Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunications (Ministry of TEATT), Ludmila de Weever, said over the weekend, that the Ministries TEATT, the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour (Ministry of VSA), and the Ministry of Justice, will be stepping up controls of businesses making sure that they are adhering to the COVID-19 public health and safety protocols.
The aforementioned directive came out of an emergency Council of Ministers meeting on Good Friday, April 2nd that was called as a result of a major COVID-19 outbreak in the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao).
The UK variant of the COVID-19 virus is wreaking havoc on the ABC islands, forcing Sint Maarten to place travel restrictions as of April 5 in order to protect the local population. There are various variants circulating on the island including the UK variant. On Saturday, Curacao reported over 4000 active COVID-19 cases, 120 persons hospitalized, 44 of them in the Intensive Care Unit, and a death toll of 44 persons.
Sint Maarten has come a long way since the beginning of the pandemic and the re-opening of our borders and economy nine months ago. Our current active COVID-19 cases have been low, however, there has been a slight increase that is concerning and is being closely monitored by the Ministry of VSA.
As a country, we cannot afford to see cases increase as it will result in having to take serious measures to curtail a full-blown outbreak which would in the end impact the economy. Therefore, strict compliance and adherence to the public health and safety measures by the business community are needed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even though we have the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, the pandemic is still here, and therefore as a community, we cannot become complacent. Despite the vaccine, we need to continue to wear masks in public, wash our hands and social distance.
An increase in active cases in Sint Maarten similar to what is currently taking place in the ABC islands would lead to resources being diverted from the vaccine rollout campaign to managing an outbreak. Sint Maarten does not have the medical capacity to handle a large outbreak. Any resurgence in cases would put in jeopardy a busy upcoming ‘tourism’ summer season and the homeporting of the cruise ship Celebrity Millennium,? Minister of TEATT Ludmila de Weever said over the Easter holiday weekend.
Businesses are expected to follow their COVID-19 Safe Framework business re-opening workplace plans that were submitted last summer regarding operations. Employees and customers are expected to wear masks and practice social distancing. In the case of events, crowd control measures must be in place, and compliance is expected at parties that have been marketed.
Controls will be carried out, and warnings given will be based on the observations of controllers after observing large congregating crowds. Violations of masks wearing, and other health and safety protocols will result in the ultimate closure of the business with potential reversal of opening times.