PHILIPSBURG:--- On Tuesday, January 26, 2021, Prime Minister Silveria E. Jacobs, Minister of TEATT Ludmila de Weever, and a delegation including the Ministry of VSA, attended a cooperation meeting held by Préfet Délégué for St. Martin and St. Barths Serge Gouteyron together with Secretary-General Julien Marie and Regional Health Agency (ARS) Territorial Director Paul Guibert to discuss measures each are taking to safeguard public health as it relates to COVID-19. Collective Prevention Services (CPS) and the ARS have been meeting weekly to update and discuss response measures to the pandemic such as the synchronization of communication in preparation for the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine. Both delegations discussed the status of COVID-19 on both sides of the island and areas where the synchronization could improve. Health protocols, testing, travel restrictions as a result of the variants of COVID-19 and business closing hours, as well as the discouraging of events attracting large gatherings were also subjects discussed.
During the meeting, Prime Minister Jacobs and Minister De Weever were able to relay the decision of the Council of Ministers to cancel Carnival and Heineken Regatta for 2021 in the interest of the general health of all residents and visitors after consultations with the various relevant stakeholders. Prime Minister Jacobs informed the delegation about the massive testing efforts headed by CPS in regard to the free drive through testing that began on January 11th, for all members of the community. Préfet Gouteyron expressed that the ARS reported a similar average of positive cases per day on French Saint-Martin. Minister De Weever also reassured that increased controls and enforcement are taking place in an effort to ensure compliance and safety for all.
Préfet Gouteyron and his delegation were also updated on government’s preparations for the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccines which are expected to arrive from the Netherlands by mid-February. The plans which are being spearheaded by the Ministry of VSA COVID-19 Taskforce will ensure St. Maarten is well prepared once the vaccines arrive including a public awareness campaign.
Prefèt Gouteyron also highlighted their vaccination plan and challenges experienced with low interest in taking the vaccine. Both parties agreed that continued and improved cooperation and collaboration are key to safeguard the entire population and keep infections manageable, and pledged to continue to meet each halfway to realize such.
Prime Minister Jacobs stated, “The cooperation meeting held was a fruitful one in which much agreement was made moving forward with the established health protocols being implemented by both sides of the island in combating the COVID-19 virus. We have already synchronized our travel restrictions to both sides of the island in order to avoid importing the more contagious new variants of the virus to the island. The percentage of imported cases of COVID-19 remain below 1%, therefore, our efforts also remain in decreasing the local spread of the virus. As such, we can now say that we are much further in combating the virus together compared to when we began synchronizing our health measures. It remains paramount that we continue to collaborate and synchronize our efforts in order to ensure the safety and health of the general public. As Préfet Gouteyron mentioned more than once, (main dans la main) hand in hand we will be able to do so.”