Kralendijk – At the beginning of the New Year, it is my custom to wish everyone happiness and prosperity for the coming year. This year I would like to add an additional wish: I hope that we all, everyone who lives on Bonaire or visits will remain in good health.
I am saying this because at the end of 2021, the Omicron coronavirus variant was identified on Bonaire. And as the Public Health Department stated only last week, we will need to take into consideration that the number of infections with the Omicron variant will rapidly increase. In recent days we have seen a significant increase in the number of people in isolation, these are people who could potentially infect others.
Today, 262 people are at home in isolation due to coronavirus. This is many more than in the past few weeks. The number of new infections over the past few days has evidently increased. Four people have been hospitalized with COVID-19. Of every 10 people who were infected more than a week ago, five to six of these people have the Omicron variant. We believe that, at the moment, the number of actual Omicron variant infections is already much higher.
The Public Health Department is taking into account that we will again see a peak in the number of infections. This could mean that more people infected with the virus may need to be hospitalized on our island. The pressure on the hospital and other parts of health care could then increase significantly.
This is why, since December 2021, the Public Health Department has been working hard to give as many people as possible the opportunity to have the booster shot without delay, in order to be better protected. The Public Health Department also offers people who have not yet received the first or second coronavirus vaccination the opportunity to do so. With the booster and the first two coronavirus shots, the department seeks to better protect citizens so that they do not become seriously ill should they become infected with the Omicron variant.
In the coming month the vaccination appointment times will be extended for people who have not yet received the booster or the first or second coronavirus vaccination. These new extended appointment times for vaccinations will be announced this week. For more information please refer to: www.bonairecrisis.com
Now, I would like to focus on public law and order for a moment. At the turn of the year, many people gathered in the town center and on public beaches.
Now that the Omicron variant is on Bonaire it is even more important that people do not come together in large groups. It is vital that everyone takes responsibility and adheres to the rules. Given the current situation, we will need to take new measures to reduce contact between people in order to minimize the risk of the virus spreading freely. Therefore, from midnight, on 4 January, 2022, the following measures will come into effect. These measures will be valid until 4 February, 2022.We will be monitoring the situation and, as required, we will relax or tighten the measures.
For private gatherings, there will be a maximum of 10 people from a maximum of two households.
All hospitality establishments must close at midnight and only 4 adults will be allowed to sit in a fixed place at each table.
Outdoor events are allowed with a maximum attendance of 50 people. Attendees are not allowed to sing or dance and everyone must be seated in fixed places.
Only one person from each household or group is allowed to enter a store. This means that, for example, it is not allowed to visit the supermarket with a group, or even with two or more people. An exception may be made for people for whom it is difficult to do their shopping on their own. For example, single parents or citizens with a physical disability who need help with their shopping.
At funerals or weddings, a maximum of 50 people is allowed to attend the official ceremony and everyone who is present must keep a distance of 1.5 meters from each other. All other activities related to funerals or weddings are considered to be private gatherings. Therefore, a maximum of 10 adults are allowed to participate from a maximum of two households.
No spectators are allowed at indoor sports events or sports activities. A maximum of 50% of the total capacity of people may be present outdoors. Everyone is obliged to keep a distance of 1.5 meters from others.
It remains allowed to practice sports, but it is urgently advised to do so outdoors. Gyms may remain open as long as all attendees keep a distance of 1.5 meters from each other. Gyms are urgently advised to regularly air all areas.
Casinos must close at midnight.
Sex establishments are to remain closed.
There are some measures that are already in place today and I, again, strongly urge all employers to let their staff work from home as much as possible. In the day care facilities for our elderly, everyone must adhere to the basic rules. All practitioners of contact professions such as hairdressers, masseurs and physiotherapists must wear a face mask at work. All churches are strongly advised and requested not to allow singing during mass or service and to adhere to the basic rules.
All discotheques will remain closed.
We will continue to monitor the situation and relax or tighten the measures as required.
In the past we have adjusted the travel requirements to Bonaire in an attempt to delay the arrival of the Omicron variant on our island. Now that the Omicron variant is here, we will again examine the requirements for travel to Bonaire. You will hear more about this in due course.
There are many visitors who come to our island to especially escape a lockdown or other strict measures in their own countries. I am strongly appealing to all visitors to please help keep our island safe. Compared to a country in lockdown, it may seem that the situation on Bonaire is calm. But this is not the case! As I said before, the Omicron variant is on Bonaire and threatens us all. Make sure that you are not that visitor who endangers our health. Please! Adhere to the rules and measures. You may find an overview of all measures at: www.bonairecrisis.com
The new measures and the measures we already had in place will help us to keep the island as safe as possible. I am aware of the sacrifices that all residents have to make in order to comply with the mandatory rules.
I would like to ask each and every one of you to go that extra mile with us. It is not easy, but it is necessary. And if everyone makes sacrifices and contributes, we will be able to withdraw the measures as soon as the situation allows it.
If you have not yet had the booster shot or the first and second coronavirus vaccination, please go and get it. Call the toll-free number 0800 0900 to make an appointment. If you have symptoms, stay at home and get tested as soon as possible. Call the toll-free number 0800 0800 for a test appointment.
The health of all Bonaire residents and its visitors is very much close to my heart. We all have a responsibility to keep dushi Bonaire healthy and safe. Adhere to the new measures and the basic rules, such as avoiding gathering in groups, washing your hands regularly and keeping 1.5 meters distance from each other. It is up to you and me to ensure that Bonaire residents and visitors are healthy and remain healthy. Again, I wish you all Bon Aña!