SABA – After four weeks of being confined to home, Saba is coming out of a lock-down at midnight today, Saturday. The reopening of bars, restaurants and churches is allowed after Saturday, 12 midnight, while all other businesses and services may open their doors on Monday, May 11. School will resume on May 18.
The introduction of the coronavirus and the first COVID-19 case, a local transmission, early April made it necessary for the Public Entity Saba to take drastic measures, also in light of the vulnerability of the small community and the limited medical facilities on the island. Per midnight April 12, a lock-down went into effect. Before that, schools had already closed as well as the island’s borders.
After four weeks of staying home, Island Governor Jonathan Johnson on Friday shared the good news to the community that the virus seemed to be contained and that the transition to opening back up would start. So far, all contact tracing, quarantine, and testing have brought forth negative test results, and there is no indication that the virus is spreading, as Saba remains at the two positive cases, with one now recovered.
Per Sunday, restaurants will be allowed to open for dine-in, and churches may also have mass while adhering to hygiene measures and physical distancing. All other services and businesses may reopen as of Monday.
The Public Entity Saba has sought contact with businesses to discuss best practices and safety measures that store owners are encouraged to implement once they reopen their doors to the public. Store owners received a letter in which they, and their employees, were greatly thanked for providing the community with groceries during the lock-down.
Suggestions offered as a guidance to the store owners when they reopen on Monday include: limiting the number of customers to facilitate adequate physical distancing (one client per 10 square meter), use of hand sanitizer before entering the store, having signage and markers to maintain the physical distancing at the cashier, promote payment by bank card, urge customers not to unnecessarily touch products, and to disinfect shopping baskets/carts. Elderly customers should receive priority in the waiting line. Employees should hand sanitize often, and those who are unwell should be sent home.
Island Governor Johnson said in his address on Friday that he also met with church representatives to talk about the safety measures that need to be in place in order to once again have services, starting Sunday, May 10. Churches are urged to limit the number inside and to take different measures to allow for sufficient physical distancing with markers. Other measures stated in the letter that the churches received included having hand sanitizers at the entrance and disinfecting of the benches.
Owners of bars and restaurants received a letter from the Island Governor as well. Bars and restaurants may only have a maximum of 25 persons in their establishment. As suggestions to have a safe reopening, the owners were urged to thoroughly clean and disinfect the establishment before opening and to continuously disinfect all surfaces that are touched by the public and staff once they reopen. The seating layout should allow for proper physical distancing and physical distancing between parties from various households should be encouraged. Other suggested measures included having customers sanitize their hands at the entrance and requesting people to pay with their bank card.
The Government administration building will reopen to the public on Wednesday, May 13. Preparations are being made to facilitate this. Saba’s borders remain closed and the 14-day quarantine period is still in effect for persons returning to the island.
Following a meeting with principals, teachers and the representatives of extra curricular activities this week, the decision was made to reopen schools, day care, and after school care and activities on Monday, May 18. The schools and organizations will communicate next week about the details on the manner in which the reopening will occur and what procedures will be in place.
Island Governor Johnson urged everyone to continue to adhere to the measures in place to ensure that all of efforts of the past weeks do not go in vain. “It is the responsibility of all of us to keep ourselves and each other safe. I know that everyone is excited to be able to go swimming, driving, to church services or out to eat. Physical distancing, where possible, is expected of everyone as well as adhering to guidelines that government and business owners will have in place for their safety and the safety of the community. COVID-19 continues to be a threat. Therefore, while we are working towards having normal activities resume, we must continue to practice physical distancing and strict hygiene measures.”