PHILIPSBURG--Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor VSA Omar Ottley says the scaling back of business hours will be linked to COVID-19 hospitalisations.
He said that while we are noticing an increase in active cases in St. Maarten, the public should not panic. “Panic causes sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, and this is when things tend to go out of control.” This was announced in a press release from the ministry on Monday.
Ottley said that in the interest of creating a balance between public safety and economic activity/employment the ministry has created two phases.
Phase one: four to seven hospitalisations (20 per cent), scale back to 1:00am. If hospitalisation should later decrease to less than four for a period of two weeks, the time would be reverted.
Phase two: eight 8 or more hospitalisations (40 per cent), scale back to 11:00pm. If hospitalisations should decrease to less than eight for a period of two weeks, the time would be adjusted accordingly.
There is hospital capacity of 20 beds for COVID-19, 16 in the Auxiliary Care Facility and four in St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC). According to the release, at this moment the Omicron variant exhibits a one per cent hospitalisation rate and thankfully no deaths. As of December 27 there are two hospitalisations recorded, and active cases total 136.
Ottley urges the public to remember to adhere to the health protocols, administer health passes for establishments, wear your mask, sanitise frequently, limit mass gatherings and get vaccinated/boostered.
“While I am the Minister of Public Health, I am also the Minister of Labor, and with the country facing dire financial strain, we just cannot afford any lockdowns. Philipsburg, the hotels, taxi drivers and tour buses are finally thriving again and I have noticed an increase in employment opportunities in St. Maarten,” said Ottley.
While the Omicron variant has not yet proven to be as severe as the Delta variant, it spreads at a much faster rate. Ottley encourages everyone to go out and get vaccinated and if you have received two doses; get your booster to ensure maximum protection.
Preliminary laboratory studies demonstrate that three doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine neutralise the Omicron variant (B.1.1.529 lineage) while two doses show significantly reduced neutralisation titres. Data indicate that a third dose of BNT162b2 increases the neutralising antibody titres by 25-fold compared to two doses against the Omicron variant.
Titres after the booster dose are comparable to titres observed after two doses against the wild-type virus which are associated with high levels of protection (Pfizer.com).
“We have all the knowledge and tools we need to get through this without reverting to a lockdown. It is inevitable that we will experience an increase in active cases due to the high infectious rate of the Omicron, but as Minister of Public Health it is also my responsibility to remain transparent with the public.
“Realistically, it is safe to say that we may be headed towards an endemic state and will soon be transitioning from pandemic to endemic. COVID-19 will be amongst us for a very long time, hence the reason I have decided to not only look at the active cases but to closely link the business life with hospitalisations and the capacity of SMMC,” said Ottley.