COVID-19 Updates Prime Minister - April 9, 2020

April 10, 2020 9:53 am

People of St Maarten, both here on St. Maarten and abroad, I hereby address you as Prime Minister and Chair of the EOC for today's update on April 9, 2020. As part of the process to keep the community of St. Maarten informed about the latest developments and government’s COVID-19 containment, mitigation and response measures.  

A strategic meeting was held yesterday, April 8, 2020, with the EOC and this morning, April 9. The disaster management team comprised of ESF 4 and the back office, met with ESF 6, the health section, to strategically plan for the roll out of the dashboard and the use of the data in planning an execution of our mitigation strategy, especially during this lockdown. Later this afternoon, a meeting was held with ESF 5 to further update on how the controls and public order was progressing during the lockdown. 

COVID-19 Cases

Today, I would like to start by updating you on the COVID-19 updated cases as of April 9, 4:00 PM.  

  • Self- Quarantine: 133 
  • Self-Isolation: 203 
  • Number Tested: 134 
    • Number Positive: 50 (2 hospitalized)  
      • Male: 34 
      • Female: 16 
    • Number Negative: 82 
    • Number Pending: 1 
    • Inconclusive: 1 
  • Deceased: 8
  • Recovered: 3 

As such, there are 39 active cases of which 2 are in the hospital and 37 are recovering at home or in our isolation facility. We wish to encourage all those currently suffering from the virus to remain indoors and isolated. We also encourage those caring for them to utilize strict hygiene and follow the directions of the Collective Prevention Services (CPS) and your general practitioner.

EOC Dashboard

The EOC Dashboard to record data and statistics is being developed. This will allow us to be able to mitigate and respond better. This dashboard will be launched in the coming week. Data is being digitalized in order to facilitate CPS in its response to COVID-19 to monitor and report the progress of efforts, as well as to provide empirical data to support decisions to be taken by the EOC. 

A Dashboard for the public is also being worked on, which will be a ‘one-stop’ shop for all the information that is COVID-19 related and will be updated daily. The public will be able to go to this site, see the data, changes, as well as everything related to COVID-19 including our Stimulus Plan and all of the press briefings and press statements that have been made.

Delivery Program

Orders from the public must be submitted to the respective grocery stores between 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM. Grocery stores, both large and small, will have the opportunity to deliver between 8:00 AM and 4:00 PM. Between 4:00 PM until 6:00 PM, employees may work on packaging items for the deliveries of the following day. Each grocery store operator needs to ensure that a priority system is implemented to guarantee that priority is given to orders of the basic necessities. All purchases and orders should be on a strict need-basis only.

The government is also busy with its deliveries of food to the most vulnerable. Over 400 persons have received food boxes and I’d like to thank all the front-liners who are working tirelessly to distribute the food boxes despite the negativity within the community that they are facing. Several persons are trying to steal from or attack these persons. This is food that the government of St. Maarten has bought and is distributing to persons on their list beginning with distribution to the most vulnerable. Several persons have registered using the ‘social impact assessment’ form. Those persons will not be receiving food boxes in this first round however, these persons will be included in the second round for the distribution of food boxes. There are over 4000 persons that have registered and we ask for your patients as we assess those with acute needs as well. Persons should ensure that they filled in the address registered at social services and where they are living currently.

COVID-19 Testing

Testing will continue in our efforts to mitigate the spread. CPS will be going out into the community with many volunteers to test, isolate and contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Those persons in vulnerable situations where isolation is not possible will be isolated in our facility to further mitigate the spread as well.

Ministerial Consultations

We also continue with weekly consultations on a Ministerial level, as well as with Prime Ministers, Ministers of Public Health within the Dutch Kingdom and also with the Minister of Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations (BZK) Raymond Knops. I would like to thank all the Ministers of Public Health for their cooperation and support in getting the much-needed equipment and medical personnel for St. Maarten. We are ready to deal with any outbreak that may happen on a medical level at this moment.

