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Speech by Dr. Marian Luinstra-Passchier on August 26th 2021

Kralendijk – Bon dia,

This morning we will be looking back at the coronavirus developments on Bonaire since the Delta variant arrived on the island in the second half of July.

The number of infections has remained fairly stable lately. Nevertheless, in recent weeks we have seen a slight increase in the number of new infections. At the beginning of July we had an average of 10 new cases per week and now, at the end of August, it is an average of 20 per week.

This graph shows the total number of COVID cases on Bonaire starting from the very first peak in September 2020. You can see that the line sometimes rises steeply when the number of COVID-19 cases rose rapidly. Where the line slopes gently it means that the number of COVID-19 cases only increased slightly during that time. At the moment, we see that the line continues to rise only slightly.

Currently, the virus is spreading mostly within households with unvaccinated people. Two weeks ago, another Covid patient was hospitalized but fortunately this person has now been released from the hospital again. This is a warning for us: COVID could strike at any moment.

We all know that the number of infections on our sister islands has skyrocketed. So far, this time, Bonaire has not had any outbreaks such as on Aruba and Curacao. Due to the situation on Aruba and Curacao, extra vigilance is required for Bonaire. On the island we still mainly have the Delta variant, which is highly contagious. Should we experience a similar peak on Bonaire, our seriously ill patients cannot be taken care of on Aruba or Curacao and we would have to divert to other hospitals. The hospitals on Aruba and Curacao are full. It is, therefore, prudent for the time being to continue to take measures in order to prevent a major outbreak on Bonaire.

At the same time, we also should look ahead to what life will look like with Covid in the longer term. We hope that we will be able to lead a normal life again in the future, where we take Covid into account just as we do other infectious diseases such as dengue, chikungunya, flu, etc. In the past we have managed to get infectious diseases such as measles, rubella and yellow fever under control with vaccinations. We hope that this will also eventually be possible with COVID.

Fortunately, when we look to the future, there are a few things that work in our favor:

– The majority of the population is aware that it is important to adhere to the coronavirus measures. Together we can keep the virus in check.

– On Bonaire, 81.7% of the adult target group and 38% of the teenager group have been inoculated and 71.3% of the adults and 24.8% of the teenagers are fully vaccinated. Several hundred people are still getting vaccinated every week. The more people that are vaccinated, the smaller the chance of new outbreaks and the fewer the measures that are needed.

At the moment we have several new challenges ahead of us. We are starting a new school year and we are also cautiously starting a new cruise season. This should be possible because we have high vaccination rates and we are aware of the fact that we have to learn to live with COVID. Today is the last time that I will participate as spokesperson for the Public Health Department at the press conference. As of 1 September, I will pass the baton to a younger colleague: Loes Jaspers. I wish you and all of us a good and healthy future.

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