Health pass goes into effect on Fri.

   Health pass goes  into effect on Fri.

VSA Minister Omar Ottley during Wednesday's press briefing. 

 

Health pass goes

into effect on Fri.

PHILIPSBURG--Partygoers will be required to either show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or provide a negative test result done within 48 hours in order to enter nightlife businesses as of this Friday, when the health pass goes into effect.

  Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor VSA Omar Ottley on Wednesday alluded to the Memorandum of Intent (MOI) inked with nightlife businesses, which stipulates that patrons will need to show proof of vaccination or a negative test no older than 48 hours. He said a laboratory in Simpson Bay will be conducting testing until 11:00pm for persons who want to participate in nightlife activities. He said also that St. Maarten Laboratory Services (SLS) has reduced its pricing of antigen testing, noting that he hopes “we can head in this direction.” SLS told this newspaper that the cost of its antigen test has dropped from US $65 to US $45.

  “There will be a two-phased approach. We will have another time extension in the near future and after that, once everything is in place, everyone is compliant with the health pass and we see that the number [of COVID-19 cases – Ed.] remain contained, then we will absolutely go back to normal, once we see that compliance is held and everything is being maintained,” Ottley told reporters during the live Council of Ministers press briefing.

  Ottley said the COVID-19 spread is currently contained and expressed hope that the country continues to head in this direction. He urged everyone to continue with the protocols and continue to promote either vaccination or a healthy immune system.

  As it relates to the MOI, on August 6, Ottley met and signed the agreement with nightlife establishments to implement the health pass measure. The meeting was with nightlife business owners, beach bar owners, directors and managers.

 By signing, the MOI parties “acknowledge and underline the need for measures for establishments to regulate business operations in a safe and responsible manner in order to maintain public health and safety."

  At the time, parties agreed to scale back their business for a period of two weeks during which arrangements can be made to put in place health management systems via an app or QR codes.

  To operate at full capacity after this period, nightlife establishments will be required to check whether patrons are vaccinated or not. Those who are not vaccinated would need to present a valid polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test or an antigen test.

  According to the Memorandum of Intent, night establishments will only be allowed to operate at full capacity if 100 per cent of visitors are vaccinated or if 75 per cent of the clientele is vaccinated, and 25 per cent of the clientele can present a negative PCR or antigen test, or if tested negative upon entry of the establishment.

 Establishments also need to maintain hygienic protocols concerning sanitation at all times. When clientele and staff fulfil the required criteria, no mask wearing or social distancing will be mandatory. Parties agreed in the memorandum, to explore the usage of QR codes via an app; agreed to be willing to inform the public in a timely manner, and understood that authorities can verify the situation in their respective establishments during opening nights or events, and understood that their establishments can be closed if they are in breach. Parties can also implement incentives for staff to get vaccinated.

 Regular capacity requirements and safety protocols and regulations will apply to nightlife establishments that do not want to implement the measures.

  The Digital COVID Certificate (DCC), an EU initiative launched in St. Maarten at the beginning of September, is intended to help citizens move freely and safely within the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic. The EU Digital COVID Certificate contains a QR code with an encrypted signature to protect against falsification.

 When the certificate is checked, the QR code is scanned and the signature verified. The personal data of the certificate holder does not pass through the gateway, as this is not necessary to verify the digital signature.

  The DCC comes in three forms and is proof that a person has either a vaccination certificate or has been vaccinated against COVID-19. The other 2 forms are a test certificate – showing that a person received a negative test result and a proof of recovery certificate – showing that a person has recovered from COVID-19. The latter forms will launch later this year.

The Digital COVID Certificate can be used digitally or on paper format. It has a secured QR code that will only be assigned to you. It is free of charge and is valid in all EU countries. Non-EU countries are also joining this initiative, and it is being considered by the USA as well.

  To sign up for a DCC; go to https://services.sintmaartengov.org/. No application (app) is needed for the process. After signup, the DCC will be sent as a PDF attachment to the email address provided. The digital or printed format can be presented for scanning. A customized SXM wallet App will be coming online soon for the convenience of persons wanting to store multiple certificates digitally in a central location.