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Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs National Address on COVID-19 MARCH 22, 2020

People of St. Maarten, both here and abroad, I hereby address you, as Prime Minister and Chair of the EOC (Emergency Operations Center), in an update for today Sunday, March 22nd, 2020, as part of the process to keep the community of St. Maarten informed about the latest developments and Government’s COVID-19 preparedness, prevention, mitigation and response measures.

Firstly, Saturday, March 21st, 2020, a strategic meeting held with ESF 5, including Police and Immigration The official request was sent to His Excellency Governor E.B. Holiday for Military assistance in advance of an outbreak. This request is being handled via the usual channels. 

Today, Sunday, March 22nd, 2020, in another strategic meeting held with ESF 5 and ESF 10 (Ministry of TEATT) related to business closures, it has been decided that business closures, as of Monday, March 23rd, 2020, businesses may remain open for service until 6:00 PM from Monday through  Saturday. The following services are grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, banks, emergency and paramedic services, hotels, restaurants, essential government services, (including telecommunication & postal services, judicial services and utilities), public transportation operators, hardware stores, shipping and, cargo companies. 

This is as long as each continues to ensure proper provisioning for social distancing of 1 to 2 meters and maximum large groupings of no more 20 persons. If the required Social Distancing and maximum grouping of 20 persons are not adhered too, then the establishment or institution will be shut down by the authorities with immediate effect.

On a positive note, Police Chief Carl John has commended all business owners on St. Maarten for their compliance in adhering to the closure time of 8:00 PM which started last night and looks forward to the same compliant behavior as new closure time goes into effect tomorrow Monday, March 23rd. On Sunday’s fort he next two weeks, besides emergency services, only gas stations, pharmacies and hotel (with attached amenities for guests only) will be allowed to open until 6:00 PM. Also allowed, are nighttime employees of news outlets and necessary emergency services. 

As related to the aforementioned restritions for businesses, I wish to add; NO beach vending will be allowed until further notice, NO beach parties are allowed and NO groups of more than 5 persons are allowed on the beach. Social Distancing, for those persons who wish to visit the beach, must be the recommended one to two meters apart. If this is not adhered to, you will be asked to leave the beach. If this continues, then this will also be curtailed.

The Government building has instituted guidelines for persons who are unable to get service via phone or email to be able to continue to come to the building during limited times and by appointment only. See our Government’s Facebook page for details as to the particular service you may need. 

Travel Restrictions
Today, (Sunday, March 22nd, 2020 at 11:59 PM) is the last day for the residents(passengers) of St. Maarten to travel back to St. Maarten for the next 2 weeks. Therefore, no airlines will be bringing in residents or persons during the next 2 weeks. The only flights that you will see coming into the airport would be cargo flights or flights that are coming in to pick up passengers to return them to their home address. These 2 weeks, will be used to assess and maintain spread within our borders in collaboration with our French counterparts. I also wish to update, that we will have our weekly meeting on Monday, March 23rd, which is also the Treaty of Concordia Day. Thus, a fitting day to continue to collaborate and cooperate with our French partners. 

COVID-19 Case Update
Since my last address on Friday, March 20th, 2020, Collective Prevention Services (CPS) has noted a spike in calls to 914 for persons wishing to register as having traveled home in the past week and they are currently being monitored. I would like to thank, all persons who have heeded the call of the Prime Minister to do so. 

Also as CPS had medical personnel present at the airport on Friday, Saturday and today, Sunday, collecting the forms filled in by returning residents, we expect that number to go up, which will allow us to monitor all returning residents over the past few days.

All persons who have returned to the island since Friday, March 13th, are requested to register with CPS by calling 914 or downloading the document provided for such on Government’s website page at www.sintmaartengov.org/coronavirus, fill it in and email to CPS. 

As of today, March 22nd, 2020, I can update that there are currently 13 persons who are in self-isolation and are being monitored as having been exposed to persons who have COVID-19. This is the first confirmed person on Dutch St. Maarten, as well as one of the confirmed persons on French Saint Martin whom were closely related to 3 persons on the Dutch side. As of today, we can also confirm that we have now 2 cases. The second case is a student who returned to St. Maarten a week ago and immediately went into self-isolation. There is no chance for local transmission at this time. The student continues to be monitored and has one more week of isolation left. Of the 13 persons being monitored, 10 have been deemed negative and one is still pending. Therefore, we have now 2 cases positive, 10 negative cases and 1 pending. As mentioned before, the others who have registered with CPS over the past few days are now being monitored and if they exhibit symptoms, they will be tested as well. 

I would like to remind the general public of St. Maarten to be aware of fake news. Today, a circulation has been going around about closures for spraying by some helicopter. This is fake news. Please do not follow any news that does not come from official Government sites or official Government administration. 

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 and continue to practice proper hygiene and prepare for what is a worldwide pandemic. I believe that we have been doing an extremely good job of containing the spread thus far by being very proper in our hygiene, by stepping up our cleaning and hygiene at home, on the job and when we go out in public. While we currently have now 2 confirmed cases, all measures over the past weeks and today have been aimed at containing the COVID-19 virus. 

Knowledge is power! Stay informed and be prepared. We are strong, resilient and faithful people and together WE CAN beat this monster that has toppled economies and health infrastructures around the world. Continue to be vigilant and report any persons you know have traveled to CPS at 914 in helping to mitigate the spread of this virus on our small island-nation. CPS will most definitely follow up with all tips about persons who have traveled or who may have been exposed to the virus. By doing so you are doing your civic duty to ensure that the island is safe.

The general public is asked to live up to the responsibility of being good citizens and adhere to the regulations and guidelines put in place to protect you. Persons behaving in reckless and irresponsible behavior during this partial lockdown aimed at minimizing movement and contact within the community will have stringent measures taken against them in the form of fines, and even worse. Take this time to enjoy quality time with your family, for self-reflection and to do projects around the house. 

Stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary. The Government and other essential businesses should arrange for persons who can work from home as much as possible. The safety and security of our population depend on your compliance with our regulations.

God bless St. Maarten and her people as we work together; Government, community and each and every St. Maarten resident, to keep her safe.