SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – The national address of the Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs of Friday, April 10 is as follows.
The national address is as follows:
People of St Maarten, though today is Good Friday, I wish each and every one of you a blessed Good Friday and I hope that your day has been somber, reflective and that you’ve taken the time to worship, as I did online, this morning with the Methodist Church. This is a time where we usually get together with family to eat, talk, and share.
However, it’s a somber time as we are socially distancing and therefore, everything that has to happen, happens via the internet. With this said, it is with humble pleasure that I come to you this evening to address you as Prime Minister and Chair of the EOC on April 10, 2020, as part of the process to keep the community of St. Maarten informed about the latest developments and government’s COVID-19 containment, mitigation and response measures.
COVID-19 Overview of Measures Taken
I’d like to take this opportunity to just briefly update you on the strategy that the St. Maarten Government used in combatting the COVID-19 virus during the month of March 2020. Firstly, we limited the number of visitors and transportation to St. Maarten via air and sea. Naturally, we allowed and continue to allow cargo to be imported, transited and exported in St. Maarten and to St. Maarten.
Thereafter, we focused on controlling the virus within our borders. As mentioned previously, the first cases were all imported cases of residents returning to the island. Contact tracing was instituted to try to contain the virus. Of course, here we initially relied on persons to self-quarantine or self-isolate and to be disciplined in doing so.
However, this proved to be very challenging with the limited staff and the number of persons/residents that returned from abroad and the contact they may have had with other persons abroad. Hence, this was one of the reasons, the government secured a location to “house” these individuals to prevent further spreading.
Simultaneously, we also executed our non-medical, non-financial required strategy of education & awareness promotion of informing our community to do the following:
These seemingly simple but extremely effective practices hold the fundamental, critical and imperative solution to break and beat this “Invisible War” as my colleague Minister of Finance has deemed it to be.
These steps and practices are what we as a community can do, without any financial cost to the government, to control the spread of this virus. However, given the challenges of our community, related to language barriers, demographic and cultural differences, the government also started to target and strategize to ensure we reach the Spanish and Haitian speaking community mainly due to the language barriers.
In the interim, our numbers of cases have begun to rise, our resources continue to be limited, we are sourcing from different places to get as much as we can to ensure our health care providers, medical institutions and front-liners are protected and can execute their jobs to the best of their ability. But, as everywhere else in the world, these same resources such as N-95, Latex gloves, PPE equipment, etc. continue to be in high demand, which results in limited supply and extremely high prices. Not to mention, the delay in being shipped and received.
While we have been very happy to receive assistance from our Kingdom partners in the form of PPEs, medical equipment, as well as personnel, who arrived from the USA this past week, we continue to struggle on the ground as it relates to having enough persons to execute our plan. It had been our plan this week to go into all the communities where we are realizing that there is a lack of information as well as a possible spread of the COVID-19 virus, in order to get all of these persons tested. However, the testing materials were not available to be able to do so and I am very happy to say that we were able to secure a flight that will bring St. Maarten the much-needed testing equipment tomorrow, April 11, in order for us to resume our testing in a more aggressive manner.
As of today, April 10, 2020, I can update you on the COVID-19 cases.
Today, April 10, the EOC held a strategic meeting with Emergency Support Functions (ESFs) 5, 7 and 10 to discuss several issues that have arisen during the lockdown as well as to receive updates.
ESF 5 Law & Order
I am alarmed to hear that persons are taking advantage of this time to go out and steal. We understand that some persons may feel a dire need and that is why we are making it possible for you to also receive food from the government of St. Maarten. Every single person that is in need of food should ensure that they register via our ‘social impact assessment’ form which can be found at www.sintmaartengov.org/coronavirus.
For those who are not able to do so, a free 711 number will soon be available whereby persons will be taking calls and filling in the information for you. This service is especially for the elderly, and those who are out of touch with technology that is now being used to be able to continue the work from the government.
The Police will continue to monitor the break-ins, and anyone caught will be prosecuted to the highest level. I must commend all our officers as well as many other front-liners who are working daily with limited resources and I thank the majority of the St. Maarten people who are so compliant and assist the police by calling when they see crimes being committed. I ask parents to continue to control your children, keep them in the house as this is the only way that you can avoid that they bring death into your home.
I have also been updated by the St. Maarten Medical Centre’s (SMMC) Outbreak Management Team that of the total 12 COVID-19 related patients admitted at SMMC since the start of the pandemic, 1 is currently admitted, 5 have been discharged in good condition and are either isolated at home or in our isolation location and unfortunately, 6 have passed away. One of the patients was already in critical condition and admitted for a week.
