Details were still sketchy on Curaçao’s intention to close its border to St. Maarten (see related story) due to the spike in coronavirus here. When this was first suggested by epidemiologist Izzy Gerstenbluth on Friday there were 18 recent infections, but by Sunday afternoon this had doubled to 36.
Curaçao Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath said no decision had yet been taken, but that they would follow the medical expert’s advice. The latter spoke of not allowing “free entry” to passengers coming from Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA).
Observers in Philipsburg consider completely banning traffic between the two islands rather drastic. They point out that Curaçao itself, but also Aruba, Bonaire and even St. Eustatius have reported new cases.
However, the difference is that in those instances it regarded mainly travellers already isolated pending the result of their test taken on arrival. In St. Maarten there appears to be another local outbreak, which is much harder to control.
This is also why the current situation should not impact plans to reopen to the destination’s biggest tourism market the US per August 1. The dominant hospitality industry simply cannot do without them any longer and Aruba has shown since July 10 how large numbers of American visitors can be handled in a responsible and relatively safe way.
St. Maarten’s quickly-accelerating contamination figures should not be a big surprise, because these are the consequence of intensive contact-tracing and targeted testing attempting to contain the spread. In other words, high numbers indicate the effectiveness of the current approach concentrating on known “clusters” that seemingly occurred at different entertainment businesses.
While the concern felt in Willemstad is understandable, perhaps a less-far-reaching measure such as requiring negative test results or mandatory quarantining for people coming from PJIA would be more appropriate and reasonable. After all, the two Dutch Caribbean countries are not only joint Kingdom of the Netherlands partners, but in a monetary union together, so a bit of solidarity is certainly in order.