Soualiga Newsday Features

Soualiga Newsday Features (3120)

Two-fifths of nursing homes in Netherlands have coronavirus infections

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Nearly 1,000 nursing homes in the Netherlands have reported at least one coronavirus infection in the last four weeks, beating the previous record set in January.

The figure of 970 represents 40% of all residential care homes in the Netherlands. In general, those infected suffer a milder form of the illness than a year ago, but the death rate is roughly the same.

Cees Hartogh, professor of geriatric medicine at the VU university in Amsterdam, said waning vaccine efficiency was among the likely reasons for the high number of deaths. Around 22% of nursing home residents who had been vaccinated died after contracting Covid-19.

Hartogh said the deadlier Delta variant, which first appeared last spring, was also a likely factor. ‘Not only is it more infectious than earlier variants, but it possibly has a more fatal outcome for vulnerable older people.’

He said booster vaccines, which are being given in most nursing homes from this week, should improve the situation. ‘We can help to reduce the number of infections and the transmission of the disease with an extra vaccine.

And, secondly, we can reduce the risk of serious illness.’ But Hartogh warned that the lack of co-ordinated records was holding back researchers’ efforts to track the disease.

Some nursing homes keep details of which residents have been vaccinated in their electronic patients’ dossiers, while others are still using paper records or their in-house medication logs.

‘We have data, but if there was a centralised registration system, we would have access to far more,’ he said.



Couple who left quarantine hotel could not be made to stay there: mayor

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – More details have emerged about the couple who tested positive for coronavirus after flying to the Netherlands from South Africa and who were picked up by border police trying to leave the country by plane.

The mayor of Haarlemmermeer, which includes Schiphol airport, told breakfast television show Goedemorgen Nederland that the couple were in the hotel voluntarily and could not be made to stay there.

Having tested positive for coronavirus on Friday, the Spanish and Portuguese couple were required to go into quarantine but not necessarily in the hotel where they were taken.

Given they had no address in the Netherlands, they went to the hotel, where many of the passengers who tested positive are staying.

‘Security guards advised the couple not to leave but there was no legal grounds to hold them,’ mayor Marianne Schuurmans told the programme. ‘That was something I had to take care of, as mayor and as local safety board chief.’

The couple have now been placed in mandatory isolation at a Dutch hospital, the spokesman said. It is not clear if this is because they are sick or because of the risk they will try to leave again.

The public prosecution department is now looking into what should happen next. The couple can be fined or even jailed for failing to go into quarantine. In total, 61 out of 624 people on the two flights from South Africa to arrive on Friday were found to have coronavirus, and so far, 13 of them have been identified as having the new variant Omicron.



Where the majority of the people decides

SINT MAARTEN (COMMENTARY - By Cdr. Bud Slabbaert) - Voters in Switzerland, this Sunday approved by a clear margin legislation which introduced a special COVID-19 certificate that lets only people who have been vaccinated, recovered or tested negative attend public events and gatherings.

Why is this worth to know especially when there are demonstrations all around against vaccinations or restrictions. No, in Switzerland it were not the politicians who decided, it was the Swiss population. How does that work?

Despite claims of some countries that they have the oldest democracy or the most egalitarian democracy in the world, the Swiss are just not the kind of people claiming anything in the publicity, they just make things work in practice. They have what most others don’t have, and it is called Direct Democracy. And as for being the oldest of anything, in 1291 the Swiss Confederation was founded which is the precursor of the Switzerland we know now.

Switzerland holds referendum four times a year whereby the Swiss people make the decision. For any change in the constitution, a referendum is mandatory (mandatory referendum); for any change in a law, a referendum can be requested (optional referendum). In addition, the people may present a constitutional popular initiative to introduce amendments to the federal constitution. The Swiss system of referendums guarantees not only a maximum amount of self-determination to the citizens but also a stability of the political system Switzerland is often envied for.

Switzerland features a system of government not seen in any other nation: direct representation. The absolute and unlimited autonomy of Switzerland is actually its entire electorate. Referenda on the most important laws have been used since the 1848 constitution.

Any citizen may challenge a law that has been passed by parliament. If that person is able to gather 50,000 signatures against the law within 100 days, a national vote has to be scheduled where voters decide by a simple majority of the voters whether to accept or reject the law. Creating a new law requires 100,000 valid signatures on a petition to get on the ballot. And so, four times per year the Swiss electorate goes to the polls.

But keep in mind as for ‘where the majority of the people decides’, the level of education of the population and being objectively well-informed is of essence.

