How did COVID-19 develop in the Caribbean Netherlands and what is the current situation?
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Bonaire, Saba and St Eustatius as much as the rest of the world. As of March 2020, the islands had to cope with periods with rising numbers of infections, resulting in containment measures that were established by the government, such as lockdowns, shelters in place and the closing of borders. The impact of COVID-19 was felt in all aspects of life in the Caribbean Netherlands.
The 2021 edition of this publication covered the period until September 2021, as represented in the infographic. This year, an overview of the developments up to August 2022 has been added to the graphic, further described in this section. Up until 18 August 2022, Bonaire and St Eustatius registered 30 and 5 confirmed COVID-19 deaths, respectively. There have been no cases of confirmed COVID-19 deaths on Saba.
Which containment measures were necessary?
After COVID-19 made its way to the islands, containment measures were introduced. These measures were necessary due to the vulnerable position of the islands (limited healthcare possibilities, no ICU capacity), and they affected tourism, the economy and society in general.
The precautionary measures included restrictions on the number of people gathering at e.g. churches, supermarkets, restaurants and at sports activities, as well as compulsory hygienic measures (the ‘on-island measures’). At the same time, all borders for national and international travel were managed through an exit/entry policy.
Apart from travel restrictions, Bonaire had two lockdowns due to the further spread of coronavirus: one in Q3 2020 and one from mid-March to beginning of April 2021. During this last lockdown, a curfew was put in place. From 15 January to 1 February 2022, containment measures were tightened due to another rise in COVID-19 cases.
Saba merely had a three-week lockdown, in Q2 2020. On St Eustatius, accommodation and food service establishments had to close their doors from 3 April to 15 May 2020, with the exception of take-out establishments. This was also the case in September and October 2020. In Q1 2022, St Eustatius had to enforce stricter measures due to a rise in COVID-19 cases.
Relief measure were put in place between May 2020 and the end of 2021. More details follow in this publication.
How did data collection take place during COVID-19?
COVID-19 also impacted data collection for statistical purposes. For example, the compilation of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the Caribbean Netherlands was affected, because at times there was no or limited possibility of collecting prices from certain products and services. In some cases it was even impossible to observe prices. The latter was the case for Saba in April 2020, during the shelter in place, and for Bonaire during the lockdowns in September 2020 and in March 2021. Since the measures put in place on St Eustatius affected travellers and businesses to a minor extent, the impact on data collection for the CPI remained minimal. Further measures put In place on the islands in the first and second quarters of 2022 had no impact on CPI data collection.
The Labour Force Survey Caribbean Netherlands (LFS-CN) is usually held every two years, between October and December. Due to the COVID-19 measures, the survey could not be conducted earlier than between December 2020 and March 2021. The survey, which is usually held face-to-face, was now also conducted via telephone on Bonaire, in order to minimise contact between interviewers and interviewees.
The Omnibus Survey, which takes place every four years, is held between October and December. In 2021, COVID-19 had no effect on this survey.
What is the current situation?
After a stable period regarding infections, Bonaire and St Eustatius again experienced an increased number of positive COVID-19 cases in January 2022. This meant a reintroduction of containment measures on both islands, which contributed to a gradual drop in infections. A low number of COVID-19 cases and the burden on the economy and the local healthcare system led the local governments to relax the COVID-19 measures. Saba lifted all on-island restrictions on 18 February, followed by Bonaire and St Eustatius on 4 March and 11 May 2022, respectively. Shortly after, the restrictions on travelling to the islands were no longer applicable.
Note: The described COVID-19 timeline has been updated until 31 August 2022. Possible measures or changes after this date have not been taken into account.