photo: Princess Juliana International Airport

PHILIPSBURG/ORANJESTAD – Sint Maarten will not open up its borders with the US tomorrow on July 1st. “There are an alarming number of cases there”, says minister Ludmilla de Weever, who only made the decision public this afternoon. The postponement is for two weeks.

“We’ll be missing about 3000 passengers per week. It’s a difficult call when it comes to our economy. But when it comes to the health of the people on our island, it’s an easy decision”, says the minister for tourism, economy, transport, and telecommunication.

Sint Maarten and Aruba are the only countries within the Kingdom that wanted to open up their borders to the US in July. The reason for this is that their economies depend on American tourism. They’re taking a much bigger risk by doing this than Curaçao, the BES islands, and the Netherlands. These are keeping their borders closed for visitors from the US at the moment.

 ‘Chance of American tourist with corona 10 to 50 times higher’

Both countries have known since the end of May that they were taking a huge risk. That was  made clear from the last (third) advice from the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) Cariben to the health ministers from each country. On the basis of this advice, the decision makers on the islands decided how they would open up their borders.

In that advice it was noted that ‘the chance that a tourist from the US would be carrying COVID-19 is ten to fifty times higher than a tourist from for example the Netherlands’. In spite of this Sint Maarten and Aruba decided to take the risk. The islands indicated to keep the risk under control by implementing a slew of preventative measures.

 ‘Were standing by our decision to open the border on July 10th
– Health minister Aruba

But they’re doing that in different ways. Americans have to get tested before they board the plane to Sint Maarten. On Aruba they are also allowed to do this when they arrive on the island. If the test were to be carried out before boarding, US airlines stated that they would no longer fly to the island, the Aruban health minister Dangui Oduber stated a few weeks ago.

When Caribbean Network asked how many new cases in the US it would take before Aruba would reconsider its border opening on July 10th, Oduber didn’t give us an answer yesterday. “We’re holding on to our decision to open up on July 10th.” He did say that a request was put out to the American government to see whether Aruba can only open up its borders with less risky states.

Rest will remain closed for America
The Netherlands is following Europe’s lead, which will not allow Americans to enter. Bonaire, Saba, and Statia will also not open their borders with the US. The local council on Bonaire stated last Friday, June 26th, that they didn’t know if they would be implementing extra measures for passengers from Aruba when the island opens up the border with the US. Curaçao is also keeping an eye on the situation. This last one is important because the KLM and TUI flights on the route the Netherlands-Aruba have a stopover in Curaçao.