By Harald Linkels
These days Facebook and other social media are rife with ‘experts’ on how to deal with the Covid-situation, especially since the outbreak on St. Eustatius last weekend.
Is the situation serious? Yes, it is serious. Then again, a comparison with Aruba for instance shows that they have a prevalence rate of 1.13 infected person per every 100.000 inhabitants. St. Eustatius with 6 cases so far has 0.19 infected person per 100.000 inhabitants. If St. Eustatius had Aruba’s rate of infection, there would now be about 35 positive persons on the island. Just to put matters in perspective. Of course, things change daily and Statia could see quite some additional infections in coming days.
The issue boils down to the question if the situation in St. Eustatius could have been prevented. Prime Minister Rutte some time ago in one of his press conferences stated that the problem with the Covid19 Pandemic was that one had to take 100% of the decisions about Covid-19 management, with only 50% of the knowledge about this virus.
It is good to realize that every government takes decisions based on advice received from the experts. These decisions boil down to what we call calculated risks. Often these turn out well; sometimes however they turn out wrong like now seems to have happened on Statia.
It is also good to realize that Statia Government has been applying a much more restrictive policy than other governments when it comes to allowing people onto the island. Bonaire and Curaçao, for instance, for about two months did not require any quarantine for travelers from the other Dutch Caribbean islands and are now open to tourism out of Holland. Statia in the meantime kept her borders closed to most travelers.
One thing which might need a review, is the definition of the concept essential worker. When it comes to medical staff or other people who HAVE to be on the island quickly (picture cellular phone outage or an internet outage), it is understandable that the normal quarantine period could or should be skipped. Especially if these workers arrive in the morning, do the job, and leave in the afternoon without much interaction with locals.
Allowing construction workers on the island without quarantine, however ‘important’ the project, seems like pushing the concept of the essential worker.
When things go wrong with this Covid pandemic however, it is so easy to turn around and blame a government or even individual persons of wrongdoing. This, in my opinion, should be avoided as much as possible. None of us has all the knowledge, none of us takes only good decisions. Blaming individuals or even people in power, sometimes looks like a public lynching.
We need to abandon the thought that Covid-19 acts in a predictable way. It does not. Various countries, like New Zealand, considered themselves out of the woods with Covid, only to have local cases pop up ‘out of nowhere’. This when the country applied the strictest of quarantine measures. The idea that we can keep Covid out completely, is an illusion, even if you implement draconian measures. As small islands we depend, for many things, on the islands surrounding us. If they have Covid, we will have Covid. It is as simple as that. You can delay and try to prevent, but you will not be able to prevent it all together.
What can be expected of the Government is that they are open and transparent about their actions, that they continue to take the best possible decision for every ‘twist & turn’ in the crisis and that they communicate often and to the point. Another good thing for Government would be to apologize if they took a wrong turn or made wrong decision. Nothing wrong with admitting a mistake and to learn from it. Even if they thought they were doing the best thing, taking everything into consideration.
So far however, no other government of the 6 Dutch Caribbean islands -maybe with the exception of Aruba- has communicated so much and so regularly with the population as the Government of Statia has.
We need to be critical where needed, but we also need to give praise where deserved!