~ Jacobs urges residents to stay home ~
PHILIPSBURG--The Police Force of St. Maarten will be coordinating controls together with their French St. Martin counterparts starting today, Friday, March 27, to enforce the restricted movement of persons that has been implemented as a preventative measure to avoid the further spread of the coronavirus COVID-19.
Persons who fail to follow direct instructions by the police to return to their homes during the controls will be fined according to article 3 of the General Police Ordinance, Prime Minister and Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Chairperson Silveria Jacobs said in a live address broadcast on social media last night.
Controls by the French-side Gendarmes have been ongoing to inhibit unnecessary movement in French St. Martin. The restrictions require all persons to be in possession of a document that authorises them to travel in and around the French side and even to the Dutch side, and defines whether it is work-related or related to an urgent matter (which shouldn't exceed one hour).
The restriction applies to French citizens who work or live on the Dutch side as well as Dutch citizens who work or live on the French side.
“Seeing that the spread of the virus has increased drastically in French St. Martin in the past few days, and local transmission is highly likely, Dutch residents are strongly advised not to venture to the French side unless strictly necessary for work purposes or in case of emergencies.
“While this may seem restrictive to us as St. Maarteners, as many family ties exist between our two sides, this measure is for your own health and safety, and the health and safety of your family and the rest of our community,” Jacobs said.
She said that for the past few weeks, persons were asked to heighten their awareness of ways to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
“We have stressed on the practice of proper hygiene, enforced school closures, placed restrictions on non-essential businesses, and minimised business hours, all with the intention to minimise movement. While no curfew yet exists prohibiting movement of the population, each and every citizen is asked to stay at home as much as possible in order to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.”
Jacobs said the police force has commended residents and business community for their compliant behaviour thus far and she encourages everyone to comply with these latest measures as well.
“Collective Prevention Services (CPS) and our health care system, while doing their utmost to serve the people of St. Maarten, remain at limited capacity which will not be able to sustain a major outbreak if persons continue to go about their lives as usual. Persons who have travelled within the past three weeks should have registered with CPS by now (by calling 914), and should be in self-quarantine (no symptoms, but have a travel history),” Jacobs said.
“Persons who have a family member who has travelled in the past three weeks in their home should also be self-quarantined even if you have no symptoms. Do not go to work or venture out into the community.
“Persons who have flu-like symptoms, and no travel history, are not automatically considered suspected COVID-19 patients, but should also self-isolate at home (stay away from their family as well) and monitor their symptoms, in case they may have been exposed to someone who has travelled.
“All of the above persons should contact CPS or their house doctor for information as to whether they should be tested. CPS nurses are currently monitoring over 450 persons who are either in quarantine or isolation. Only those who meet the profile of travel history and flu-like symptoms will be tested right away. Others will continue to be monitored for the event that they may start to show symptoms.
“Persons who are extremely ill with flu-like symptoms, with extreme shortness of breath, requiring hospitalisation, whether they have contacted CPS or not, should call the ambulance and explain the situation to receive urgent care.”
Jacobs said it has been brought to her attention that some persons who have travelled and have flu-like symptoms, or who have been exposed to someone who has, are waiting too long to contact CPS.
“The last few days have seen patients with symptoms and severe shortness of breath along with varying symptoms that may or may not be COVID-19-related calling at the last minute. I once again urge you all to take this virus seriously. Your actions may save your own life or the life of someone you love.
“There is no shame in reporting possible exposure to the virus. Do not be afraid to call your doctor or CPS if you are ill and unsure of what your symptoms may mean. Do not be afraid to treat non-COVID-19 symptoms because you are afraid to go to the doctor or the hospital,” she said.
She urged the public to do their part to keep St. Maarten’s numbers low, by being conscious of their actions and interactions with persons.
“Do not venture out and about unless strictly necessary. Only essential workers should be out and for limited time to allow for essential services to be carried out.
“Our health care professionals and emergency service providers work 24 hours per day. Give them the time and space to do so, as your excessive movement can be a danger to them. Stay off the roads. Spend quality time with family at home and use technology to interact with those you cannot visit at this time.
“Resilience will be shown in our behaviour in challenging times. Show our true resilient spirit by taking care of you, your family and loved ones. Practice proper hygiene and social distancing to see us through these very dark days around the world,” she said.