Soualiga Newsday Features

Soualiga Newsday Features (2412)

Study Center set up for stranded Saba students

SABA (THE BOTTOM) - The Public Entity Saba, in close collaboration with telecommunications company SATEL and the Saba Comprehensive School (SCS), set up a Study Center in the Windwardside for Saba students who had to remain on island due to the COVID-19 crisis and could not return to their university in the United States or the Netherlands.

In August this year, a parent approached Commissioner of Education Bruce Zagers to ask about the possibility for a study space for the affected students. Commissioner Zagers acted immediately as he saw a great opportunity to assist the students. He reached out to SATEL to assist with finding a space.

SATEL’s building in the Windwardside that houses the company’s telecommunication equipment had space available to accommodate the students. SATEL technician Steve Hughes started immediately with preparing the location for the students. SCS assisted with lending desks and chairs for the students to use. With the help of the Facility Management team of the Public Entity Saba, the study space was set up within a short time.

“When I was studying, it was difficult to study from home and I preferred to study in a different space. I felt this was a great opportunity to offer a study space away from home for the students,” said Zagers.

SATEL’s Managing Director Jennifer Zagers said that she was happy that the Public Entity Saba reached out to collaborate to making the study space a reality for the students. She said she also understood how difficult it was to study during this pandemic and that she would like to see the students excel despite it all.

 The idea is for students to make use of this study space during their online class sessions as well as for study periods. It is also a place that they can still gather as college friends and not be isolated at home, said Education Policy Advisor Rosa Johnson. 

SATEL technician Hughes explained that the internet speed should work faster for the students because they are directly connected to the main circuit. Managing Director Zagers clarified that for regular households there are limitations with the internet due to distances from the main circuit, while the curvy routes to the households also cause disruptions with the quality of service. 

Three students from Lipscomb University, and one student from Flagler College and The Hague University each were present for the soft opening earlier this week. Some of the majors they are studying include: Computer Science and Math, Software Engineering, Account and Finance, and International Business.

The students expressed their gratitude. “Thank you for the possibility to have a different study environment and I will definitely make use of it. I have already visited the study space,” said Jessye Muller. “I study in the Netherlands and with time difference my classes begin very early in the morning, but I am happy to have a study space where I can come and see friends as well as study,” said Kloe Hassell. College students who have not reached out as yet about the facility can contact Rosa Johnson at the building of the Community Development Department.


U.S. Customs and Border Protection Introduces Simplified Arrival to Secure and Streamline International Arrivals

SINT MAARTEN/ARUBA - U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will introduce Simplified Arrival (SA) at Aruba Airport (AUA) starting September 21 to further secure and streamline international travel. SA is a primary processing application that utilizes facial comparison technology, and will replace the legacy primary processing application currently used at AUA.

The transition to SA at AUA means an even more efficient inspection process. CBP is implementing facial comparison technology to address recommendations from the 9/11 Commission and address a Congressional mandate to biometrically record the entry and exit of non-U.S. citizens.

Given today’s health concerns, facial comparison technology can play a key role in helping the travel industry address COVID-19 health and safety risks by implementing seamless processes. Through this technology, CBP can reduce the need to capture fingerprints and handle documents.

CBP’s facial comparison technology compares the new photo of the traveler to images that the traveler previously provided to the government, such as passport and visa photos. Eligible travelers who wish to opt out of the new facial biometric process may notify a CBP officer as they approach the primary inspection point.

These travelers will be required to present a valid travel document for manual identity verification by a CBP officer and will be processed in accordance with existing requirements for entry into the United States.

CBP is committed to its privacy obligations and has taken steps to safeguard the privacy of all travelers. CBP has employed strong technical security safeguards and has limited the amount of personally identifiable information used in the facial biometric process. New photos of U.S. citizens will be deleted within 12 hours, and photos of foreign nationals will be stored in a secure DHS system.

Facial comparison technology enhances CBP’s ability to facilitate lawful travel and secure the border.


Amsterdam, student cities face new coronavirus clampdown as infections soar

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – New coronavirus restrictions will be introduced in parts of the Netherlands where coronavirus cases are mounting, and Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Delft and Leiden are on the hit list.

Health minister Hugo de Jonge said on Wednesday that rising number of coronavirus infections is ‘not good’, particularly in the big cities in the west of the country.

