PHILIPSBURG--Amid persistent and widespread rumours of another impending lockdown and reports of panic buying, Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs announced on Friday night that the country will not return to a 24-hour curfew. However, businesses will be subject to greater scrutiny and more inspections.
Jacobs’ announcement came a day after the country’s number of active coronavirus cases shot up by 15 to 18 cases. It has since doubled and stood at 36 cases on Sunday afternoon.
The Council of Ministers met on Saturday in an urgent meeting with key emergency support function (ESF) coordinators to discuss the “rapid and alarming” increase of coronavirus cases.
This workgroup consisted of ESF-5 (police and the justice system), ESF-6 (public health), ESF-7 (social development), ESF-9 (general affairs) and ESF-10 (tourism, economic affairs, transport and telecommunication).
“This workgroup will be chaired and supported by ESF-9 and will coordinate the COVID-19 Enforcement Team to work together in order to carry out the necessary inspections aimed at ensuring that the guidelines and all protocols are adhered to,” said the Ministry of General Affairs. The workgroup – called the COVID-19 Multidisciplinary Task Force – was “formalised” in a ministerial regulation on Saturday.
Despite these developments, Jacobs said on Sunday that the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) has not been activated.
While no lockdown has been ordered, Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Ludmila de Weever and Justice Minister Anna Richardson said on Sunday that their ministries will be carrying out more inspections of businesses and strictly enforcing public health measures.
De Weever said government will be “scaling back” businesses allowed to open in Phase Four of the country’s economic re-opening plan. These include bars, night clubs, dance establishments, adult entertainment establishments, casinos and market vendors, as well as large public gatherings. However, these businesses have not been ordered to close.
Government said these businesses will only be allowed to operate if “proper social distancing can be enforced according to the protocols as per the mandatory guidelines published in the economic re-opening plan.”
“The protocols also include establishing a maximum number of patrons allowed in these high-risk establishments at one time, as well as submission of operational plans from the business or organiser for approval by the COVID-19 Multidisciplinary Task Force,” said government.
De Weever did not disclose whether the country would still open to the United States on August 1 as scheduled, given these developments.
“These measures are deemed necessary based on the current developments and increase in positive COVID-19 cases, which are significantly related to lack of adherence to and enforcement of the guidelines in these settings. Government, businesses and the general public have a role to play in this. Members of our community are hereby advised to avoid large gatherings and being in close contact with persons whose status is unknown,” said government.
“The choices we make will determine how quickly we recover from this latest resurgence within our community. Government will continue to take all measures necessary to keep the general public informed and encourages all to take the measures seriously as we work to rebuild our economy and ensure the livelihood of our people in these challenging times.
“We want, at all costs, to avoid another economic shutdown. So, we implore all to adhere strictly to the mandatory guidelines as prescribed,” said Jacobs on Saturday.