Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA): Pandemic Response Management Letter for protected areas in the Dutch Caribbean

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The Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) has just released a Pandemic Response Management Letter which will serve as a blueprint for the Dutch Caribbean Park Management Organizations to recognize, respond to and protect their staff and visitors to protected areas against current and potential pandemic outbreaks. The Management Letter outlines suggested protocols for social distancing, sanitation and other ways to respond to emergency situations related to health emergencies.

2020 has been an interesting year, with the world facing unprecedented challenges between the affects of climate change and the global pandemic caused by the Novel Corona Virus and the COVID-19 disease it causes. These issues have brought to light the need for a rigorous emergency response plan which Park Management Organizations can use in order to safeguard their staff and visitors which may visit the protected areas they manage. With this in mind DCNA has just released its Pandemic Response Management Letter to serve as a framework for each Park Management Organization to design their own, tailored emergency response plan.

COVID-19 has been unique in how widespread and devastating the infection has been. The uncertainty surrounding this virus has led to the need for social distancing and minimization of travel. This drop in tourism has been difficult, especially for the Dutch Caribbean. Interactions between the public and staff of Park Management Organizations varies between the six Dutch Caribbean islands, however, with the implementation of safety protocols and procedures, risks can be minimized.

The Pandemic Response Management Letter will provide each island with the tools needed to properly recognize and respond in emergency situations. Each outbreak will have its own unique set of conditions, so the guidelines provided will need to be tailored appropriately. The key to an effective response is for a timely acknowledgment of the problem and to react as swiftly and efficiently as possible.

The objective of creating an emergency response plan is to ensure that Park Management Organizations on all six Dutch Caribbean islands are comfortable recognizing issues and reacting appropriately, especially under pressure. With pandemics, time is often the most important factor with an immediate response potentially saving lives and limiting the spread of a contagion. The blueprints of a pandemic response can also be useful in a variety of other emergency situations so having clear, well thought out protocols can be an important asset in both current and future emergency response.

Exchanging knowledge and experiences between the nature parks of the Dutch Caribbean is very valuable and one of the ways DCNA is assisting to strengthen their activities. Together as a network Park Management Organizations are stronger in the common goal of safeguarding nature in the Dutch Caribbean. Lessons learned by the parks have been incorporated within Pandemic Response Management.

It is recommended that each Park Management Organization take these recommendations into consideration and use them to draft a plan more specific to their situation. Pandemic preparedness is not a quick process as it will require careful planning between all stakeholders and will involve community buy in. Therefore, it is also important to promote community involvement to optimize local knowledge, expertise, resources and networks.

To stay up to date on this and various other activities related to nature conservation in the Dutch Caribbean please follow along on the websites and social media accounts for your local national park authorities as well as DCNA. When in doubt, please don’t hesitate to contact your local park authority for the latest updates.

For more information, please find the full report here: https://www.dcnanature.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/DCNA-PandemicResponse.pdf.