On Wednesday, a further 1,500 positive test results were reported to public health institute RIVM, and Germany and Belgium have put Noord and Zuid-Holland provinces on their code red list – which means they should be avoided.

De Jonge and prime minister Mark Rutte will hold a press conference on Friday evening at 7pm to announce what measures are being brought in on a regional basis. ‘There is no single solution to reduce the number of infections,’ De Jonge said.

‘We want to hit the virus hard, but keep the impact on society and the economy to a minimum.’ Student houses in particular appear to be a source of infection, De Jonge said.

On Wednesday, reported that students in Delft have been sent a letter signed by the students’ associations and the local health service warning them that the town is on the brink of a local lockdown unless they comply with the coronavirus rules and testing regime.

‘At the moment 80% of infected people in Delft are students and the number of infections is doubling every 7 days,’ the letter says. ‘If we do nothing, there is a strong chance that we will end up in a local lockdown in Delft.’

Closing times

Insiders suggest measures to control café and bar openings are likely, with the introduction of earlier closing times top of the list of options. Bars popular with students have been at the centre of several outbreaks, as have several student houses and fraternity clubs.

In Amsterdam, a curfew is on the list of possible restrictions mooted by mayor Femke Halsema last month, when local safety boards were first given the power to introduce local measures.


According to the Volkskrant, the government may also launch new public information campaigns targeting students and immigrant groups, and limit the number of people who can gather together in one space.

Currently there is a 100 maximum on indoor gatherings and 250 outside – as long as social distancing can be observed. Microbiologist Marc Bonten, who is a member of the government’s coronavirus advisory team, told broadcaster NOS that given the virus is spreading fast among 18 to 25-year-olds in social settings ‘it would be logical to step up enforcement there, or bring in new measures to limit them’.

Hospitality sector Horeca Nederland said it is extremely concerned that cafes and bars may face new restrictions, given their fragile finances. In addition,‘such disproportionate regulations will lead to extra problems on the street, given that people will switch to public spaces such as squares and parks,’ the organisation told NOS.



1,753 new coronavirus cases, inspectors warn health boards not ready for second wave

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A further 1,753 positive coronavirus tests were registered with the public health board RIVM in the past 24 hours, as the government and regional officials finalise a new package of measures to combat the spread of the virus.

The increase has taken the number of positive tests up to almost nine per 100,000, which is well into the government’s red warning zone. The reproduction rate is also now at 1.38.

However, hospital admissions remain low – on Wednesday afternoon 245 people were being treated in hospital, of whom 54 were in intensive care. Youngsters continue to account for most of the new cases, and the new measures which will be announced on Friday are likely to centre on university towns.

At the same time, health service inspectors say in a new report that regional health boards, test labs and health ministry advisors are not ready to cope with a sharp rise in coronavirus testing or a second wave.

Although the health boards have done a good job in setting up the testing and contact tracing systems, there is a lack of overall control, the inspectors say. The report is based on research carried out in July and August, before the sharp increase in infections and testing.

The health boards faced ‘an enormous challenge’ to increase capacity, the report said. The inspectors estimate that 55,000 tests a day will be needed from November, rising to 85,000 next February.

Currently some 35,000 tests are carried out on a daily basis. Ministers have already warned that it will be several weeks before testing can be ramped up again, and they are looking at giving priority to teachers and people working in some parts of the healthcare system.



The Netherlands is a major exporter of scrap metal – 150 lorry loads a day

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Netherlands sends the equivalent of 150 lorry loads of scrap metal to non-EU countries for recycling every day, the NRC said on Wednesday.

The scrap is sent to other countries for reprocessing, often to countries where environmental rules are less stringent than in the EU, the paper said. In addition, the Netherlands imports thousands of tonnes of scrap from other countries, mainly Germany and Belgium, much of which is then re-exported, the NRC said.

Some 80% of scrap metal collected in the Netherlands is processed by Turkey.  China is another export destination, as is India. Processing scrap outside the EU is cheaper, particularly if shipping is involved.

One recycling company told the NRC it costs €1,250 to €2,000 to send a container of scrap to the Czech Republic or Poland, but just €850 to ship it from Rotterdam to China by sea.

In addition, processing scrap in the Netherlands would add to CO2 emissions, but this is not the case if the metal waste is exported abroad. ‘The Netherlands, a world champion when it comes to recycling?’ researcher Joppe van Driel told the paper. ‘We are exporting our waste and our climate problems.’



