People of St. Maarten, I hereby address you as Prime Minister and Chair of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), in the final update for today, Saturday, May 30, 2020, as part of the process to keep the community of St. Maarten informed about the latest developments and the Government’s COVID-19 containment, mitigation and response measures.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic, St. Maarten, as well as much of the world, was faced with the development that was unforeseen in its magnitude, size, and impact. One that we could not have ever imagined.
On March 23, 2020, the government began closing its borders to minimize the impact and effects of the COVID-19 virus which was known to be an imported virus. However, at the end of the day, we were able to contain and crush the COVID-19 virus in a relatively short period of time of two months.
Based on the latest available data provided by Collective Prevention Services (CPS) Epidemiologist Dr. Raissa Tjon-Kon-Fat, for yesterday, May 29, 2020, as of 5:00 PM, there are now 60 individuals in self-quarantine, and 8 individuals in self-isolation. To date, 461 persons have been tested, of which 77 were positive, 380 were negative, and three tests are still pending.
Of the 77 positive cases, 60 have recovered. Notably, St. Maarten has had only one positive case in the last 33 days, and no new cases in the last 20 days which is almost three weeks. Presently, there are two active cases on St. Maarten.
As of May 29th, 2020, there are no COVID-19 suspected or confirmed patients admitted to SMMC, including the Mobile Medial Pavilion (MMP) and the ICU Tent. St. Maarten currently has about 900 samples of antibodies tests (PCR tests), and we look forward as soon as the labs have been certified this process that this will also continue and more information about this will be provided by Ministry VSA.
In the coming days, St. Maarten is expected to be free of COVID-19. To arrive at this point, it was imperative that we were forced to take stringent and decisive measures of closing down our economy. Flights, cruise ships, vessels, etc. were no longer allowed to enter St. Maarten, for visitors nor for residents. In addition, to prevent and minimize the problem, we also had to go towards a complete lockdown of our domestic economy by not allowing businesses to be open, besides the essential services. We are slowly allowing residents and visitors to re-enter under very strict conditions.
These measures, although not popular, were necessary in order to ‘bend or flatten the curve!’ However, these measures proved to be successful at the end of the day. Naturally, one of the major consequences of COVID-19, throughout the world, is that our interdependence and reliance upon each other have shown how vulnerable, reliant, and dependent we are upon each other as a small economic society.
The combination of taking Public Health Measures to protect our country and the economic impact of closing our economy, internationally and domestically, has resulted in a win for the health side of our country, but a loss for the economic side of the equation. This is and has been true for all countries going through this dilemma currently on a worldwide basis and some are still going through it.
In a full EOC meeting held yesterday, Friday, May 29, together with some members of the Council of Ministers and key ESF coordinators, it was decided to de-activate the EOC as de-escalation continues, as this has come full force we have not had to backtrack at any time thus far and phase 3 has now started today.
As a matter of fact, phase 3 has been accelerated and started today Saturday – and we are now entering the stage of economic recovery for St. Maarten. Additionally, the EOC and Council of Ministers agree that the spread of the COVID-19 virus has now been contained and neutralized. As we transition into our ‘new normal‘, the responsibility of each Ministry now lies in the hands of the respective Ministers to ensure that there is no reoccurrence of a second wave of the COVID-19 virus.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the 11 Emergency Support Functions (ESF) Coordinators, their support teams, Disaster Coordinator Clive Richardson, the EOC Back Office, as well as His Excellency drs. Eugene B. Holiday, our Public Prosecutor Mirjam Mol, and the Dutch Military for their unwavering commitment in shaping the decisions that enabled St. Maarten to collectively contain the spread of COVID-19.
I’d also like to thank my support staff for their tireless efforts in ensuring that I was equipped to take all the necessary decisions and communicate them to the public.
The Council of Ministers have been diligently preparing for the recovery stage for some time now and will continue to build upon the exceptional work of the EOC and their support teams who as they of course form part of the mistrial teams as well. We must move from our disaster mode to recovery mode.
As mentioned previously, COVID-19 has impacted in particular, tourism-based economies the most and throughout the world, St. Maarten being no exception to this rule. Tourism economies are still very much dependent on the health situation of other countries COVID-19 to be under control before we can feel comfortable opening our borders to the world and traveling Public. A multi-disciplinary group from the EOC will also continue to remain available to the Council of Ministers should they require additional advice.
As you know the guidelines have been put forth and approved and will continue to be looked at in terms of feasibility and applicability as we move forward.
Changes to Phase 3 of the Ministerial Regulation May 29, 2020 No. 2020/0324
The EOC advised and the Council of Ministers decided that movement should be allowed on Saturday, May 30, 2020, and that the curfew hours be adjusted from 11:00 PM until 5:00 AM. Additionally, businesses will be allowed to open on Sunday as well in accordance with the Ministerial Regulation signed on May 29, 2020, 0324 implementing the changes to Phase 3 which now begins today Saturday, May 30, 2020.
I know many woke up wondering, but we had to make sure in publishing it first, which was published today, and now everyone is aware that Saturday and Sundays are now open days as well. There was much debate about whether tomorrow would be open or not and so I would like to tell the people of St. Maarten it will not be feasible to open if you stay at home. It is still your prerogative to do your shopping and other essential services from Monday to Saturday even though some places will be opening prior to the lockdown on a Sunday. I believe we have learned a lot of lessons through this COVID-19 reality and the value of family and spending as much time as possible together should remain our focus even as we move forward in reopening our businesses.
We will continue as a Council of Minister on these topics and hope that people moving around on St. Maarten will continue to use their good judgment in order to remain safe.
Continue keeping yourself safe against COVID-19 by:
– Practicing proper mask usage
– Remaining socially distanced when in public: keeping 2 meters or 6 feet away from other persons
– Washing hands often with soap and water
– Covering your cough in a proper manner
– Sneezing in a napkin and disposing of it
– Limiting physical contact (handshaking, hugging, kissing)
I believe that we have learned some key messages from this experience and naturally, it has revealed some secrets to success for any future developments.
God forbid! We have learned that going forward we ALL, as a community, must plan and prepare for the future, and we know now we are facing the start of the hurricane season. So, preparations will be key to our survival. It is imperative that the measures and the guidelines that have been put into place for your safety continue to be followed.
The measures of Social Distancing, Wearing of Masks (esp. when Social Distancing is not possible), and the frequent handwashing and/or sanitizing. These measures are what has brought our COVID-19 situation under control and it is the continuation of these practices and even if someone returns and is
infected will keep it from spreading to others. We really would like to see that we can reopen out the economy and still maintain a COVID-19 free St. Maarten.
The government is, therefore, encouraging our Private Sector to take the initiative and lead to looking for ways to produce locally and/or export the goods made in St. Maarten or export services. This will and is urgently needed to sustain, protect, and safeguard our economy and livelihood.
As I have said in many speeches before, we must find ways to follow our dreams and find ways to create security and safety nets so never again would we find ourselves in this position. People of St. Maarten, there are more challenges ahead of us. However, the one thing that remains is that we are strong, and we are resilient people, and as a fact we define resiliency and like always we will rise again. Let us continue this great work that we have done over the past three months and continue to stay COVID-19 free.
I would like to remind you about this vision that I have for St. Maarten that we move from where we are, to being a multi-pillar economy, allowing for each and every one of us affording maximum growth where opportunities exist that empower each and every citizen of St. Maarten with your determination and strength of mind and your actions that would allow you to progress to the next level. There is no limit to the progress that we can realize if we only work together.
St. Maarten is a place where dreams can be achieved.
Be Blessed St. Maarten!