Some may think that because of all this, the country is in constant disarray. The opposite is true, it is probably the most orderly country that I know. Plus, it has one of the highest qualities of living and is one of the wealthiest countries. Smack in the middle of Europe it is not member of the European Union. It has its own currency completely covered by gold reserves. Profits made by increased gold value are used for social security. It has no political conflicts with any other nations, it was never occupied, and it has never conquered. It remains neutral in any way. Only 20 years ago, it became a member of the United Nations.  

What do I know about Switzerland? I would not claim anything. It just so happened to that I lived nine years in Switzerland and was Managing Director of a number of small companies, as well as being a business aviation consultant. I simply privately and professionally experienced the Swiss ways.


Dutch find at least 13 Omicron cases on two flights from South Africa

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Dutch scientists have so far identified 13 cases of the Omicron variant of coronavirus among the 61 people who tested positive after flying to Schiphol on two flights from South Africa on Friday.

The research is still ongoing, and more cases may be found, public health institute RIVM said on Sunday afternoon. Everyone on board the flights – a total of 624 people – was tested for coronavirus before they were allowed to leave the airport.

Most of the people who have the virus were taken to a hotel for the duration of their quarantine period, but five people, who live alone, were allowed home.

The Omicron variant was first identified in South Africa but has already turned up in Belgium, Germany, Britain, and several other countries. The Netherlands is now urging some 5,000 people who have travelled to the Netherlands from southern Africa since November 22 to make an appointment for a test, even if they don’t have any symptoms of the virus.

Health minister Hugo de Jonge said on Sunday he did not rule out imposing extra measures to try to deal with the new variant, but much depends on how infectious and how serious it is.

‘The World Health Organisation has described it as a variant of concern,’ De Jonge said. ‘We are worried, but we will only know how worried we should be in the coming weeks.’

Flight ban

De Jonge said it is not possible to halt all flights from southern Africa, as some have suggested, because people from the EU have a right to return home. Everyone flying in from southern Africa will have to go into quarantine at home for at least five days and checks will be carried out on everyone to make sure they do stay in, De Jonge said.

This will involve a phone call and a home visit. The regional health board has also opened a special testing area at Schiphol airport for passengers flying in from South Africa.



61 passengers on South Africa flights test positive for coronavirus

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Health board officials say 61 of the 600 people on two flights from South Africa which arrived at Schiphol airport on Friday morning have now tested positive for coronavirus.

Officials said on Friday evening they expected around 85 people would prove positive, after initial tests suggested a 13% infection rate, but told news agency ANP later the actual total is 61.

All the passengers reportedly had to show a negative fast test no older than 24 hours before boarding the flight. The passengers were kept at the airport well into the night while waiting to be tested and for the results.

The Netherlands imposed a flight ban from southern Africa on Friday morning because of concerns about a new form of coronavirus, now named Omicron.



A ‘number’ of people on SA flights probably had Omicron variant: RIVM

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch public health institute RIVM said on Saturday evening that early analysis indicates ‘a number’ of people on Friday’s flights from South Africa were infected with the new Omicron variant of Coronavirus.

In total, 61 out of 624 people on two flights on Friday tested positive for the virus. Most of them are now in a hotel for the duration of the infection, but people who live alone in the Netherlands have been allowed to go home.

The RIVM said that further analyses will now be carried out to determine if the Omicron variant or not is involved. The results are expected on Sunday. The variant was first identified by scientists in South Africa and has since been reported in Germany, Belgium and Britain.

The RIVM said everyone who has arrived in the Netherlands from southern Africa since Monday, November 22 should have a test. The Netherlands brought in new restrictions for people flying from southern Africa on Friday.

Only people from the EU or with an urgent reason to travel are being allowed to fly. People arriving in the Netherlands from South Africa, Botswana, Malawi, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe must also go into quarantine on arrival.

New flights

People arriving on KLM flights from South Africa on Saturday were not all tested for coronavirus, the Telegraaf reported earlier. The paper spoke to several passengers who told of the chaos before boarding, with dozens of people refused permission to fly.

KLM has two scheduled services from South Africa a day. On Saturday afternoon, Air France ZA said on Twitter that everyone with permission to board the flights would have to have a negative PCR test to travel.

Since last Monday, some 5,000 people have flown to the Netherlands from southern Africa. All are now being urged to come forward for a coronavirus test.



SER Curaçao releases study on a mission-driven innovation policy

CURACAO (WILLEMSTAD) - On November 26, 2021, the Social and Economic Council (SER) of Curaçao issued an exploration to the government and parliament on the possibilities of introducing a mission-driven innovation policy that could be a meaningful complement to the Country Package (Landspakket) for Curaçao. The principle of a mission-driven innovation policy is not new. It is applied within the European Union at an aggregate level as well as in individual member states, including the Netherlands.

This latest SER-exploration contains a joint analysis by employers' and employees' organizations and independent members regarding the need to link innovation policies in Curaçao to societal challenges such as climate change, population ageing, increasing unemployment, internet crime, sustainable mobility, food supply (including food insecurity and low nutritional value), obesity and burnout.