Corona testing system close to gridlock as infections rise, microbiologist warns

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The head of one of the Netherlands’ largest testing laboratories has warned the coronavirus testing system risks grinding to a halt if capacity is not increased.

Nearly 200,000 people were tested for Covid-19 in the last seven days as the number of confirmed cases increased by around 50% for the second week running, according to the latest report by the public health agency RIVM.

Health minister Hugo de Jonge has said the government aims to raise the daily limit from 30,000 to 50,000 by the end of the month and 70,000 by the end of October. But microbiologist Bram Diederen, head of the Microvida lab, told the Volkskrant the system was already close to breaking point.

‘We are already close to the limit,’ he said. ‘People are waiting three, four or five days for a test result. That’s simply too long, they want to know within a day. And it’s only September.

The weather is lovely, everything’s fine in the hospitals, but I guarantee that once we get into October the system will be completely gridlocked. It’ll be a disaster.’

Diederen called for the government to extend priority testing for frontline workers such as hospital staff and teachers to other professions whose members are unable to work from home full-time, in order to check the spread of the virus.

He said newer, faster tests needed to be implemented as soon as possible, while another option is to have Dutch tests analysed by laboratories in countries with more capacity, such as Germany.

‘The big megalabs in Germany have a huge bulk capacity,’ he said. ‘What I don’t understand at the moment is that the number of tests we have has stalled, even though the big labs don’t seem to have any shortfall.’

High-volume lab

A spokesman for health minister Hugo de Jonge said the government was in talks with three laboratories in other countries about analysing Dutch tests, as well as exploring options to build a ‘high volume laboratory’ in the Netherlands.

‘We are looking at how we can adapt our testing policy and introducing promising quick-response tests is obviously one of the options we want to try,’ the spokesman added.

The government has also expanded its system for measuring the virus in sewage to 300 testing points, from 29 in April, as it tries to improve its monitoring of the spread of the disease.

The average number of virus particles per millilitre of wastewater more than doubled in the last week to 276, after falling steadily since mid-August, according to the government’s corona dashboard.

The figure per region ranges from 50 in IJsselland to 928 in Flevoland. Meanwhile, students in Delft have been sent a letter signed by the students’ associations and the local health service warning them that the town is on the brink of a local lockdown unless they comply with the coronavirus rules and testing regime.

‘At the moment 80% of infected people in Delft are students and the number of infections is doubling every 7 days,’ the letter says. ‘If we do nothing, there is a strong chance that we will end up in a local lockdown in Delft.’

The letter urges students to observe social distancing in their accommodation – noting that most patients catch the virus in private spaces – and get tested even if they have mild symptoms such as a cold or runny nose.

It concludes: ‘The number of infections and contacts has to go down. It is five minutes to midnight. It’s not too late, but time is pressing.’



Over 8,000 new corona virus infections in the past week: Dutch health institute

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A further 8,265 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the last week, the RIVM health institute said on Tuesday in its weekly update.

This is rise of some 50% on the week before, when the tally was 5,427. The number of hospital admissions have also more than doubled, local health boards reported. Some 92 people were registered as having been admitted to hospital in the seven days to Tuesday morning, compared to 43 the week before.

There were fewer deaths, 14 in the last week compared to 17 in the preceding week. Most infections were again found in Amsterdam (1,251), The Hague (761) and Rotterdam (701).

People in their 20s again accounted for most of the new infections. Nearly 200,000 people took a coronavirus test in the past week, and the positive rate has risen from 2.8% to 3.9%.

The figures also show that the R number, which indicates the average number of people infected by one patient, has been going up from August 17. The latest probe, on August 28, showed it is now standing at 1.38.



Budget focus is on strengthening the economy, finance minister says

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The government’s 2021 spending plans are focused on keeping the economy strong now and into the future, despite coronavirus, finance minister Wopke Hoekstra told MPs on Tuesday afternoon.

After almost six years of almost continuous economic growth, the economy has now been hit by the largest contraction since World War II, Hoekstra said. ‘And a large part of that still has to come’.

The government, he said, is pulling out all the stops to limit the damage, and the government has to offer confidence and stability. ‘We are asking people to adapt, but we are also offering a helping hand,’ Hoekstra said, referring to shifts in the economic landscape.

