“People of St. Maarten, I hereby address you, as Prime Minister and Chair of the EOC (Emergency Operations Center), in an update for today Saturday March 14, 2020, as part of the process to keep the community of Sint Maarten informed about the latest developments and the Governments COVID-19 preparedness, prevention, mitigation and response measures.
The World Health Organization declared on Wednesday March 11 that the coronaviris COVID-19 has become a global pandemic. Based on this delcaration, the Government of Sint Maarten has stepped up its preparations and today March 14, after deliberation with the Council of Ministers and the EOC a number of decisions have been taken.
These preventive measures are to limit the exposure of the Sint Maarten people to COVID-19 due to an increase in COVID-19 cases in Europe and the United States of America.
Effective Tuesday, March 17, 2020, all international flights and cruises originating from the United States of America, Europe and the United Kingdom to Sint Maarten are cancelled for a period of two weeks. These travel restrictions do not apply for regional air and sea travel at this time. Travel within the Dutch Caribbean – Saba, St. Eustatius, Bonaire, Aruba, and Curacao remains in place until further notice. This travel restriction also applies to other seafaring vessels.
Arrangements will be put in place for visitors to return home with their carriers. Cargo flights/vessels bringing in food supplies, household goods, oil, gas, as well as medicine will continue. Also allowed, will be travel by technical and medical assistants whether via commercial or chartered airlines.
I would like to reiterate that there is no food shortage on the island. There is no reason to engage in panic buying or hoarding of food. There is a sufficient supply of food and medication on the island. We remain in constant contact with our suppliers and have been assured that replenishments will continue.
As of today, March 14th, up until and including Monday, March 16th, there is an opportunity for St. Maarten students studying abroad and residents as well as essential personnel to return to the country ahead of the 2 week travel restrictions.
All residents and nationals traveling back to Sint Maarten from the United States, Europe and the United Kingdom during this period, are recommended to monitor their health for 14-days for consistent cough, fever or respiratory problems (consitent with COVID-19) and maintain a social distance for the safety and security of the community. If you experience the aforementioned symptoms, please call your family physician. Do not go to your doctor or the medical center. During the phone call with your doctor, you will be advised further what actions should be taken.
The second decision regards large gatherings. With respect to social gatherings throughout the country, new permits will not be granted for gatherings of more than 100 persons. Permits which have already been issued relating to gatherings of more than 100 persons will be postponed until further notice.
Government also strongly recommends that persons in a public setting should keep a distance of at least one meter from each other under certain settings. All institutions, businesses, organizations, religious services and other entities should adhere to these recommended advices in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The current situation unfolding at the Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) has been brought to my attention, as there was some confusion as to the travel history of 6 passengers on the Air France flight which landed today Saturday, March 14th, based on the fact that German nationals were on board. As we know germany has been added on March 11th to our list of restricted areas of travel. In the latest update received, two of the passengers are residents of Switserland and orignated from there and therefore are allowed to travel to St. Maarten as per our current travel restrictions. The other 4 passengers of German nationality who originated in Germany will return on the same flight back to France. The passengers were kept on board until this information was confirmed, and none have any symptoms related to COVID-19.
PJIA will issue a press release on this matter. The general public is advised not to allow themselves to be riled up before having all the facts. I will also continue to provide updates as the situation develops.
Follow our Government Radio station – 107.9FM. For official information, statements and news updates or visit the Government website at www.sintmaartengov.org/coronavirus and our Facebook Page: Government of Sint Maarten.
As Prime Minister of St. Maarten, I wish to encourage all of us to remain steadfast in preparing for what is a world wide pandemic. While we currently have zero confirmed cases, these are all measures aimed at maintaining a COVID-19 status. I pray that we would take our fellow man/woman into consideration while going about our daily activities, and with the knowledge that we are ensuring your safety, refrain from panic buying and fear mongering. Continue to practice proper hygiene at home, at work and in the community.
Knowledge is power! Stay informed and be prepared. We are strong, resilient and faithful people and trust that this too shall pass.
God bless St. Maarten and her people as we work together; government and community to keep her safe. Thank you.