According to the SER, COVID-19 has revealed that an economic system driven purely by efficiency and supported by economies of scale is not resilient. Hence the call for resilience, a term that recurs in the Country Package. The global pandemic has also increased the awareness that the public interest is no longer exclusively the responsibility of the government, but also of entrepreneurs, employees, the scientific community and citizens. There seems to be a global transition towards what is called 'broad prosperity', where productivity, inclusiveness and living conditions go hand in hand.

A mission-driven innovation policy involves setting a direction based on themes that have broad social relevance. The strategy in this policy is 'challenge oriented' and no longer represents a list of sectors. What matters is that specific themes around societal challenges are identified. According to the SER, the guiding principle of a mission-driven innovation policy for Curaçao should be that aspects such as a clean environment, clean growth, responsible innovation, and basic needs such as water, food, housing, energy, health and education are not approached in isolation, but rather connected within a context that provides a clear direction for sustainable and resilient growth and development. Curaçao will now have to establish its own themes that will guide the future (2030 and beyond) of the country, although the themes chosen in the Netherlands around Energy transition and sustainability - Agriculture, water, food - Health and care - Security, do not sound strange to the Curaçao context.

In this exploration, the SER concludes that elaborating a mission-driven innovation policy around relevant societal themes can be a strong asset to set a clear course for the next decade. This cannot be done without broad support and symbiosis between government, businesses, science, and civil society (a 'quadruple helix' approach). Creating this support is a matter of trust, with space and time for each stakeholder, but also in the full knowledge of the need for administrative capability and commitment to achieve effective results.

The exploration can be found on the website of the SER (


The Netherlands will shut down from 5pm to 5am, apart from essential services

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Netherlands will virtually shut down from 5pm to 5am for at least three weeks from Sunday, as the cabinet struggles to reduce the spread of coronavirus, now at some 22,000 new cases a day.

Prime minister Mark Rutte told reporters at Friday evening’s press conference that a year ago, he and government health advisors thought the pandemic would be under control by the summer.

‘The reality is different,’ Rutte said. ‘And I am sure later evaluations will show that there were mistakes.’ In particular, Rutte said he blamed himself for failing to convince people to follow the basic rules.

‘Fewer than 50% of people are now having a test if they have symptoms,’ he said. ‘I take responsibility for that. We should do it better.’

With hospital admissions continuing to rise – there are now 528 coronavirus patients on an intensive care ward – action needs to be taken to reduce contacts between people by at least 20%, Rutte said.

‘All the current rules remain in place and from Sunday, between 5pm and 5am, in principle the Netherlands is closed,’ Rutte said. ‘This means events, concerts, theatres, cafes, bars, museums, gyms and sports clubs, with a couple of exceptions.’

Essential shops and services, such as pharmacies can open until 8pm and restaurants and snack bars can offer a takeaway service.

Social distancing

In addition, social distancing and face masks are being brought back in all places where coronavirus passes are currently required. In effect this means capacity will be reduced to one third.

Shops too are to be limited to one customer per five square metres. Talks will also take place with church leaders with the ‘urgent request’ to stick to the rules followed by the rest of society, Rutte said.

Furthermore, it is even more important that people restrict their travel around the country and work at home as much as possible, Rutte said. Visits should also be restricted to no more than four people over the age of 13 and one household at a time.

He also urged people to take a self-test before going out. Schools will remain open because of the importance to children, but children from group 6 in primary schools and upwards should wear a mask when moving between locations.

In addition, ‘I am asking everyone to limit the contacts between children and the over-70s,’ the prime minister said. ‘Grab the ipad and make a video call or use the old-fashioned telephone.

And with Sinterklaas, keep groups small.’ Rutte also appealed for people to watch out for potential victims of domestic violence and children who are not safe at home, as well as making time to check up on lonely people to make sure they are okay.

‘We must watch out for each other,’ Rutte said.


Health minister Hugo de Jonge said that he hoped former healthcare staff, trainee nurses and doctors and others would come forward to help make sure that the booster campaign gets up to speed quickly.

Some 750 soldiers have already been assigned to the project. Next week, he said, he hoped to be able to give a revised timeline for the booster programme. The over-80s are only now being signed up for an extra shot and the government has been criticized for failing to act quickly enough.

The new measures will be in place for three weeks initially and the next press conference will take place on December 14.



Schools will remain open, but cafes and theatres face early closure, leaks suggest

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Speculation is mounting about what the government plans to do to contain the spread of coronavirus, but it now seems likely that schools will remain open.

Both broadcasters NOS and RTL, and the AD newspaper, say schools will not close but will face extra measures, which could include face masks for older children. Government health advisors are known to be divided on the school’s issue.

