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 Friday, March 27th, 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.
Yesterday, Thursday, March 26th, 2020, I updated you on the joint controls being executed by the Police force of St. Maarten together with their French counterparts. These controls started today, Friday, March 27, 2020. I have been asking for persons to heighten their awareness of ways to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and the importance of practicing proper hygiene. To protect the population, closures of schools and non-essential businesses have been implemented, and minimized business hours have been implemented as well. All with the intention to minimize movement. While no curfew yet exists prohibiting the movement of the population, each and every citizen is asked to STAY at home as much as possible in order to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
The American case of the Miami resident was case number 12 on the French side, which after being admitted to the Louis Constant Fleming Medical Centre, his family arranged via his US insurance for him to be medically evacuated back home. This was supposed to be done via Grand Case Airport, however, due to technical difficulties, the plane could only land at Princess Juliana International Airport where the patient was able to be evacuated back to Florida. Though the patient was tested on French Saint Martin, it cannot be concluded that he contracted the virus on the island, as he was on a boat, which according to him had traveled all along the Caribbean in the past weeks. In doing the contact tracing, the French authorities ascertained that this case was not in contact with the local population of St. Martin/St. Maarten.
Persons who have a family member who has traveled in the past three weeks living in their home should also be self-quarantined even if you have no symptoms. Persons who have flu-like symptoms, and no travel history, are not automatically considered suspected COVID-19 patients, but should also self-isolate at home (stay away from their family as well) and monitor their symptoms, in case they may have been exposed to someone who has traveled.
1. Self-Isolation refers to the separation of ill patients from other persons to ensure the health safety of persons that are not ill.
2. Self-Quarantine is for persons who may have been exposed to ill persons but are not exhibiting symptoms.
The government, via the Tourist Bureau, has made several attempts to utilize empty hotels for quarantining or isolating persons without success. However, any hotel willing to work with the government in this regard is asked to contact the Tourist Bureau or the Health Department in order to facilitate this arrangement as soon as possible. The government continues to explore options to retrofit other buildings to be able to house quarantined as well as isolated persons who are not complying with the self-isolation agreement as has been agreed upon between the patient and CPS.
I’d like to reiterate as stated in my previous National Address on March 26, 2020, that our health care professionals and emergency service providers are tirelessly working 24 hours per day. Give them the time and space to do so, as your excessive movement can be a danger to these persons whom we expect to be able to take care of our needs, should we become seriously ill.
I’d also like to address rumors concerning services being offered on behalf of the Government. Should the government take the initiative to offer services at your home, this will be communicated to you via the Government’s official media platforms. Be aware of the scam artists that would use this opportunity to take advantage of vulnerable persons. Do not give out information to unauthorized persons.
During the EOC meeting held today, March 27, 2020, with ESFs 4, 5, 6, and 9, the decision was made to increase further restrictions on the movement of persons throughout the island via a Ministerial Regulation which is being processed.
Meetings were also held with ESFs 6 & 7. ESF 6 updated me on current cases, challenges with communication in relation to Protocols of SMMC, Ambulance and CPS. A meeting will be held with the full ESF 6 and with General Practitioners in the coming days to improve collaboration and cooperation in the interest of public health. I take this opportunity to request that all qualified Nurses, Licensed Practical Nurses LPNs, and student nurses not currently working in the field who are able to assist health care workers in the various health sectors, should call CPS and register so that a pool of back up nurses can be on call to assist when needed. Further information regarding this will be made in a subsequent announcement.
The meeting with ESF 7 – social affairs and community development provided an update on the plan to assist the most vulnerable in our society, in advance of the expected economic and social stimulus plan being rolled out. The ESF 7 members representing, community police, community development, Court of Guardianship among others not present, confirmed the plan which includes a food basket of necessities. This is being implemented, and they were given a deadline of April 1st for execution.
Persons who may have already started feeling the negative effects of the economic downturn from COVID-19 business closures, loss of tourism-related business, etc., should call or email the Social Services Department of Government. Further information as to a hotline number and email address will be announced in a subsequent announcement as well.
On Saturday, March 28th in the afternoon, a meeting will be held with the extended members of ESF 6 in order to get a full update and input from all stakeholders in the health care sectors.
As I conclude my address, I ask for something very simple. Save a life by staying at home. Stay at home because you matter! Do you hear me? You matter! We are resilient and hopeful people AND we will get through this period. The Emergency Operations Center ESF coordinators are all working in the best interest of you and your families.
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.
God bless St. Maarten and her people as we work together; Government, community and each and every St. Maarten resident, to keep her safe.