Kralendijk – Bontardi everyone,
At the moment we have a lot of COVID-19 cases on Bonaire. Today there are 107 active cases of COVID-19 and 6 people have been hospitalized on Bonaire and one patient is in hospital on Curacao. The number of cases is stable but very high.
In recent weeks, most of these people have been infected in schools, at childcare facilities, at home or at work. In the past seven weeks there were 13 clusters, i.e. groups of infected people in schools and at childcare facilities. They were mostly children under the age of 12. In general, these children do not become very ill when infected with the virus, but they may infect other children, adults and the elderly around them. This indeed has happened.
Mainly because of the large number of fully vaccinated people we are not forced to take any serious measures at the moment. In the group of 18 years and above, 73.3 percent are fully vaccinated and in the group of 8 to 12 year-olds 45.1 percent are fully vaccinated.
These percentages are not yet high enough to stop the spread of the virus since the Delta variant, which we have now, is so contagious. However, the vaccine protects people from serious illness. An unvaccinated person is 20 times more likely to end up in hospital if they become infected, than a person who has been fully vaccinated.
Should the number of infections increase, members of the public will want to know at what time tougher measures will be taken. At the moment we are in a phase where we only need to take measures aimed at the places with the greatest risk of spreading the virus. In this way we do not have to take far-reaching measures that would affect society as a whole.
We are considering extending the current risk level 2 measures beyond 1 November and we will also take more severe measures should it be necessary.
The Public Health Department is talking to the schools to establish what extra measures they are able to take to ensure that the virus cannot spread easily in school.
There were also several clusters of infections in the workplace. This is why I would like to urgently appeal to employers to determine whether their workplaces are sufficiently complying with health regulations. Make sure that the workplace is adequately ventilated, for example, and that the employees can keep 1.5 meters distance from each other.
I would also like to request something else from employers. We have heard about people who should be in quarantine, but who still go to work because they would not receive a salary otherwise. There is a scheme in place for these cases. I would like to remind employers that they may receive money from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment in order to be able to continue to pay their staff if they need to be quarantined.
Take advantage of this scheme and send your staff home if they need to be quarantined on the advice of the Public Health Department. I would also like to remind all employers that it is the Public Health Department which determines when a person in isolation has recovered.
Bonaire has been classified as a very high-risk country by our sister islands. Therefore, the costs of testing when traveling to and from Curacao, for example, have increased enormously. They are higher than the cost of the plane ticket.
We know that many people travel to Curacao to visit family for instance. This is why I am talking to the other islands to see whether we can change the requirements for people who are fully vaccinated, in order to reduce their testing costs.
In the near future we will commence using a coronavirus entry pass, where a proof of vaccination, namely the QR code, or a negative test result is required when someone wants to attend a certain event. We are doing this in order to progress towards a return to normal life without major risks of infections.
We would like to implement the same regulations as the Netherlands have for this. Specifically, that people who have not been vaccinated may test for free. We are currently consulting with the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport to get this done
In the hospitality sector we see that there are places where many people dance outside. This poses a high risk of infection for everyone. With a QR code or a test we can make these activities safer. We are working on the introduction of the coronavirus entry pass for large events in the near future.
As soon as everything has been finalized with the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, we will inform the public accordingly. From 25 October onwards there will be more capacity at the call center to handle requests for the QR code. You may request one by calling 0800-0900.
We strongly urge citizens who have not been vaccinated to keep a distance of 1.5 meters and to avoid large groups of people. I want to remind people who are not vaccinated and especially those with a serious illness that they are more at risk of getting infected and becoming very ill. I advise them to get vaccinated. If you have had coronavirus, you only need one shot to be fully vaccinated and protected.
Of all the people admitted to hospital on Bonaire since last September, 75 percent had not been vaccinated. This is the same percentage as in other countries, such as the Netherlands.
I trust that we will all continue to take our responsibilities. We should keep our distance and follow the applicable rules and we should continue to take good care of each other and help each other to keep Bonaire safe.