Youngsters under the age of 14 currently account for 20% of new coronavirus infections and the Netherlands is not vaccinating the under 11s. Other measures being mooted include the closure of non-essential shops at 5pm, as well as what the government describes as ‘move through’ locations.

The AD says that cafes, restaurants, clubs, museums and theatres will have to close their doors between 5pm and 5am from Sunday. Shops, restaurants and bars currently have to shut at 8pm, while ‘contact professions’, such as hairdressers, must shut by 6pm.

The government has already agreed that booster vaccinations should be offered to everyone over the age of 18 and more details about this may also be announced. The European Commission has said that a booster dose may become a requirement to qualify for an EU coronavirus travel pass.


Health minister Hugo de Jonge said on Friday afternoon that the healthcare crisis in the Netherlands has entered a new phase, which means hospitals will have to start or step up cancelling routine operations to free up beds for coronavirus patients.

Routine care – care which will not lead to permanent health issues or care in which there is a minor risk of permanent damage – is now being put on hold. ‘All hip, knee and cataract operations will now stop,’ De Jonge said.

’We need to free up people so that coronavirus patients can be cared for.’ However, the Netherlands is not yet in a situation in which doctors have to choose between patients who need an intensive care bed, De Jonge said.

Some hospital chiefs have warned that the Netherlands will face this scenario, which is known as code black, if the infection rate is not brought down. IC capacity is now being expanded by 150 to 1150 beds and there is an option to expand this temporarily to 1350 beds, with the help of the armed forces, De Jonge said.

De Jonge and prime minister Mark Rutte host a press conference on Friday evening, which will be broadcast live on television. You can follow the proceedings via the Twitter account.



‘Kidz at Sea’ begins Debris Mapping as part of the SXM Coastal CleanUp Project with the support of R4CR

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY) - The SXM Coastal CleanUp Project from Kidz at Sea has started its underwater mapping activities funded by the Resources for Community Resilience-R4CR Grant Scheme. The first half of this project focused on training residents of St. Maarten in the dive courses needed to execute an underwater clean-up of garbage found along the coastline in the marine environment. With their training complete, divers have begun the work to collect and catalogue data on the debris from Hurricane Irma, which still litters the coastline of St. Maarten. 

Throughout the first part of the SXM Coastal CleanUp project several residents were given the opportunity to receive introductory and more specialized dive training in order to safely map and remove debris from the coastline. Both Ocean Explorers Dive Center and Aqua Mania Watersports worked hard to train divers extensively prior to mapping activities. During these courses, divers learned the skills necessary to safely and accurately execute the second half of the project. Specialty dive courses that focused on proper buoyancy underwater and accurate search patterns were a key to the tangible results of the project.  

Many participants hope to use their extensive dive training in the future, “These past few weeks have been some of the greatest learning experiences in my life. All thanks to Kidz at Sea, and R4CR. I am a certified scuba diver and that is important living on the island, enabled with skills to conduct underwater clean-ups and surveys. I am truly inspired to be an environmental ambassador on my island and promote a more sustainable lifestyle,” said project participant Nelly Blaise. “I want to influence my people to become more aware of the environment and various habitats on the island. Some of us do not see the immediate consequences of our actions on the environment and that makes me sad. However, being educated about coral reefs, aquatic animals and diving, gives me the confidence to change the mindset of my community to promote a more sustainable lifestyle.” 

Along with one underwater clean-up event that will take place in a bay area of the island, two other coastal areas are currently being mapped to show type of debris, corals, and native seagrass beds. “The mapping dives will be used to consult the Nature Foundation in regards to safeguarding any marine life to the areas we hope to clean-up. The maps and the data collected with them will be used to ensure we don’t remove debris with protected coral growth or cause any damage to the marine environment,” explained Project Coordinator Leslie Hickerson.  

After the mapping is complete the Nature Foundation will give advice on which area is best suited for debris removal and any special considerations that need to be put into place. The project will execute an underwater clean-up with all participants in early December. During this event the garbage removed from the water will be weighed and recorded in order to complete a full report of the current state of St. Maarten’s coastal areas.  

The SXM Coastal CleanUp Project is part of the Kids at Sea Programs and is supported and funded by Resources for Community Resilience. Resources 4 Community Resilience (R4CR), a program implemented by VNG International and funded by the World Bank Trust Fund for St Maarten, which was created to provide assistance to the island after the devastating hurricane Irma in 2017. Kidz at Sea has used the assistance of R4CR to expand their maritime training to include this program and the first dive certifications for their participants. 

KIDZ Photo credit Ocean Explorers jpg

KIDZ Mapping Dive 4

KIDZ Mapping Dive 2


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