request, meaning that the island can borrow 582,9 million florins on the international market. Prime minister Evelyn Wever-Croes is expecting a deficit in the government’s budget of 1,3 billion florins. With the line of credit Aruba can still pay its interests obligations for 2020. The Netherlands will not underwrite the line of credit.

Safety and controls on the streets
In the meantime there’s a complete lockdown on Sint Maarten, where the supermarkets are also closed, unlike on Aruba and Curaçao where they remain open.

Military personnel help with traffic checks on Curaçao, where individuals are allowed on the streets on the basis of the first letter of their license plates. – Picture: Defense department

People are still allowed on the streets on these two islands but they have to meet strict requirements. The Defense department has received a request from the islands to help the police and will comply with this.

A few Dutch police officers will stay on Sint Maarten for a few months longer. They’ve been helping the police on Sint Maarten ever since Irma hit back in 2017. They should’ve returned home at the end of April, but will remain on the island till August 1st after a request was put in by prime minister Silveria Jacobs.

Help from the Defense department

  • There’s a fear that individuals who have contracted corona will reach the islands by boat from Venezuela. The Dutch government and the islands are concerned about this. The Royal Netherlands Navy will conduct extra patrols
  • Military personnel have been helping the Aruban food bank since last
  • The test team on Curaçao which has to detect corona infections will be expanded with medical military personnel
  • On Sint Maarten, the Defense department is helping with the construction of emergency facilities