Focus (2)

Soualiga Newsday Focus (3160)

Medical referrals to Colombia possible

SABA/SINT EUSTATIUS - The Colombian Ministry of Health has announced the conditions that will allow access for patients from abroad who need medical care in Colombia.

The following conditions apply to Covid and non-Covid patients who are medical emergencies.

These patients must be transported on air ambulances or medical charter flights, which can exempt them from corona testing and vaccinations. It is mandatory for the attending physician to send a medical statement with the patient to Colombia.

For non-emergency/elective care, patients must be fully vaccinated, or they must have 1 vaccination together with a negative corona test to be admitted to Colombia. Vaccinations must be older than 14 days.

All patients must meet the conditions stipulated by the Colombian government. ZJCN and the hospitals of the Caribbean Netherlands are aware of these conditions. They remain in constant contact with the hospitals in Colombia to monitor the availability of beds. (RCN Caribbean Netherlands)


Saba implements stricter measures

SABA (THE BOTTOM) —Due to the fast spreading of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, Saba is taking stricter measures, starting Saturday, December 25 until the end of January 2022.

As of Saturday, all persons coming to Saba will be required to take a PCR-test before being allowed to enter the island. “So no matter where you travel from, low/high or very high risk, a PCR test is mandatory. Residents of Saba who leave the island for two nights or less will not need to take a PCR-test to re-enter the island but will have to follow stricter measures just as anyone else who visits Saba,” stated Island Governor Jonathan Johnson in an audio message on Wednesday, December 22.

Upon entering Saba, everyone will have to follow the following stricter measures, which include testing on day 2 and 5. Arrival on Saba is considered day 0. The following day is day 1. Persons who have arrived on the island have to wear a face mask when venturing in public places, in taxis and in supermarkets.

Persons who are not vaccinated from all countries or neighboring islands will be required to quarantine for 5 days. Regular measures of hand hygiene, coughing in the elbow and contacting Saba Cares when feeling sick remain in place.

Saba authorities have decided to scale up the United States to a very high-risk country per Wednesday, December 22, 2021. This means that only PCR-tests will be accepted, taken a maximum of 72 hours before arrival on the island. This includes day-trippers. All travelers will require an approved EHAS form filled out 24 hours before arrival.

“Omicron will come but we need to ensure that our population has the opportunity to receive the booster shot,” said Johnson. The booster campaign started with those over 60 years and will continue next week with those persons who work in the healthcare sector.

Johnson said that Saba has been very fortunate, but he noted that the reality with the new Omicron variant is that this virus spreads much quicker. “We will continue to be vigilant as a government, but as a community we also need to be vigilant and aware of taking our own safety measures. If you are feeling unwell, please call the hospital. Self-tests are available at the pharmacy for free.”

Johnson encouraged all persons who are willing and able to get a booster shot. “It has been proven to be effective. At the same time I would like to stress that no vaccine is 100% effective. However, it does minimize the risk of getting severely ill.” (SGIS)


Single bad reaction to booster; Brabant doctors offer to give jabs themselves

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – More than 1.5 million boosters have been given, with just one bad reaction, according to analysis by Lareb. The Dutch ‘pharmacovigilance centre’, which monitors side effects related to drugs, reports that up until December 19, it has had 348 reports of reactions indicating an allergic or anaphylactic response to a coronavirus jab.

The figures relate to around 25 million first and second vaccinations given so far in the Netherlands. Four in five were reactions to a first vaccination, and around half were evident in the first half hour.

Most were experienced by women under 60. In October, the centre reported that more than 10,000 women reported irregularities in their menstrual cycle after the vaccination.

Up until now, people getting vaccinated have been asked to wait for 15 minutes in an observation room to monitor for reactions, but government health advisors want to drop this provision in order to speed up jabs. I

n a press conference announcing a lockdown until January 14, health minister Hugo de Jonge said the government aimed to give boosters to everyone who wants one by the end of January.

Among concerns that older people are not getting appointments fast enough, a group of around 135 doctors in Oost-Brabant is working with its public health board to offer Moderna vaccinations, reports NOS.

Amsterdam has announced that it is spinning up more capacity. However, first thing on Tuesday morning, there were reports of national problems with the telephone booking system for vaccinations and for tests, which were later resolved.

The Netherlands was one of the last countries in Europe to start giving booster shots. Two days before the British NHS began its booster campaign in September, the Dutch government had announced that it did not need the boost as ‘the effectivity of the vaccines is high.’



Seven arrests after weapons found in Amsterdam home

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Seven people have been arrested after police discovered an arsenal of weapons in a house in Amsterdam.

Police said they saw a 26-year-old Amsterdammer and two cars with Belgian number plates apparently exchange a large, black sports bag on Saturday in a street in Amsterdam Nieuw-West and gave chase.

