SABA (THE BOTTOM) — The Public Entity Saba has announced some developments in light of the COVID-19 crisis. One positive development is that a COVID-19 testing capacity has been set up on Saba. At the same time, updates have taken place with regard to the entry and quarantine policy in the latest emergency ordinance. Several countries and islands moved to high-risk category, including Bonaire, Curaçao and the Netherlands.
Being able to test for COVID-19 and have quick and accurate results is an important tool to control any potential spread of the coronavirus. Since last week, Saba can perform Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing on-island with the installment of the necessary equipment facilitated by the National Institute for Public Health and Environment in the Netherlands (RIVM).
The number of tests that can be done on Saba is however limited, and will be prioritized for patients with symptoms, and for close contacts of any possible new case on Saba. In these situations, quick results can greatly reduce the risk of further spread. Most routine end-of-quarantine tests will still be processed off-island, either in St. Maarten or Curaçao.
Testing persons without symptoms still remains a challenge for incoming passengers from the United States and Canada, therefore Saba has also extended its testing requirements for entry to persons traveling from outside the region to 120 hours maximum before arrival to the island. For persons traveling from within the region a 72-hour maximum result is still required.
Another development is that Saba has updated its risk categorization of countries and islands per September 28. On the high-risk list are now: South and Central America, the United States, the Dominican Republic, St. Maarten, Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, the Netherlands, and most of Europe.
Classified as medium-risk countries are: Canada and St. Eustatius. Only Anguilla and St. Kitts and Nevis remain categorized as low risk.
Concerning the central quarantine policy, the Public Entity Saba announced that it will no longer be mandatory for persons from high-risk areas to stay in a government central quarantine location. Persons from high-risk areas now have the option to quarantine at home or a private location suitable for quarantine purposes. The government quarantine location will still be available for people who cannot stay at home or do not have a private location. The price is US $50 per person, per night. All quarantine locations will be monitored 24/7 through mobile surveillance.
Saba is working with the hotels and accommodation managers on planning for a phase one soft opening for long-stay visitors. These visitors will need to follow specific requirements such as pre- testing, signing a quarantine waiver agreeing to a 14-day quarantine, and testing at the end of quarantine for people coming from high-risk areas. The hotels and the government together are drafting plans which contain elements such as supplying of food, check-in procedure, cleaning supplies, staff procedures, transportation etc. An information package will be provided to the accommodation which will act as a guideline for the businesses and which will also have documents that need to be sent to potential guests.
The Public Entity Saba is furthermore working together with the local dive shops to put a protocol in place which will allow yachts to visit Saba for diving purposes. The idea is that the yachts will only come to the moorings, where they will meet with the designated dive shop. All paperwork will be done beforehand. The dive briefing will be done from a distance and the guide and divers will each depart from their own vessels before meeting under the water. Ultimately, no close or physical contact will occur and all equipment will be disinfected before and after each use.
In addition to this, the Caribbean Explorer has begun charters to Saba again. They also only go to the mooring and as they have their own dive permit, they conduct the dives themselves without any interaction with residents. Divers from both the Caribbean Explorer and the yachts are not permitted to come ashore.
The Government will continue to work along with the Saba University School of Medicine on a process for incoming medical students and professors to the island.