The Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor, Omar Ottley stated that while we are noticing an increase in active cases on St. Maarten, the public should not panic. Panic causes sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, and this is when things tend to go out of control.
Minister Ottley urges the public to remember to adhere to the health protocols, administer health passes for establishments, wear your mask, sanitize frequently, limit mass gatherings and get vaccinated / boostered.
"While I am the Minister of Public Health, I am also the Minister of Labor, and with the country facing dire financial strain, we just cannot afford any lock downs. Philipsburg, the hotels, taxi drivers and tour busses are finally thriving again and I have noticed an increase in employment opportunities in St. Maarten.” Stated Minister Ottley.
While the Omicron variant has not yet proven to be as severe as the Delta variant, it spreads at a much faster rate. Minister Ottley encourages everyone to go out and get vaccinated and if you have received two doses; get your booster to ensure maximum protection.
Preliminary laboratory studies demonstrate that three doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine neutralize the Omicron variant (B.1.1.529 lineage) while two doses show significantly reduced neutralization titers. Data indicate that a third dose of BNT162b2 increases the neutralizing antibody titers by 25-fold compared to two doses against the Omicron variant; titers after the booster dose are comparable to titers observed after two doses against the wild-type virus which are associated with high levels of protection (Pfizer.com).
We have all the knowledge and tools we need to get through this without reverting to a lockdown. It is inevitable that we will experience an increase in active cases due to the high infectious rate of the Omicron, but as Minister of Public Health it is also my responsibility to remain transparent with the public. Realistically, it is safe to say that we may be headed towards an endemic state and will soon be transitioning from pandemic to endemic . COVID-19 will be amongst us for a very long time, hence the reason I have decided to not only look at the active cases but to closely link the business life with hospitalizations and the capacity of SMMC.
In the interest of creating a balance with public safety and economic activity/employment we have created the following phases:
There is a hospital capacity of 20 beds for COVID-19 (16 ACF and 4 SMMC)
4 - 7 hospitalizations (20%), scale back to 1 AM. If hospitalization should later decrease to less than 4 for a period of two weeks then the time would be reverted.
8 or more hospitalizations (40%), scale back to 11 PM. If hospitalizations should decrease to less than 8 for a period of two weeks then the time would be adjusted accordingly.
At this moment Omicron exhibits a 1% hospitalization rate and thankfully no deaths.