Collectivité does not envisage opening schools any time soon

Collectivité does not envisage  opening schools any time soon

MARIGOT--President Daniel Gibbs has said he does not expect schools to reopen in St. Martin within the time frame indicated by President of the Republic – from May 11 onwards – after meeting with education officials on the matter.

  “The Collectivité intends to be very careful on this subject and does not foresee reopening the schools after having consulted with all the education representatives,” said Gibbs during Monday’s Facebook briefing. “We must have assurance that all conditions of safety and hygiene are met for children and school supervisors.

  “We have consulted with the school transporters and Caisse Territorial des Oeuvres Scolaires (CTOS) last week and this morning we met with education representatives and parent unions to discuss this matter. We discussed the specific situation of our territory and have decided to take the time that is needed to reflect before making any hasty decision.

  “The educational and health issues that emerged from this meeting prove the complexity of a decision that could have important consequences. We will have to consider a return to school, that is certain. But we will not rush things. A realistic decision has to be taken, with the sole aim of guaranteeing security for all.”

  Gibbs said the first priority is to understand what methods and resources the Government will put in place in order for Collectivités to reopen schools in the best sanitary conditions.

  “We will not put our children, the educational community and all families of this island in danger because of hasty decisions. The safety and hygiene conditions must be met first. It is our duty to consider re-opening for activity… however, we must realise that this re-opening will be radically different from the life we once had.”

  On a question to know if there is a timeline for re-opening restaurants and shops, he said it is still too early to decide on a schedule.

  “These are questions that we are already reflecting on. We are in contact regularly with the various employers' unions and socio-professional associations. A decision will be defined in consultation with these organizations.”

  On the Collectivité’s wish to conduct large-scale testing, he said tests will be overseen by regional health agency ARS and carried out by medical professionals according to protocols predefined by doctors. He said the Collectivité is only responsible for purchasing the necessary equipment. Delivery time is expected to be three weeks at best.

  The tests will be prescribed by doctors and may be covered by the Social Security. However, the terms have not been finalised and are not the responsibility of the Collectivité. The Collectivité efforts have been focused on providing the equipment, even though it is the State’s responsibility.

  The equipment comprises PCR screening machines for the labs and the hospital for symptom testing and 2,400 serological kits for antibody testing. The tests will in turn be conducted and coordinated by the local health institutions and medical professionals.

  “This process will be effective as long as it is implemented on a regional scale,” Gibbs added. “However, we will not be able to test everyone immediately without the intervention of the State at some point. The main objective is to identify the symptoms of the virus and to isolate carriers in order to treat them and protect our population. Rest assured we are doing our utmost to put in place this screening process.”

  Regarding public works, Vice-President Steven Patrick and his teams have been on the field. Technical Services are working on building a helicopter ramp to facilitate evacuations from the medical station on the Louis Vanterpool stadium field and working on electrical and plumbing networks in schools and Collectivité buildings.

  As far as waste collection is concerned, rotations are temporarily interrupted in French Quarter due to a technical problem, the glass and plastic recycling contract ended during the confinement so, therefore, a public bid has been issued. Car wrecks were picked up last week in the district of Sandy-Ground and will continue this week in Marigot (Waterfront) followed by French quarter. 70 per cent of essential networks have been buried underground.

  “The Collectivité as a team is more than ever committed to overcome this health crisis and serve you better,” Gibbs said in conclusion. “This week, we unfortunately crossed the 100-patient threshold for COVID-19 on both the French and Dutch side since the beginning of the epidemic. This number is significant for a global population of 100,000 persons.

  “Currently, the situation on the French side is stable which shows that confinement is working. We must, however, remain vigilant and continue to apply all the hygiene measures and above all respect the confinement instructions. There are far too many people on the roads, which is why we are asking you once again to travel when it is only absolutely necessary. The coming weeks will be decisive. Now is not the time to let our guard down. So, continue to be responsible and together fight against the spread of the virus.”