This patient passed away last night, April 9, 2020, unfortunately. From the admitted COVID-19 related patients to SMMC so far, the conclusion is that patients are predominantly in very poor condition and in most cases, suffer from pre-existing health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma and/or overweight. Currently, one patient admitted remains in critical condition. This information was submitted on behalf of Dr. Felix Holiday, Chairman SMMC Outbreak Management Team.
ESF 7 Food Distribution
Social Services has distributed 677 food packages and will be distributing 400 more food packages over the weekend. We kindly ask that these front-liners are given the respect in order to be able to carry out the assistance being rendered to the most vulnerable in our society. There are also several organizations, as well as Domino’s Pizza, who are donating food to those in need. Several restaurants have called and are also preparing food that will be delivered to those in need. I ask that you be patient, fill out the ‘social assessment impact’ form or call 711 once we’ve announced that it is ready to be in use.
To facilitate our Police conducting efficient controls, a ‘Disaster Relief’ sign will be stuck on the windows of vehicles delivering food packages to homes in the community. If you know that you have made an order for food or expect delivery of food from social services, you will be called. Please do not open your door to strangers. I also ask the community Police and community leaders to take the lead in ensuring that you know who within your neighborhood are in need, so that you may alert social services.
ESF 10 Supermarket Food Delivery
Yesterday, I mentioned that due to the Holidays no deliveries would be allowed on Sunday, however, seeing the grave need for some persons to receive food during this time, I will allow for deliveries not only to continue Saturday, but also this coming Easter Sunday and Monday. Therefore, over the entire weekend, you will be able to receive the food packages that you ordered from the grocery stores.
Collective Prevention Services
We have been seeing some video that is being shared via social media and I am really concerned as it is unethical for you to film or take pictures of CPS workers visiting persons who are in quarantine or in isolation in order to assess and ensure that they remain in isolation. Filming this is against St. Maarten privacy laws and if you are caught you will also be prosecuted.
ESF 8 Communications
I’d like to thank the Department of Communication DCOMM, who are doing an excellent job of promoting information within all sectors of our society. I believe information and education is power. Take the time while you’re at home to study, learn and empower yourself and to teach others about the right way to isolate and the right way to be hygienic in order to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus. It is up to each of us. The government is doing their part, we now ask that you do your part.
From Shutdown to Limited Movement Announcement
During the week, as we move forward, I will be announcing how we will be moving from the shutdown towards limited movement. I would also like everyone out there to know that when I talked about making do with what you had in your kitchens, some of you thought it was funny, some of you thought it was a joke. It is not! This shutdown is not to punish anyone. This shutdown is so that we can stop the spread, assess who has the COVID-19 virus, and hopefully isolate them from spreading it further. This is all it’s about.
If you do not have the food you need in your house, now is the opportunity for it to be delivered to you. If you do not have the funds, you are to receive from social services. We are doing our best to cover all the bases and we apologize to anyone who falls through the cracks. But do understand that we are also working with a limited crew of dedicated civil servants and volunteers and I want to give them all the thanks for what they’ve done so far.
There is a whole group of people working very hard behind your Prime Minister; The EOC, the Council of Ministers, and their teams. I also want to say thank you to all our front-liners every day and every night we pray for you. We pray for your safety, as you also go through the storms. You cannot stay at home and be safe, you have to go out into the community, you have to make sure that there is law and order, you have to ensure that patients get what they need, and that the pharmacist can share the medication as well.
I’m not going to open just yet. I want two weeks of this shut down to be effective and if necessary and we can ensure that everyone can eat, everyone is safe inside and over the next two weeks we cannot yet get enough persons, of course, the shutdown would have to be extended. I am asking you to be patient. In some countries, the shutdowns are 3 months long. We hope that it will not be that long.
As long as we can continue to ensure that you have food, you can stay at home. Stay At Home! As I said previously, Just STOP Moving! It’s for your own good. It’s for the good of your country and the sooner we get this COVID-19 kicked in the butt, the sooner we can open back our wall, we can open back our towns, we can open back our ports and we can allow visitors, but of course, only visitors who are COVID-19 negative.
As we go into our Easter weekend, its not the kind of Easter weekend we’re used to, but let’s make the best of it. Let’s have as many prayer sessions as we can, let’s have as many family gatherings on zoom, WhatsApp, your iPhone, and on whatever medium you think works for you. You can also pick up the phone and call. I wish each and every one a Happy and safe Easter. I pray for the souls of all who have departed. I pray for the families who are suffering from their loss and I wish each and every one much safety and health as we sit out this quarantine together. Be safe St. Maarten!
