PHILIPSBURG--Given the drastic rise to 308 active cases of COVID-19 in St. Maarten, attributed to the Delta variant, the Council of Ministers has decided to ban all mass gatherings until further notice. “This decision is one of several measures that have been taken after much deliberation upon receiving the recommendations of our health professionals.”
The government is aware of the protest planned for today, Friday August 13, Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor VSA Omar Ottley said. “Please do not lose focus that this will be considered a mass gathering and I hereby urge all to be mindful of the public health measures of wearing your mask and hand hygiene. If you do not want to be vaccinated, it is your freedom of choice. Nonetheless, preach protocols, preach wearing your masks, preach going for self-checks and preach social distancing.
“Your safety is my number one priority. Although at times actions taken by the Government may not be the popular decision, all measures taken are done in the best interest of the country. Vaccinations are not mandatory in Dutch St. Maarten. However, I encourage those who are not vaccinated to frequently test for your safety. Knowing your status can reduce the spread of the virus.”
The government has implemented public health protocols for public safety over the past 15 months as it reopened after the first wave. Government will continue to promote increased compliance with the existing COVID-19 hygiene protocols such as mask usage, social distancing, handwashing and increased cleaning of touchpoints, Ottley said.
Arrangements are currently being made to put health management systems in place via an app or QR code. Ottley has also signed a memorandum of intent with nightclub and beach bar owners in Dutch St. Maarten. The VSA Ministry continues to work to finalise legislation and policies aimed at safeguarding public health.
The current business closures of 11:00pm implemented on August 8 will be evaluated in two weeks with the possibility to be extended if conditions do not improve.
Government’s Education Continuity Plan will be maintained as is and periodically assessed to ensure safety in schools. Government will also be increasing promotion of the vaccine and the implemented public health protocols. A vaccination pop-up will take place with the vaccination team at a date to be announced. Regular testing is also encouraged as means of knowing your status and protecting those around you.
In the interim, government has approved an alternate isolation facility for low-care COVID-19 patients to lower occupancy at St. Maarten Medical Center. The Council of Ministers has requested and received approval for additional medical personnel to assist the overburdened health professionals and medical staff.
Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs encourages all residents to be extremely vigilant, step up hygiene and mask-wearing protocols, as we all know this protects our loved ones and family.
“Look for the lessons learned over the past year,” Jacobs said. “Keeping St. Maarten safe will depend on each of us working together. COVID-19 is real, 39 families have been dealt a severe blow as they’ve lost a loved one during this pandemic. Each life lost is a wound that will cause pain for years to come. My deepest condolences go out to the families left to mourn.”
She said thousands more still feel the aftereffects of having endured this serious virus. “I caution you to move smart when out in the community and to follow the latest developments via Government’s official platforms. Let’s work together to minimise the spread. It will take all of us.”