Statement Island Governor Edison Rijna
Dear residents of Bonaire,
Today, I again have the opportunity of addressing you with some important information. The most important is that 26 tests were taken so far of which nobody was tested positive for coronavirus. The precautionary measures that we implemented, together with the exemplary behaviour of a large majority of our society, contributed that today we are still at 0 cases.
We are now arriving in the phase of searching actively for coronavirus in order to check if it is truly not present on our island yet. This means that since last week, on the recommendation of the RIVM (National Institute for Public Health and the Environment), a start has been made to test more people. That is why, this is also an urgent appeal to people who manifest symptoms that correspond with those of coronavirus to contact their general practitioner by telephone, who shall then evaluate whether it is necessary to have these people tested.
In the first phase we closed down the borders, strengthened the medical sector and took various other preventive measures, including the closing of schools and restricting social contact. In this new phase we want to ensure that, if the virus is hidden on our island, it is discovered as soon as possible and isolated immediately in order to prevent it from spreading further.
This implies that we cannot proceed with the reduction of the implemented precautionary measures just yet. According to the medical sector it shall take 2 to 3 weeks to test the group that falls under the category of people who may be infected with the virus. It regards people with moderate or severe symptoms who were in direct or indirect contact with tourists who have recently visited our island and people who work in the care sector.
If there is still no case of coronavirus on Bonaire after this period then we can reduce the implemented precautionary measures. However, if one or more positive cases are detected then the intention is to proceed with a so-called lockdown, adjusted to our local circumstances.
That is why it is important that everyone keeps complying with the announced measures, keeps respecting social distancing and keeps applying the hygiene rules. I know that these measures mean that we are all making large sacrifices and that we are restricted in our day-to-day activities. However, the main objective of all of this is to preserve the safety of all residents of our island.
Another process that has also taken off, is the repatriation of our residents abroad.
Approximately 250 residents of Bonaire are abroad who shall be taken back. On April 14th the first group of residents shall be taken back. Everyone from abroad shall spend a mandatory 14-day quarantine at home. All people shall have a so-called ‘buddy’ who makes sure that these people have everything they need at home so that they do not need to leave their home. Hence, if food or anything else is required then the ‘buddy’ shall provide for this. Moreover, the people in quarantine shall be checked very rigidly and there are drastic consequences for those who do not comply with these rules. The first group to return are residents with a vital position who return to offer support in this period of crisis.
Hereafter, a group of at most 50 people shall every time be taken back, the latter on the recommendation of the RIVM, and this group shall always spend two weeks in mandatory quarantine.
Both the Central Government and the Public Entity, through the Commissioner of Economic Affairs and the Commissioner of Social Affairs, announced measures for financial assistance to both businesses and people who are experiencing the negative effects of the coronavirus crisis. In the times to come the information about these measures shall increase so that the community as a whole shall be well informed of what has been organised and where to go to receive assistance.
In all my speeches I emphasised the considerable efforts that were made in the medical sector to strengthen it to prepare for the first person who tests positive for COVID-19. Medical experts arrived from the Netherlands and Colombia to assist at the Mariadal Foundation and to transport patients by ‘ambulance flight’, if so required.
Solidarity in this time of crisis is essential. Our sister islands assist us, where required, and we assist them, where possible. For instance, this weekend a patient from Saba was hospitalised for treatment that is unavailable on Saba. It is good to mention that on Saba, as with us, nobody has been tested positive for the virus yet. Today, two patients also arrived from Saba in order to be cared for at the hospital.
Additionally, over the weekend we sent one of the air ambulances to St. Maarten to assist in the emergency transport of patients there. Instead a ‘Learjet’ from Colombia came to Bonaire that can transport 2 patients, instead of 1, at the same time. The crew of this airplane had already been in quarantine here for two weeks and can now start working.
We understood from the media that military assistance and assistance for the medical sector has arrived on St. Maarten from the Netherlands and that we shall also receive more assistance in this time of crisis on Bonaire from the Netherlands. This is certainly necessary and also encouraged.
The predictions of the international experts indicate that the coronavirus pandemic shall continue for quite a while and that it can also take a while before there shall be a vaccine or a medicine against COVID-19.
For the time being the only cure for the virus is you; your behaviour to protect yourself, your loved ones, your island and your planet.
Together against corona.