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Prime Minister & Chair of the EOC Silveria Jacobs National Address on COVID-19 Developments MARCH 28, 2020

People of St. Maarten, both at home and abroad, I hereby address you, as Prime Minister and Chair of the EOC (Emergency Operations Center), in an update for today Saturday, March 28, 2020.

Today, Saturday, March 28, 2020, I held a meeting with the members and stakeholders of ESF 6 which was led by Public Health. In this meeting, representatives of the SMMC (St. Maarten Medical Centre), the Ambulance Department, and General Practitioners (GPs) were present. ESF 6 Coordinator/Acting Secretary-General and Head of the Public Health Department Fenna Arnell as well as Collective Prevention Services (CPS) were also present. Fruitful discussions were held with the stakeholders aimed at enhancing communication, cooperation, and collaboration seeing our limited capacity and resources.

We were able to conclude very important decision points on the way forward in an effort to ensure the safety and security of our treasured medical health professionals as they fight on the front lines of this COVID-19 worldwide crisis is assured:

1. The streamlining the protocols between stakeholders based on the increased number of COVID-19 positive cases.
2. The increased cooperation and sharing of information between CPS, the Ambulance service and the GPs to facilitate when calls are made.
3. In order to increase access to information to the general public, as well as offer additional support, a list with the contact numbers of the GPs and their availability to serve non-emergency medical issues will be published to further alleviate the emergency room, which as lately has been inundated with calls, inquiries, and visits for non-emergency issues.
4. The Ambulance Department will start an awareness campaign aimed at educating the public as to what constitutes an emergency requiring emergency medical assistance to avoid non-emergency call-outs, leading to resources being used in these events. These already scarce resources (Personal Protective Equipments, PPEs) are necessary when personnel has actual COVID-19 cases to assess and transport.
5. We are, once again, making a call to retired nurses, licensed practical nurses LPNs, nurses who are currently not in the field and student nurses as well other persons who are willing and able to assist Mental Health Foundation (MHF), SMMC, White and Yellow Cross (WYC) and CPS to contact (insert contact inform) and voluntary your time.

I can further update you that SMMC has established an ‘Outbreak Management Team’ and is doing everything within its power to prepare for a further outbreak. The team has daily meetings to assess where they are and what further measures need to be taken as the situation unfolds. As a result, SMMC has ensured that they have 6 spaces for COVID-19 positive and suspected cases inside the hospital, and have scaled-down regular practices and activities in order to be able to free up beds in case an outbreak occurs. In addition, to these spaces, the SMMC as of today, Saturday, March 28th, also received four Emergency holding rooms for suspected COVID-19 cases. This is to alleviate pressure also on the emergency room and to avoid contamination in that area where general cases can still be assisted.

I hereby also update you as follows about the current St. Maarten COVID-19 Cases as per Saturday, March 28th, 2020:
• Returning residents in Self- Quarantine: 421
• Self-Isolation: 119
• Number Tested: 41
• Number Positive: 6 (2 of which is currently hospitalized)
• Number Negative: 19
• Number Pending: 16 (1 of which is currently hospitalized)

As I mentioned earlier all but one (1) case had recent travel or are contacts of a confirmed case, 2 are hospitalized and in stable condition, and as of last night, another suspected case has been hospitalized with flu-like symptoms and has been tested. We are still awaiting that result as well as 15 others.

As a result of this, even though there is one (1) case that is not related to travel, I still would like to implore all persons to stay at home. This virus must be taken seriously. As a result, GPs and other medical professionals will also be making that call to you if you have symptoms, or if you have traveled, to remain at home in isolation (in a room by yourself), or quarantined.

If you are quarantined and are therefore moving around in your home, your family members are also now suspected and should remain in the home with you. Arrangements should be made with other family members or close friends outside the home to be able to deliver food, medication and carry out other essential services.

You are asked not to visit the Government building, GEBE, TelEm, the Banks, SMMC, the White and Yellow Cross, and other essential areas. This is in order to protect the community.

If persons continue to break their quarantine and isolation, we are finalizing arrangements to have quarantine locations whereby you will then be forced into quarantine. This will not be a fun activity for you nor us and will take away the necessary resources that are needed to fight this disease. I am imploring and asking you to stay at home.

All around the world, this virus is taking phenomenal proportions and we can mitigate the spread here on St. Maarten by our behavior. We can also do so by being proactive in monitoring ourselves, by continuing to exercise proper hygiene, and remaining isolated or quarantined, should you be a suspected case, have traveled, or are in the home with one of the two.

People of St. Maarten, allow our medical professionals to do their work. Give them the time and space to do so. This is not a time to panic. This is a time to plan, prepare, encourage and uplift others to be positive. I’ve seen many opportunities where mass parties and mass praying have been done online. I believe these are the types of activities that build cohesion in a community that is now forced to live apart.

We are a warm community, and soon we will be able to enjoy the hugs, the handshakes, and the kisses. However, at this time stay at home, be safe and until the next update, I bid you farewell for this evening.