At some point, the bag was thrown out of a car window and turned out to contain three automatic weapons and a handgun. Although police lost the cars in the high-speed chase, they later found them again.

The Amsterdammer and three others were arrested at a meeting in Utrecht, and two of these suspects were then deported. Another car was spotted at a McDonalds car park in Breukelen and the two occupants were arrested.

Police also searched a house in the Comeniusstraat, where the original exchange took place, discovering automatic weapons, ammunition, drugs, cash and an 18-year-old woman, who was arrested.

Five suspects will appear before a court in Amsterdam this week.



Antwerp’s governor urges Dutch visitors to stay away during lockdown

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The governor of Antwerp has urged Dutch visitors not to go on day trips to the Belgian city to escape the lockdown in the Netherlands.

‘I’m asking Dutch people to grin and bear it,’ Cathy Berx told Belgian TV network VRT. ‘After this they will be very much welcome, but now is not the time to come here.’

Thousands of people from the Netherlands are thought to have travelled across the border on Sunday to go shopping or have a drink in a bar on the first day of a three-week lockdown in their own country.

Cinemas, theatres, museums and hairdressers are among the other venues and businesses that are closed in the Netherlands but still open in Belgium for anyone with a valid QR code.

German authorities have also called on Dutch visitors not to descend en masse on towns across the border. Wolfgang Gebing, mayor of Oberhausen in North Rhine-Westphalia, said the federal government could impose travel restrictions if necessary.

‘But for the moment Dutch people are warmly welcome in our city.’ A spokesman for Oberhausen’s tourist board said December was traditionally a busy month for visitors from the Netherlands.

‘We are seeing Dutch daytrippers now as well, but a lot fewer than before corona,’ he told NOS.



Vulnerable children under 12 to receive vaccine from this week

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Children under 12 with a medical condition such as a congenital heart defect can receive a vaccine against coronavirus from this week, the Dutch health council said.

Around 40,000 children between the ages of five and 11 will be eligible for a reduced dose of the Pfizer or Biotech vaccine, paediatrician, and immunologist Emmeline Buddingh of Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) told NOS.

Young children in general are less at risk of serious illness from coronavirus, Buddingh said. ‘But those children who end up in intensive care are children with underlying conditions.

Vaccination helps protect these children from rare and severe illness.’

The vaccines will be rolled out to all children under 12 in the second half of January. A gap of at least four weeks will be required between the first and second dose.

The European Union announced on Sunday it had ordered an extra 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine for countries that need extra booster shots, bringing its total stock to 215 million doses.



Visitors from Britain will have to quarantine in NL from Wednesday

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – New restrictions on travel to the Netherlands come into effect on Wednesday, and travellers from Britain will have to quarantine on arrival under new rules to try to curb the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

From Wednesday people travelling to the Netherlands from outside the Schengen open border area will have to show a negative coronavirus test, even if they have been fully vaccinated or recently recovered from coronavirus.

The measure is being introduced throughout the EU, although the Netherlands is implementing it earlier than most.

In addition, all travellers who have been in the UK will have to undergo mandatory quarantine for 10 days on arrival in the Netherlands but will have the option of taking a PCR test on day five for early release.

The same applies to all countries considered by the Netherlands to be high risk areas. The regulations apply to everyone, even if they have been fully vaccinated or recently recovered from coronavirus, although there are some exceptions to the rules.

DutchNews has asked the health ministry to clarify what exceptions apply. France and Germany have already sharply increased restrictions on visitors from the UK, where 90,000 cases of coronavirus were reported on Friday and Saturday.

Travellers won’t have to check into a special quarantine hotel to self-isolate, but will face local authority controls to make sure they are complying.


The new rules mean thousands of families who had been hoping to celebrate Christmas together are now rethinking their plans.



City centres busy as shoppers rush to buy Christmas gifts

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Officials in Rotterdam urged shoppers to stay away from the city centre on Saturday, as crowds rushed to buy Christmas gifts ahead of the impending lockdown.

‘Do not come to the city, and avoid crowds,’ the council said on Twitter. City car parks were also full and traffic regulators were drafted in, in an effort to control the number of cars.

The cabinet is expected to announce that all non-essential shops must close at Saturday night’s press conference, leading to a surge in last-minute shopping.

‘We thought we could take our time and shop this week,’ one woman told ‘But now we have to rush to get everything in.’

In Amsterdam, shopping streets were busy but not overcrowded, and bars and cafes were brimming with people making the most of the final hours before the lockdown.

Café terraces were also open and full of Christmas shoppers. It was also busy in The Hague, Leiden and Den Bosch, with queues outside some popular shops, news website reported.

