Week in Review: March 14 – March 20, 2020; Vol. 29 No. 251 – 256

Week in Review: March 14 – March 20, 2020; Vol. 29 No. 251 – 256

Photo caption: Three cruise ships were in port on Tuesday, March 17, to take on fuel and provisions. No one on board these vessels were allowed to disembark.

** Due to an error, Saturday's Week in Review was not updated. Apologies for the inconvenience.

The news last week was dominated by postponements, cancellations, closures, limited opening hours, and other limitations in connection to the COVID19 pandemic and necessary precautions, on both sides of the island. Some banks announced relief efforts. For any services needed, consult the relevant organisation’s website, or call.

 

SATURDAY

 

‘WWR director did

not create this culture’

The five-day hearings in the “Larimar” investigation concluded Friday morning with attorney Robbert de Bree pleading for director of construction company Windward Roads (WWR) J.B. (56). In his client’s defence, the lawyer referred to St. Maarten’s “island culture,” with “unhealthy” power among public administrators and a “small group of people who have a say in everything.” B. is charged with payment of in total some US $1,847,685.24 to former MP and co-suspect in this case Theodore Heyliger. He also allegedly made repairs to Heyliger’s private home, to be awarded one or more public construction projects and allegedly falsified invoices to pay a number of companies for fictitious work on behalf of WWR. The prosecutor demanded 12 months. The judge will give his decisions in all Larimar cases on April 24.

Lawsuit overcompensation

rejected by court

The Administrative Court notified its decision to the Collectivité on Tuesday, March 10, informing it that its request for fair compensation for expenses incurred during the transfer of competences to the Collectivité in 2007, has been rejected. The Collectivité maintains it is owed 71 million euros with interest in global compensation backdated since the transfer of competences for installation of the new Collectivité in 2007, arguing that the State grossly underestimated the amounts required due to the calculation method used.

SMMC precautionary

measures: COVID-19

St. Maarten Medical Center’s (SMMC’s) Outbreak Management Team (OMT) enacted precautionary measures to limit the possible exposure to COVID-19. SMMC said the expansion of triage activities will be completed before entering certain sections of the hospital such as the Emergency Room and the Outpatient Department. Patient visiting hours are reduced to twice a day, there is only one visitor allowed per patient. No children.

 

MONDAY

 

Germans turned back

due to restrictions 

Four German nationals who arrived in St. Maarten on an Air France Joon flight on Saturday, were restricted from entering St. Maarten and had to return on the same flight due to COVID-19-related travel restrictions for flights from Germany.

St. Barths, St. Martin

schools to close

Govt announced that kindergarten schools, collèges and lycées in St. Martin and St. Barths would close Monday, March 16, until further notice, following the video conference held Sunday morning, and contrary to the decision taken Saturday for schools to remain open.

No US, CA,

UK, IE visitors

All incoming visitors from the USA, Canada, Europe, UK and Ireland will be restricted from entering St. Maarten for two weeks as of Tuesday, March 17, Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) chairperson Prime Minister (PM) Silveria Jacobs said early Sunday, clarifying statements made in her national address on Saturday that all flights from several countries will be cancelled.

Costa Magica in port,

no disembarkation

Cruise ship Costa Magica, which has been turned away from several ports over COVID-19 fears, was in Port St. Maarten only for fuel bunkering and food provisioning purposes. No disembarkation was allowed.

 

TUESDAY

 

Carnival cancelled

St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation announced that Carnival 2020 is cancelled.

SMMC implements

pre-screening procedure

The St. Maarten Medical Center’s (SMMC) Outbreak Management Team (OMT) enacted new precautionary measures to limit the possible exposure to COVID-19: patients and visitors will be subject to pre-screening.

French-side establishments

to close for 15 days

All restaurants and bars and non-essential businesses (shops) on the French side have been ordered closed for a period of 15 days (until March 31) as of midnight Monday in keeping with measures ordered by President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, Préfète Déléguée Sylvie Feucher confirmed Monday afternoon.

Economic impact can

be worse than Irma 

The government of St. Maarten is busy developing an economic stimulus plan to deal with the potential economic fallout from COVID-19, which is spreading rapidly globally resulting in the slowing and shutting down of economies. PM Silveria Jacobs told Members of Parliament (MPs) on Monday that the potential economic impact of the virus, is expected to be “even more devastating to our economy than in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.”