At the same time, work is proceeding on implementing two major government accords on pensions and climate, taxes are being cut and €500m is being invested in fighting organised crime, he said.

The new €20bn investment fund will focus on areas which experts have said need tackling in the Netherlands, he said, including innovation, research & development, the infrastructure and knowledge.

The aim, Hoekstra said, is to ensure the country’s earnings potential remains strong.

Softened the blow

The government’s macro-economic forecasting unit CPB said the support package has softened the blow and prevented a domino effect in the economy. However, ‘an increase in bankruptcies and unemployment is inevitable when companies have to adapt to changing demand,’ director Pieter Hasekamp said.

‘This means that the effectiveness of the support policy will gradually decrease. It is, therefore, wise to carefully phase out the support package and focus more on adaptation and retraining.’


The CPB also said that the coronavirus crisis is having the greatest impact on vulnerable groups, including young people, the self-employed and migrants. ‘Coronavirus may also increase existing unequal opportunities in education and, thus, exacerbate income inequality in the long term,’ the agency said.

‘The real challenge is that of addressing the underlying vulnerabilities themselves… reducing the differences between permanent employment and flex work, combating ostensible self-employment and discrimination, reducing the differences in health levels and working conditions,’ the agency said.

‘Although this would come too late for the current crisis, it could ensure that society is more resilient by the time the next crisis hits.’



International student numbers set to plummet, due to coronavirus

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The number of international students coming to study in the Netherlands from outside the EU this year maybe down as much as 50%, according to figures from the IND immigration service.

Non-EU students have to apply for a residency permit from the IND, and so few have applied this year that immigration service workers are being reassigned to other duties, the government agency said.

After years of steadily rising figures, there has now been a clear reversal, IND spokeswoman Jacqueline Neumann told the Telegraaf. ‘The coronavirus pandemic has led to a large number of foreign students staying away’.

In the first seven months of this year, the IND processed 8,440 applications for student visas, compared with around 14,350 during the same period last year. However, not all the students who apply for a visa actually take up a university place.

As yet there are no figures available for the number of EU students coming to the Netherlands because they do not need to apply for a visa. Nuffic, the government agency which focuses on the internationalisation of the Dutch education system, does not yet have any more concrete figures.

This summer, a Nuffic survey among 941 potential students from outside the EU showed that 80% were still interested in a place at a Dutch university but that just 40% were sure they would still press ahead with an application.

‘For an international student, the experience of living in the Dutch society, including travel and leisure activities, is one of the main reasons of studying in the Netherlands,’ Nuffic said at the time.

Study goes viral: what to expect at Dutch university in times of Covid19 International students currently make up 12% of the Dutch student body, and some 25,800 are from non-EU countries.

Research published by the government’s macro-economic think-tank CPB last September said that even after the cost of sending Dutch students abroad is deducted from the total, foreign students from outside the EU generate up to €94,000 each for the government.

This is because their fees are much higher and around 30% of them remain in the Netherlands after graduation to work, the CPB said. Non-EU students pay upwards of €20,000 a year for their courses, compared with the basic fee for a Dutch or European student of €2,143.

DutchNews has asked the education ministry what the downturn in international student numbers will mean for university finances in the long term.



Positive coronavirus tests hit 1,300, mayors mull new regional measures

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A further 1,300 positive coronavirus tests were registered with the public health institute in the past 24 hours, according to figures from the RIVM public health institute on Monday.

This means that an average of 1,142 people has tested positive for the virus for the past six days, the highest figure since mid-April, at the height of the pandemic. Most new infections – 199 – were in Amsterdam, followed by The Hague and Rotterdam.

Amsterdam and Delft have the highest positive test ratio of all the bigger cities. The Netherlands’ 25 regional safety board’s met on Monday to discuss the impact of the increase in positive cases as winter nears, particularly when cafe terraces are closed, and people move indoors.

And Amsterdam’s mayor Femke Halsema is to hold talks with city officials on Tuesday about new measures to stop the spread of the virus, RTL Nieuws said. Earlier the mayor said that a curfew, and a campaign to actively discourage tourism were among the options if the virus continued to spread.

Although there has been a slight increase in the number of hospitalisations, there are still just 209 people in hospital, of whom 43 are in intensive care. At the height of the pandemic, more than 4,000 people were being treated in hospital.


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