President Daniel Gibbs speaking during the Facebook briefing on Monday.
MARIGOT--Beaches on the French side will be re-opening on Friday, May 8, subject to confirmation from regional health authority ARS that bathing quality is good following the result of water analysis tests this week, the Collectivité disclosed at Monday’s Facebook briefing.
Only strolling and swimming are allowed. BBQs, picnics and large gatherings are still prohibited.
“We ask that this highly anticipated breath of fresh air be understood and respected by all,” said First Vice-President Valérie Damaseau. “We are counting on everyone’s individual sense of responsibility.”
On the subject of re-opening the schools, the Collectivité has stuck to its position of not being in favour of opening and putting children’s and teachers’ health at risk without all the necessary sanitary and protective measures in place.
However, President Daniel Gibbs acknowledged that distance learning from home has been problematic for some students, and returning to a proper classroom environment to finish the school year in better conditions can be beneficial.
“Parents will also be returning to work, but our position has not changed,” he said. “We are continuing to exchange with our education stakeholders. The safety of our children and students is paramount. The Presidents of Guadeloupe, Martinique and French Guiana were in agreement with us.
“We need the assurance that we will have the necessary resources – masks, gloves, liquid soap, sanitiser gel – and protocols for social distancing in place. The National Education Board is taking care of the protection of teaching staff. It will be difficult to open all schools in May if these needs are not met.
“That’s why we are discussing this with the unions and consulting with the State, the Rectorat, and National Education stakeholders until we reach a joint decision. At this stage, after assessing school buildings and Collectivité staff, we would be able to open first and fifth grade classes in elementary schools, but again this has to be discussed.”
Gibbs stressed that after the triple whammy of Hurricane Irma, COVID-19, and another lost tourism season, reopening the economy gradually from May 11 is vital. The Préfecture has been asked to obtain the guidelines from the State regarding the opening of shops, restaurants and bars. The State is producing a “good practices” guide for all businesses about to re-open.
“It goes without saying that strict health and safety measures from now on must be adopted by all businesses to protect their customers,” Gibbs added. “On this point we will be meeting stakeholders this week.”
Meanwhile, the Préfecture indicated it has started preparations for the exit from lockdown, as announced by the President of the Republic, from May 11. Particular attention is being paid to overseas territories where the approach will be a little different and based on the overall health of the territories.
It said confinement must continue to be respected until May 11. The coming week is a decisive one for the launch of relaxation operations. The population is urged to maintain confinement, social distancing and hygiene measures to prevent a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases. Travel is only permitted for essential reasons.
St. Barths is on course for an exit from lockdown, as no new COVID-19 cases have been recorded there since April 21. Préfète Déléguée Sylvie Feucher is in consultation with the President of the Collectivité of St. Barths and the ARS to develop the exit plan which has been approved by President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron.
Easing of lockdown is also being prepared now for St. Martin, even though the territory still has two active COVID-19 cases. A series of meetings will be held this week, the first on May 5 with principals of private schools, and on May 7 with the Collectivité, National Education representatives, and the ARS, to discuss conditions for re-opening of schools on May 11.
Meetings will also be held to discuss economic recovery, the timetable and conditions for re-opening of shops. Rules for the re-opening of restaurants, cafés and bars have not yet been set.