The Dutch Caribbean being exempted from mandatory negative results of both a PCR and antigen test for incoming passengers at Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands is obviously most welcome. KLM had even warned it would stop long-haul flights – possibly including the mid-Atlantic route – because the added requirement also for its crews created a problem with its so-called “turnaround time.”
A solution was found for that too, whereby the cabin personnel are tested before departure but stay quarantined in their hotel room at the destination until their return. This is important to ensure transport of COVID-19 vaccines to the islands as well.
In terms of earnings, especially Curaçao greatly depends on tourists from the European part of the kingdom for its hospitality industry. This is less the case for Aruba and St. Maarten, where North America is the dominant source market.
For that reason, the recent announcement that a negative PCR result within 72 hours of travel is now needed to enter the US was not-so-good news. This no doubt raises the barrier for Americans to visit the islands, while Canada took similar measures earlier.
It is desirable to make local testing for these guests going back home as convenient and affordable as possible. Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication in St. Maarten, Ludmilla de Weever in any case struck the right note then by saying St. Maarten would do what is necessary to meet this new demand.
The measure goes into effect on January 26, so one would hope whatever related preparations are near completion. The Bahamas reported “fighting like hell” for an exception to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC’s order, but nothing has been heard since.
What these developments confirm is that while the COVID-19 pandemic exists and until widespread global vaccination has been achieved, a certain degree of uncertainty about the immediate socioeconomic future will remain. This makes continued assistance from The Hague, both relief aid and liquidity support, that much more important.