Sunset scene at Port St. Maarten.
PHILIPSBURG--Port St. Maarten Group (PSG) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Alexander Gumbs on Wednesday said he was concerned with the international spread of the new COVID-19 variant Omicron and is potential impact on the cruise industry and the country’s national recovery.
The Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labor VSA’s department of Collective Prevention Service (CPS) continues with its COVID-19 public vaccination campaign to get as many members as possible of the community vaccinated as soon as possible, in order to protect public health.
The CPS office at the Vineyard Office Complex is open for COVID-19 vaccinations up until and including Thursday, December 23. “I am appealing to our community, especially those who have not gotten vaccinated, to do so in order to protect your health and that of the people around you,” Port St. Maarten CEO Gumbs said. “With the booster vaccine now available, I call on the vaccinated to make sure they get their booster. According to CPS, the booster remains the best protection against the new variant, and is more effective than two doses alone.”
Gumbs added that from a cruise industry perspective, partners are monitoring the developments in the market, especially with the rise of the new variant along with various country lockdowns throughout Europe through
“Some cruise lines already cancelled and/or altered cruises in Europe due to the protocol changes which unfortunately may spill over to the Caribbean,” he said. “There’s unfortunately the possibility of some voyages in the region being cancelled due to the aforementioned circumstances which would be a snag to our recovery.”
Any public health protocol changes in other Caribbean destinations and/or surge in Omicron cases that fall within our cruise ship itinerary, would have a negative impact for the destination and the region as whole, Gumbs noted. “The industry in general has increased its protocol levels in terms of testing, mask usage and social distancing. It’s our hope that this doesn’t affect the upcoming booking cycles and or current sailings to destination St. Maarten.”
The CEO of Port St, Maarten emphasized that cruises are still one of the safest vacation options, and passengers are taking advantage of the great prices and service being offered. “Spending by passengers is still being reported at an all-time high by industry partners,” Gumbs said. “We will continue to closely monitor developments and keep the local cruise sector appraised as we move forward into the New Year.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of December 16, 2021, the Omicron variant has been identified in 89 countries across all six WHO regions in the world. The WHO says that Omicron is spreading significantly faster than the Delta variant, with a doubling time between 1.5 to three days.
The main advice coming from the Ministry of VSA CPS is to continue to practice preventive public health measures such as handwashing, wearing your mask in most indoor public places, cough and sneeze etiquette, and social distancing; let fresh air in if you meet indoors; get tested and self-isolate once you test positive.