Ottley warns of third COVID-19 wave, stricter measures to be implemented

Ottley warns of third COVID-19 wave,  stricter measures to be implemented

~ Vaccinations programme ends August ~

PHILIPSBURG--Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor VSA Omar Ottley warns of a third possible wave of the COVID-19 virus in St. Maarten

  He was joined by Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Ludmila De Weever in a national address on Thursday.

  In his address, Ottley took note of the sharp increase in the number of active COVID-19 cases this week. He warned that St. Maarten would see a third wave of the virus if this trend were to continue.

  He said there are currently 29,000 unvaccinated persons. “The current vaccination coverage is way too low to prevent mass hospitalisation or even death,” he added.

  Ottley announced that the vaccination programme will come to an end on August 1.

  He urged the public to get vaccinated and to take all necessary precautions. “It is imperative, it is important that we make it to herd immunity, I am asking, I am pleading with the public to get vaccinated,” he said.

  Ottley added that the ministry is forced to implement stricter measures and will increase inspections of businesses and nightlife establishments.

  In her address De Weever said that St. Maarten’s economy has been steadily recovering in comparison to one year ago. “Hotels’ occupancy rates are rising and the foundation for the return of the cruise industry has been laid. At this juncture, however, we cannot risk undoing all the hard work done so far by letting our guard down,” she warned.

  She said the noticeable increase in active COVID-19 cases in the past three days, may be an indication that St. Maarten is heading towards a more serious wave. “We do not want the situation to deteriorate, we cannot afford for the situation to deteriorate,” she said.

  De Weever called on the business community to also step up their public health and safety measures. “This is no time become complacent. We need everyone in our community to work together,” she said.

  She forewarned that if the number of COVID-19 cases does not decline the ministry may take harsher measures to reverse the opening hours of nightlife and to potentially put stricter measures in place.

  She said that when the TEATT Ministry decides to curb opening hours it is done with public safety and the general well-being of all persons in mind. “That well-being includes protecting our steady but fragile economic recovery as well. We had a measured response with respect to hindering a full-blown outbreak during the second wave last year and that response had an impact on the cases at the time.

  “As I said before: the country, the economy and business community cannot afford going through a full-blown outbreak at this time,” she warned.

  She said that it is better to take appropriate measures now rather than having to take more severe measures later. She said any resurgence in the number of cases will also put the upcoming summer tourism season at risk.

  “I urge all businesses to continue requiring your staff to wear a mask, ask customers to wear a mask, sanitise your hands and take all precautions that we all know too well,” she said. “The vaccine offers a path back to normalcy and I encourage all of St. Maarten to go out and get vaccinated.”

  In closing, she said controllers will continue to go out, not only for noise pollution, but also for safety procedures.