THE HAGUE – The Dutch government continues its assistance to the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom. The National Institute for Public Health and the Environment RIVM is in daily contact with the six islands, a doctor-epidemiologist will be going to St. Maarten, and the Dutch National Police will continue to assist St. Maarten.
Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops on Tuesday sent a letter to the Dutch Parliament with an update on the measures that are being taken together with Aruba, Curaçao, St. Maarten and the Caribbean Netherlands to cope with the COVID-19 crisis.
The Minister announced that on the request of St. Maarten, efforts were being made to send a doctor-epidemiologist from the Netherlands. The cooperation with the doctor-epidemiologist in Saba will be intensified. Saba still has zero suspected COVID-19 cases.
The RIVM has been in touch daily the public health departments on all six islands to assist with the epidemiologic situation and the available guidelines, and to provide advice on measures. The islands have been advised to test as much as possible. St. Maarten now also laboratory capacity to perform these tests, also for St. Eustatius and Saba.
The Intensive Care (IC) capacity is being expanded in Aruba, Curaçao, St. Maarten and Bonaire. In total, 42 IC units are going to the four islands. Because of the epidemiologic situation in St. Maarten, it was decided to increase the capacity here first.
With the assistance of Dutch Defense, medical equipment, personal protection material and medication were flown to St. Maarten on Sunday with which this week12 additional IC units can be made operational. The military transport also included six ventilators, which Defense has made available.
The IC units will also be available for possible COVID-19 patients from St. Eustatius and Saba. An international team has been hired by the Ministry of Public Health, Well-being and Sports VWS for the additional IC capacity in St. Maarten.
The Dutch Caribbean are receiving personal protection material from the Netherlands. Efforts are being made to also send medication. The limited means of transportation from the Netherlands to the islands and between the islands provides an additional challenge. Dutch State Secretary of Public Health, Well-being and Sports Paul Blokhuis is in close contact with the public health ministers on the island.
The hospitals in the Dutch Caribbean are working hard to guarantee the mutual acute and essential care. An extra air ambulance has been stationed in Bonaire to transport patients between the six islands. On a diplomatic level, efforts are being made to secure very specialist acute care in Colombia.
In Curaçao and St. Maarten, Dutch military personnel supports local civil authorities to maintain public order measures. In St. Maarten, a team of the National Police that was already present and which operates as part of the St. Maarten Police Force KPSM, is available.
The National Police has been providing assistance to the KPSM since Hurricane Irma in 2017. This support was supposed to end on May 10, 2020, but on the request of the St. Maarten government this assistance will continue in its current form until August 1, 2020.
In agreement with the St. Maarten government, the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee (military police) is also available to assist with the maintaining of public order measures. Defense is also assisting with the construction of an emergency accommodation in St. Maarten.
Both Defense and the Coast Guard currently are sufficiently equipped to give content to the various requests for assistance on the islands. Additional means and human capacity have been made available.
The Ministry of Defense is keeping a close watch on the situation. If needed, measures will be taken in time. Defense is in close contact with France and the United Kingdom to share information and to identify the possibilities for future military cooperation to combat COVID-19. A coordination point is being established in Martinique for which Dutch Defense has made a liaison officer available.
The Dutch Caribbean countries have submitted a number of financial assistance requests which are currently being analyzed by the Committee for Financial Supervision for Curaçao and Aruba CFT and the Aruba Committee for Financial Supervision CAFT. The committees will advise the Kingdom Council of Ministers, which is scheduled to meet this Thursday.
The Kingdom government has given the Aruba government permission to seek a maximum loan of 582.9 million Aruban florins on the capital market, without the standing of guarantee by the Netherlands.
As for St. Maarten, Minister Knops stated that the challenge to reconstruct St. Maarten after Hurricane Irma will remain and will be just as big after the COVID-19 crisis. The means of the Trust Fund, financed by the Dutch government and managed by the World Bank, will remain reserved for St. Maarten’s reconstruction.
The deployment of the Trust Fund is aimed at having the current projects continue as much as possible in order to prevent a further decline of the economic situation. The construction of the new hospital and the reconstruction of the airport terminal are two large projects.
However, with the current complete lock-down, the possibilities to continue with these projects has become very limited. According to knops, the concrete consequences of this are currently being assessed, but it is expected that projects will come to a halt with the complete lock-down.
And, even when the complete lock-down is discontinued, there will be significant restrictions as a result of the corona crisis. An important part of the limited capacity within the St. Maarten government is being dedicated to combating the crisis, and international capacity cannot come to the island because of the closed air space.