photo: Sharina Henriquez

ORANJESTAD – Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint-Maarten have to work better together and with the Netherlands to combat infectious diseases. Because ‘the capacity to combat such diseases is structurally insufficient and vulnerable due to the size of the islands’.

The corona crisis merely reinforces this statement, according to the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). “We’ve been imploring the nations for a while now to expand their capacity to combat infectious diseases. Sadly outside of a time of crisis, this does not have a lot of political traction or priority.”

Why do the islands tackle corona differently?
The RIVM advises the islands on their corona measures. According to them this happens ‘in the same manner and with the same considerations’ for every island. But Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten decide for themselves what they do with this advice. “Next to scientific considerations, political considerations also play a role when deciding on these policies.” The political arguments and policies might explain why the measures differ from island to island, according to the RIVM.

A lot more people get tested on Aruba compared to Curaçao. Sint Maarten deviated because there was no testing capacity on the island at the beginning of the crisis. The measures that the governments of the individual islands have taken to combat the spread of the virus also differ.

Sint Maarten closed its borders for travelers from the US, which supplies the island with most of its tourists, quite early. After Curaçao closed its borders to European flights, Aruba followed suit but didn’t close its borders to US flights, which is where most of their tourists come from. The first known cases on the island arrived from the US. After this Aruba was the first island to introduce measures to force people to stay at home, like the curfew and the daytime shelter-in-place order.

Why does one island have more cases and the other one more fatalities?
The official numbers out of the islands show a stark contrast between them. Aruba is at the forefront with 101 cases. Sint Maarten has 76 cases and Curaçao has 16 confirmed cases. But Sint Maarten has the most fatalities (15), followed by Aruba with three, and Curaçao with one confirmed fatality.

There still isn’t an explanation for the differences. According to the RIVM figuring out and tracking an epidemic like corona is a complex business, where a part of the developments are also ‘dependent on luck and accidents’.

Why is Sint Maarten getting extra help?
The island with the most corona fatalities (Sint Maarten) in the Dutch part of the Caribbean is receiving extra help from the Netherlands. This is because out of all the islands this one has the smallest capacity to combat the crisis ‘responsibly’, says the RIVM.

“The situation on Sint Maarten is a complex one with two countries on one island. This makes international cooperation essential.” Due to the rapid spread of the corona epidemic on the island, the Netherlands has sent staff to the island to help.