People of St. Maarten, I hereby address you, as Prime Minister and Chair of the EOC (Emergency Operations Center), in this official update concerning the COVID-19 preparedness, prevention, mitigation and response of the Government of St. Maarten. Our priority remains educating the population and ensuring protection and awareness of our front liners who are in constant contact with the public.
COVID-19 is a global health crisis, which is affecting countries around the world. As such, St. Maarten, although, having no probable or confirmed cases as of today March 6th, 2020, is continuously assessing, and addressing our levels of preparedness in order to be able to contain the spread should a case be identified on St. Maarten.
The EOC meetings which have taken place this week, were held on Wednesday March 4, and today Friday March 6, 2020. I can hereby update that there have been no new cases of COVID-19 identified on French St. Martin and that the two diagnosed patients remain in isolation at the Louis Constant Fleming Hospital. Any reports to the contrary has been deemed as incorrect.
Taking St. Maarten’s size and capacity into account, and in order to further mitigate St. Maarten’s exposure to the COVID-19 virus, after consultation with EOC members, it has been determined that implementing travel restrictions is an appropriate measure at this time. As such travel restrictions have been communicated via TIMATIC, which gives notifications to airlines pertaining to restrictions for travel. As such, all ‘passengers and crew members’ traveling to St. Maarten who have been in the last 14 days visiting the cities and or countries of China (People's Rep.), Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Singapore, are not allowed to transit or enter Sint Maarten.
Let me be clear. This travel restriction does not apply to nationals of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which includes The Netherlands, St. Maarten, Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Saba and Sint Eustatius. This also does not apply to residents of St. Maarten. This allows for a first level of screening of passengers prior to check in to travel to St. Maarten.
The St. Maarten Immigration Department will be executing a second check upon arrival. They will be utilizing key questions to ascertain if visitors or residents have traveled to areas within the high rates of infection within the past 14 days. Passengers identified as having travelled from these areas within 14 days, will receive a bookmark with key information on what to do in the event they could start to experience/develop symptoms associated with the COVID-19 virus.
Established protocols as related to cruise travel will also continue to be strictly enforced in order to safeguard safety and security of our residents. As well as maintain our good reputation as a safe and viable destination for our visitors, which is serious about the prevention, mitigation and response to the COVID-19 virus. These measures are deemed necessary even as we work to increase our capacity to effectively deal with the challenges which would arise should cases be identified.
In addressing our capacity.
Due to limited capacity at our St. Maarten Medical Centre, more options for quarantine and isolation spaces have been identified in order to increase capacity to be able to provide good medical services in a safe and controlled environment in advance of a potential outbreak.
Through the department of BAK (Department of Interior & Kingdom Relations), under the Ministry of General Affairs, international assistance in the form of technical support for our health officials is being arranged through PAHO, UNDAC, as well as our colleagues in the kingdom. Other streams are also coming up onboard. Our cooperation with French St. Martin is also ongoing and we have committed to meet once per week to update and cement any new agreements necessary to collectively mitigate the spread of this virus our lovely island.
To update on our Department of CPS (Collective Prevention Services): Trainings have continued during this week at Princess Juliana International Airport, Heineken Regatta volunteers and workers, schoolboards and an information session will be planned for parents in the coming weeks. The red cross will be providing training sessions on proper hygiene and handwashing techniques at schools in the next week. The Heineken Regatta has been inspected and is adhering to the protocols established and laid down by the health department. Controls will continue for the duration of the festival and will be evaluated thereafter.
As Prime Minister, I would like to encourage our citizens and visitors to remain calm, stay informed and be prepared as countries all around the wolrd are currently either already affected or expect to be within the near future. St. Maarten is no exception, and as such we must continue to be prepared and take all necessary measures to be ready to deal with the covid-19 virus.
The Collective Prevention Services (CPS) hereby reminds the general population that we should step-up our handwashing, cough and sneeze etiquettes in order to prevent the spreading of COVID-19. The general public as well as our visitors are encouraged to follow regular updates via recognized and credible news sources. Public announcements will continue on all radio stations. Digital billboards will have messages as well as the print media. For more information, call the following emergency hotline number 914 of the Collective Prevention Service (CPS).
Follow our Government Radiostation – 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 to come. Just as we prepare for Hurricane seasons every year. Knowledge is power! Stay informed and prepared. Ensure you have a disaster preparedness kit which can sustain your family for atleast 14 days.
We are strong, resilient and faithful people and trust that this too shall pass.
God bless St. Maarten and her people and God protect her shores!