Stricter measures to be enforced if warranted, businesses violating rules face closure, fines

Stricter measures to be enforced if warranted,  businesses violating rules face closure, fines

TEATT Minister Ludmila de Weever.


~ PM, De Weever call for COVID-19 protocols to be adhered to ~

PHILIPSBURG--While government does not want to go this route, it is prepared to enforce stricter measures and have the country placed under a state of emergency again if this becomes necessary, Prime Minister (PM) Silveria Jacobs warned on Wednesday.

  Collective Prevention Services (CPS) has already recommended that public gatherings be limited to no more than five persons, unless individuals are from the same household, and has also made recommendations to curtail nightlife and to consider implementing a curfew, given the rise in COVID-19 cases, and indicated that the country is currently at “a tipping point” from an epidemiological perspective.

  “We can go to a state of emergency at any time,” Jacobs said as she minced no words in warning the population of the need to continue adhering to existing protocols to curb the spread of the virus in the country as the holiday approaches.

  She said CPS had requested “that we go backward in the opening hours of business. Government is not prepared to do this at this time. However, it is still an option for the future if the spread [of COVID-19 – Ed.] continues to grow. It has been going down and going up. So as long as the recoveries continue and it is not over a certain number per day that are being infected, we will maintain it as is. If we need to go stricter as per the recommendations of CPS, we will do so.”

  Jacobs urged businesses to adhere to the health protocols in place for their safety and that of their employees and clients.

  “Lack of adherence will lead to fines and business closures and I don’t think you would want this in the highest part of the season where you are poised to make the most money. We as government would also want to avoid having to close any businesses and levy heavy fines, but if you leave us no choice in the interest of the protection of our people, this is what we will have to do. …

  “Based on CPS’ advice, if the numbers do not remain controlled they will continue to ask for government to take stricter measures.

  “We know what stricter measures will lead to and we would like to avoid that. So again, through this medium, I’m asking the people of St. Maarten to maintain your own safety at all costs. Always wear a mask. Always, when you see large gatherings, avoid these and even report these to the authorities so that they can be dealt with. Any events or event managers that receive permits must adhere to the COVID-19 regulations as have been stipulated and printed.

  “We do not want to let our guards down and allow this pandemic to take over our society. The virus moves when people move and when they don’t move smartly.”

  Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Ludmila de Weever said businesses are breaking the rules. She urged the population to become whistle-blowers and contact the police and file a complaint if they see businesses not following the rules.

  Businesses in violation will be closed and face a fine of up to NAf. 5,000 or imprisonment of up to four months. The ministerial regulation outlining the rules will be published on government’s and TEATT’s websites so that everyone can be aware of the ramifications of not adhering to the rules.

  “The CPS and epidemiologist and their medical team are advising us. They are giving us advice based on their expertise and we can take their advice under consideration. The Minister of Public Health makes his decisions like that as well as I do.

  “I have to balance health and economy – that has always been my challenge from the very beginning when we came into office during this pandemic and at the end of the day, the one constant that we always ask from March 28 was that the public also take responsibility in their actions.

  “If you want us to become a stricter police state then that will call for a state of emergency, but I believe that we need an opportunity to actually go back to normal to survive, to have businesses survive, to have people earn their incomes. …

  “Humans have a lot of responsibility in this. We all do. We have been doing a good job and that’s why the message every week now has gotten more and more for us to remind the public that we play a huge role rather than just being managed by a very small team of medical staff,” said De Weever.

  According to Jacobs, the COVID-19 numbers have been fluctuating and it has been manageable. However, since the St. Maarten Day celebrations in November, there has been an increase in the positive cases and the expectation around the world is that with Christmas and other holidays the numbers will rise again.

  “That is what we are trying to avoid. So, the businesses, the minister of TEATT can shut them down at any time because they were reopened under these guidelines. … One or two have been identified as clusters and with CPS guidelines, they are allowed to reopen. If they are found not [adhering to the guidelines] they will be shut again, their investments will be lost and their employees will have a hard time to keep afloat. So, we are asking businesses to do what you have to do,” Jacobs urged.

  She asked the population how important “liming” is at this point. “I am going to be really frank now. How important is liming right now?”

  She alluded to talk about a different strain of COVID-19 in England, adding: “We don’t know if that strain is already here. We don’t know. Even though it’s not giving you dire consequences, it’s spreading faster.

  “Our tourists are not the ones experiencing COVID-19. There is community spread. So, if you want tourists to continue to come so businesses can make money, so that taxes can be paid, so we can be less dependent on outside help, we all have to do our part. So, I am hoping that we do not have to lock down this country as the Netherlands is locked down right now, like England is locked down right now. We do not want that. …

  “We don’t want to punish everybody for the negative behaviour of a few, so we will start with closing those who do not adhere. And if that does not work, we do not want to reach the point where we cannot handle the medical outbreak, so we are asking you, if we don’t do what we have to do, it will lead to closures of not just businesses, but of schools as well.

  “It is up to us people of St. Maarten.”

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