The lockdown, which will involve the closure of all non-essential shops, is expected to come into effect on Sunday morning.

Important week

Dutch retail association INretail said the lockdown is the worst possible news. ‘This is the most important week of the year,’ a spokesman told broadcaster NOS. ‘People are on holiday and want to shop and buy presents for under the tree.

And shopkeepers have also ordered in on that basis.’ The Netherlands has some 56,000 non-essential shops. The association called for Europe-wide rules, saying that people living in the border areas will do their Christmas shopping now in Belgium and Germany.



Efteling discriminated against Belgian woman and son on grounds of race and disability

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A Belgian woman and her eight-year-old autistic son were discriminated against on the grounds of race and disability by amusement park The Efteling, according to a verdict from the Dutch human rights commission.

Liza Kurukulasuriya and her family’s day out in September 2020 ended in her spending 17 hours in jail and a year of trauma, after an argument about whether her son could go to the toilet after waiting in line.

The family, who had a park-issued card acknowledging the young boy’s special needs and difficulty in queuing due to his autism spectrum disorder (ASS), had been waiting for the toilet at the end of the day. However, as they reached the front of the queue, according to her Facebook account shared online more than 7,900 times, they were told the toilet was shutting.

Despite explaining their unique situation, and showing their disabilities access pass, the woman denied toilet access to the boy. When he and his mother squeezed past, touching her glancingly on the shoulder, she made a police report of ‘body-checking’, a form of physical assault.

Kurukulasuriya, who is partly of Sri-Lankan origin, claimed that the woman had muttered ‘black bitch, under her breath as she passed her – a claim that Kurukulasuriya’s husband backed up.

She was held for hours in a room away from her family, when police came, the employee refused an offer to solve the conflict by mediation, and Kurukulasuriya was jailed for the night.


More than a year later, a verdict this week from the College van de Rechten van de Mens upholds her version of events and says that she and her son were victims of discrimination.

According to the verdict, it is not credible that the employee had a speech impediment preventing her from saying the words ‘black bitch’ – an argument which had been given in The Efteling’s defence.

It ruled that the Efteling had failed to prove that this had not happened, and that it had indeed discriminated against her on grounds of race. It was the duty of the amusement park to help find a suitable solution to her son’s toilet needs, and failure to do so was discrimination on the grounds of disability.

Meanwhile refusing police mediation and ensuring the woman was jailed overnight, when no case was pursued, was also ‘intimidating and humiliating treatment’ that constituted discriminatory behaviour.

Ms Kurukulasuriya has received a formal apology from the head of the Zeeland-West-Brabant Dutch force for ‘disproportionate’ treatment, irrelevant mention of her colour in a police statement and failure to arrange an appointment the following day or to provide a translator to properly explain her rights.

She told that she was pleased with the verdict and thanked anti-discrimination foundation RADAR for its support. ‘I’m proud of Dutch “justice” and glad we were able to raise awareness on discrimination on grounds of disability, especially of kids with special needs and invisible disabilities, but also racial origin,’ she said via email.

‘Our story will hopefully help other victims not to feel alone and to stand up and defend their rights to fight discrimination [so] together we will change our society.’


A spokeswoman from the Efteling said in a statement that it took the verdict ‘very seriously’ and was making efforts to learn, but found it difficult to understand why it had been made and backed its employees’ statements.

‘It is very regrettable that this judgement has been passed and we deeply regret it,’ the statement said. ‘In this case, there was a language barrier, and that can present problems, especially if the employee involved had a language development disorder.

In our opinion, the employee’s behaviour could never have been intended as it was experienced by the woman. In addition, the employees assert emphatically that no discriminatory statements were made.

They find this situation extremely annoying.’ She added that the Efteling wants everyone to feel welcome and has sought advice from organisations with expertise in autism and physical and visual disabilities in order to ‘improve itself’.



Two police officers to face court for excessive violence during demo

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Two police officers are to face prosecution for using excessive violence against a demonstrator during a coronavirus protest in The Hague in March this year.

The public prosecution department said in a statement on Friday that the violence used against one protestor, which was caught on camera, was disproportionate and the case was serious enough to be taken to court.

The victim was left with both head injuries and was bitten by a police dog.

The Hague’s mayor Jan van Zanen ordered the protest to be broken up because far more than the agreed 200 people had come to the Malieveld area near the city’s main railway station.

In total, 20 people were arrested. Several demonstrators made formal complaints about the police behaviour. All the complaints have now been assessed, the public prosecutor said.

The public prosecution department has not yet decided whether or not to press charges against the man who was hit on the head. He reportedly ran after police horses and threw a car jump lead, he had been waving at the police.

Amnesty International also called for an investigation into the way police broke up the demonstration, saying the video footage shows a disproportionate use of violence.


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