~To allow shops to focus on delivering to persons who cannot leave homes~
PHILIPSBURG--Persons in possession of a disaster pass and emergency workers, who are allowed to be on the road as they are working, will be able to shop directly at supermarkets and grocery stores.
Prime Minister and Chairperson of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Silveria Jacobs said this was done to enable supermarkets and grocery stores to focus on deliveries to persons who cannot leave their homes.
Disaster pass holders and emergency workers, who are making use of this option will be required to adhere to strict hygiene requirements such as wearing a mask and sanitizing their hands when entering and leaving supermarkets. Grocery stores and consumers are forbidden from selling or purchasing alcohol during the remainder of the lockdown. To ensure that persons remain in their neighborhoods, there will be heightened police presence at round-a-bouts.
Jacobs said many more grocery stores went on board on Saturday including some smaller grocery stores operated by Chinese nationals. These supermarkets are now taking orders from residents for deliveries. For the safety and security of those who making deliveries, Jacobs urged grocery stores to get in contact with the Department of Economic Affairs to enlist the support of taxi and bus drivers in their respective areas, who will be able to assist with deliveries. Arrangements are also being made for key persons within the community to assist with deliveries from neighbourhood grocery stores. These persons will be required to wear a mask. They will also have access to gas stations to facilitate deliveries within their respective neighbourhoods. With taxi and bus drivers along with community leaders in the respective districts, working together, the delivery of grocery items to persons who order, will be better facilitated in a timelier manner.
The PM said she has seen reports in other countries where orders take up to a month to be delivered. Ordering groceries is something that St. Maarten is engaging in for the first time and she called for patience amongst consumers as work is being done to assist everyone.
Pass holders and emergency workers include medical health professionals, pharmacy workers, emergency services, the police, ambulance and fire departments, White and Yellow Cross Care Foundation (WYCCF) staffers Collective Prevention Services (CPS) and all other workers who are allowed to be out.
Jacobs wants the lockdown to remain for at least the full two-week period to enable authorities sufficient time to properly assess who is COVID-19 positive and see how to best mitigate the spread of the highly infectious virus. She said sometimes “what you want is not always achievable in the time that you want.”
Authorities want to continue its testing of more persons. However, this cannot be done until more test kits are available. “In meantime, we will isolate as many suspected cases as possible to mitigate them infecting others. As soon as we are able to isolate all who have COVID 19 or those with COVID-19 symptoms, only then would we be able to slowly release the lockdown and allow persons to go out.”
One idea on the table is allowing persons with vehicles to travel and do a curb side pickup of the foods they order. Jacobs said some supermarkets are against this as they do not want crowds of persons outside their establishments. The PM said she will announce when this will be possible. “As we move into next week, if things are calming down, if by Wednesday, we can deliver food to the majority of persons, who had been ordering online, we will look into going into another phase,” she said.
In the meantime, a notice received from the Department of Communications(DCOMM) on Saturday said information that had been circulating on social media that normal operations for supermarkets will resume is fake. DCOMM urged to not participate in spreading fake news.