 

WEDNESDAY

 

Suspect arrested

in SZV phishing scam

Social and Health Insurances SZV announced that the United States Department of Justice in collaboration with the United States Secret Service has charged eleven persons for money-laundering and wire-fraud schemes in connection with the international phishing scam in which SZV and other organisations were targeted on March 2. SZV said in a press release “According to U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman, nine of the defendants are in custody, and all 11 face serious federal charges. The suspect that targeted SZV is a US citizen residing in New York. He has been arrested and charged.”

St. Maarten records

first COVID-19 case

A local resident who recently travelled to the UK via Miami has been registered as the country’s first COVID-19 case. PM and EOC chairperson Silveria Jacobs last night urged persons to respect the person’s privacy and not try to identify him, as this could deter other persons from coming forward.

Non-residents can’t

enter St. Maarten

As of 11:59pm Tuesday, persons who are not residents of St. Maarten are not allowed to enter the country. After Sunday, March 22, no one, not even residents, will be allowed entry to the country. 

Schools, businesses

to close for 2 weeks

Schools and businesses providing non-essential services across St. Maarten are required to close for two weeks as of Wednesday, March 18, until April 1, and the Police Force will be taking a zero-tolerance approach to businesses that are not in compliance. The move comes as the country recorded its first confirmed case of the COVID-19.

 

THURSDAY

 

Teen severely injured

in fight, flown abroad

A sixteen-year-old boy J.G. was severely injured in a fight that took place near Milton Peters College around 1:00pm Tuesday. He was later flown to Curaçao for further medical treatment. Newspaper Antillianse Dagblad reported on Wednesday that he was admitted to Curaçao Medical Center despite the shutdown of regular air traffic due to the worldwide COVID-19 crisis. It was “a question of life and death”, said interim Director of the Health Service in Curaçao Melissa Arias.

Teen who shot

tourist is sentenced

The 19-year-old suspect who shot a Canadian tourist who was killed while trying to protect his daughter during an armed robbery in Beacon Hill on June 5, 2019, was sentenced by the Court of First Instance to 18 years on Wednesday. Shooter Guy Mathurin Samedi and his accomplices Keeano Hastin Shandon Richardson (20) and J.S.E. (17) were all convicted for their roles in the fatal robbery.

COVID-19 cases up

to 2 on French side

Another new coronavirus case was announced in French St. Martin by the Préfecture and health agency ARS on Wednesday, bringing the number of cases to two within 24 hours. The patient is a 40-year-old individual living on the island who had returned from a trip to Paris. The individual, whose health is not a concern, is confined to home. There are still two confirmed cases in St. Barths.

Irion, Downes urge

you to use guilders

In an effort to maintain a healthy balance of the country’s foreign exchange reserves during the  crisis, Finance Minister Ardwell Irion and St. Maarten Bankers Association President Derek Downes urged the populace to limit their spending of the US dollar and to spend more of the country’s national currency – guilders.

Govt requests more

ventilators from NL

EOC chairperson PM Silveria Jacobs said Government has put in a request for three additional ventilators from the Netherlands. She added that there are two ventilators available for use at SMMC.

 

FRIDAY

 

Two cases hospitalised

for closer monitoring

While the coronavirus situation is unchanged: two cases in St. Martin and two in St. Barths, the two cases in St. Martin have been hospitalised and placed in a dedicated department for care and closer monitoring, health agency ARS stated.

Port enhances sanitisation,

implements sterile protocol

Port St. Maarten enhanced its sanitisation measures throughout the Dr. A.C. Wathey Cruise and Cargo Facilities via its “Sterile Port Protocol” and is in the process of setting up a Mini-Medical Unit, which will serve to quarantine and/or provide medical examinations if the need arises. Hygienic and security protocols are in place in connection with vessels that have permission to call at the port.

200+ tourists

trying to go home  

Around 222 tourists primarily from the US, Canada and Europe are currently at hotels, resorts and timeshare properties in St. Maarten, trying to return to their respective homelands amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions gripping a number of countries. St. Maarten Tourist Bureau Director May-Ling Chun said the Bureau has been busy over the past days with hotels to assess and put a system in place to communicate with Princess Juliana International Airport and airlines so that hotels can coordinate with guests regarding their return.

MPs pass amendment

to land tax ordinance

MPs on Wednesday unanimously approved the draft national ordinance amending the General National Ordinance on “Land Taxes” (general taxes) in connection with international obligations, with 13 votes for and no votes against. The passing of the law means that St. Maarten will avoid being blacklisted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the European Union (EU).