Are some high-risk countries more equal than other high-risk countries?

The arrival of passengers out of Latin America, which are not more than a handful per day, is discouraged as much as possible by implementing a central quarantine obligation. Photo: BES-Reporter

By Harald Linkels

It is commendable that Government in Bonaire is doing its best to keep the Covid-19 virus out as much as possible. Especially when it comes to combating dangerous mutations, which can make an already precarious situation even more serious.

Seen in that light, the establishment of a central quarantine obligation for those traveling to Bonaire from Latin America is welcome. The stricter the measures, the smaller the chance of importing the virus or dreaded variants thereof.

Yet at times, when it comes to specific measures, there seems to lack logic and consistency. The variant that currently affects Bonaire the most is the so-called British variant. Logic thinking suggests that this variant did not enter the island with direct flights from Great Britain. Simply because there are none.

Yet when the British variant surfaced, flights from the rest of Europe were by no means banned. And certainly not those from the Netherlands. For understandable, but perhaps also somewhat opportunistic -and especially economically motivated- considerations.

Now that the Brazilian variant is raging in that country, our government decides to make travel from all over Latin America virtually impossible, by condemning travelers to quarantine in a central and government-appointed location -entirely at the traveler’s own expense.

For months, direct flights from Latin America have been on the “prohibited” list, due to the categorization of all countries there as “high-risk”, because they happen to all lie on the same continent. The Netherlands is also “high-risk”, but is by no means on a list of countries from which direct flights are prohibited.

A quick survey shows that Colombia had an average of 8,673 new infections per day over the past 7 days. The Netherlands had an average of 7,355 new infections per day in the past 7 days. Quite comparable in absolute numbers. However: Colombia has 50.3 million inhabitants, while the Netherlands has 17.3 inhabitants.

This means that the infection rate in the Netherlands is almost a full 3 times higher than is the case in Colombia, expressed as a percentage of the total population. And that is only one aspect in the comparison with a country that is fighting the Corona outbreak just as well or better than is the case for The Netherlands. In Colombia, for instance -despite comparable contamination figures- all shopping centers, restaurants and bars are open as usual. But there is, just to name something, a general duty to wear a face mask.

While on an average day perhaps 10 passengers from Latin America will arrive on Bonaire, between 100 to 200 passengers will arrive from the Netherlands.  Just do the math.

The Corona crisis reveals a lot of inconvenient truths, apart from the economic ones. A certain hypocrisy in policy cannot be denied. When it comes to European countries, clearly a different standard is applied than when it comes to countries in the region, or the United States for that matter.

In my opinion, one can only conclude that some high-risk countries are indeed more equal than other high-risk countries to both our local and the Kingdom Government.

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