Liquidity Support

In a meeting held yesterday, April 8, 2020, I was able to update our Kingdom partners on some of the challenges St. Maarten is still experiencing where the number of COVID-19 test kits is concerned and we have been promised assistance in this regard. We also reiterated to our Kingdom partners our preference for a grant instead of a loan, as our liquidity support from after Hurricanes Irma and Maria is already a loan also seeing that the Board of Financial Supervision (CFT) and the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) have advised that this should also be the case. Our Caribbean kingdom countries CFT and CFATF representatives believe that Caribbean countries and islands in the Dutch Kingdom should be given the opportunity to have “no strings” attached to the liquidity support in order to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Kingdom Council of Ministers met today and I was updated that the liquidity support for 2019 has been transferred to St. Maarten and has been received by the Central Bank of Curacao and St. Maarten. This is not the liquidity support that is related to the COVID-19 request. That request is still being handled and totals 245 million over a period of 3 months to assist not only, persons who have lost their jobs but businesses as well in order for them to keep their employees.

Border Movement & Dutch Royal Military Assistance

Several persons have complained that it is a challenge crossing to the French side of the island. I’d like to reiterate that both French and Dutch St. Martin are working together on the controls and are utilizing the same form for cross-border movement. That is ‘Form C’ on the Dutch side and the ‘Form of Exception’ on the French side of the island. Both forms are valid for both sides of the island for work, caring for the elderly or emergency purposes that cannot wait. The French form is signed by the Prefet Sylvie Feucher and the Dutch form is signed either by Minister of VSA Richard Panneflek, Police Chief Carl John or by my person. Some forms are also being signed by the Minister of Justice Anna Richardson.

Minister of Justice Anna Richardson has requested for the St. Maarten Police to receive the assistance of more Royal Dutch Military (Koninklijke Marechaussee). This request is being processed and we expect that we will have some more assistance on the ground to assist our police force in keeping law and order. Any abuse of the waivers will not be tolerated and the inspectors of businesses and police will carry out inspections. Should any grocery stores be in violation of this, the store will be shut down and fined. 

The Police reported that 80-90% of the population are complying with the lockdown measures, however, there are still youngsters within the community who are behaving very dangerously on motorcycles. Therefore, I ask all parents to keep your children at home, no matter their age. Everyone is expected to remain at home and within the confines of their yard.

In closing, I’d like to remind the people of St. Maarten why we are doing this. We are facing a pandemic of worldwide proportions. Everyone is feeling it all around the world. We must do our part as citizens of St. Maarten to curb the spread of this virus. I ask each and everyone, if you have symptoms that are COVID-19 related, please call CPS at 914 and register. Please also notify your doctor as they are assisting the government in swabbing their patients and following up to ensure that they are doing well while isolating at home. Those in quarantine are also asked not to venture outside. Pray, reflect, stay inside, take care of your family, spend lots of time with them doing all the wonderful things that you now have the time to do and enjoy. You are safe at home. It is a difficult time, however, we are strong people and we will get through this together. The government is doing all within our power to ensure that the people of St. Maarten are safe but you as St. Maarten people must do what it takes to keep yourselves safe as well.

Tomorrow, April 10, is Good Friday, a National Holiday, as such, no deliveries will be made nor on Easter Sunday, so I am hoping that if you have and your neighbor doesn’t have, that you would share. We expect each and everyone to behave as good citizens of St. Maarten and ensure that people are happy, healthy, and safe. For those with religious and spiritual beliefs in our communities, I call on you to pray. I call on you for a moment of silence for the daily departed; those from COVID-19 and those that are not COVID-19 related. Every life is valuable and we hope to be able to save more lives as our days go by.

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Continue to spread the love that I'm seeing out there and encourage others to keep up their good spirits. Remember that our resilience is not something that we got overnight. It has been handed down by the ancestors and this too shall pass. I would like to wish each and everyone a Happy Easter and as much as we are confined, we are in our home. Share love through social media, share caring through social media, share with your neighbors if you have food and pray that the effects of the COVID-19 virus are less than what we would expect and that we would quickly be over with it and move forward.

God bless you people of St. Maarten. God bless each and every one of us as we reflect and think about this serious season that we are now in. Happy Easter to all!