ARCHIVE – APRIL 09, 2020 – SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – In her daily update, the Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs addressed the nation and provided an update regarding the state of affairs.
The National Address is as follows:
People of St Maarten, both here on St. Maarten and abroad, I hereby address you as Prime Minister and Chair of the EOC for today’s update on April 9, 2020. As part of the process to keep the community of St. Maarten informed about the latest developments and government’s COVID-19 containment, mitigation and response measures.
A strategic meeting was held yesterday, April 8, 2020, with the EOC and this morning, April 9. The disaster management team comprised of ESF 4 and the back office, met with ESF 6, the health section, to strategically plan for the roll out of the dashboard and the use of the data in planning an execution of our mitigation strategy, especially during this lockdown. Later this afternoon, a meeting was held with ESF 5 to further update on how the controls and public order was progressing during the lockdown.
Today, I would like to start by updating you on the COVID-19 updated cases as of April 9, 4:00 PM.
As such, there are 39 active cases of which 2 are in the hospital and 37 are recovering at home or in our isolation facility. We wish to encourage all those currently suffering from the virus to remain indoors and isolated. We also encourage those caring for them to utilize strict hygiene and follow the directions of the Collective Prevention Services (CPS) and your general practitioner.
The EOC Dashboard to record data and statistics is being developed. This will allow us to be able to mitigate and respond better. This dashboard will be launched in the coming week. Data is being digitalized in order to facilitate CPS in its response to COVID-19 to monitor and report the progress of efforts, as well as to provide empirical data to support decisions to be taken by the EOC.
A Dashboard for the public is also being worked on, which will be a ‘one-stop’ shop for all the information that is COVID-19 related and will be updated daily. The public will be able to go to this site, see the data, changes, as well as everything related to COVID-19 including our Stimulus Plan and all of the press briefings and press statements that have been made.
Orders from the public must be submitted to the respective grocery stores between 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM. Grocery stores, both large and small, will have the opportunity to deliver between 8:00 AM and 4:00 PM. Between 4:00 PM until 6:00 PM, employees may work on packaging items for the deliveries of the following day. Each grocery store operator needs to ensure that a priority system is implemented to guarantee that priority is given to orders of the basic necessities. All purchases and orders should be on a strict need-basis only.
The government is also busy with its deliveries of food to the most vulnerable. Over 400 persons have received food boxes and I’d like to thank all the front-liners who are working tirelessly to distribute the food boxes despite the negativity within the community that they are facing. Several persons are trying to steal from or attack these persons.
This is food that the government of St. Maarten has bought and is distributing to persons on their list beginning with distribution to the most vulnerable. Several persons have registered using the ‘social impact assessment’ form.
Those persons will not be receiving food boxes in this first round however, these persons will be included in the second round for the distribution of food boxes. There are over 4000 persons that have registered and we ask for your patients as we assess those with acute needs as well. Persons should ensure that they filled in the address registered at social services and where they are living currently.
Testing will continue in our efforts to mitigate the spread. CPS will be going out into the community with many volunteers to test, isolate and contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Those persons in vulnerable situations where isolation is not possible will be isolated in our facility to further mitigate the spread as well.
We also continue with weekly consultations on a Ministerial level, as well as with Prime Ministers, Ministers of Public Health within the Dutch Kingdom and also with the Minister of Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations (BZK) Raymond Knops. I would like to thank all the Ministers of Public Health for their cooperation and support in getting the much-needed equipment and medical personnel for St. Maarten. We are ready to deal with any outbreak that may happen on a medical level at this moment.
In a meeting held yesterday, April 8, 2020, I was able to update our Kingdom partners on some of the challenges St. Maarten is still experiencing where the number of COVID-19 test kits is concerned and we have been promised assistance in this regard. We also reiterated to our Kingdom partners our preference for a grant instead of a loan, as our liquidity support from after Hurricanes Irma and Maria is already a loan also seeing that the Board of Financial Supervision (CFT) and the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) have advised that this should also be the case. Our Caribbean kingdom countries CFT and CFATF representatives believe that Caribbean countries and islands in the Dutch Kingdom should be given the opportunity to have “no strings” attached to the liquidity support in order to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Kingdom Council of Ministers met today and I was updated that the liquidity support for 2019 has been transferred to St. Maarten and has been received by the Central Bank of Curacao and St. Maarten. This is not the liquidity support that is related to the COVID-19 request. That request is still being handled and totals 245 million over a period of 3 months to assist not only, persons who have lost their jobs but businesses as well in order for them to keep their employees.
Border Movement & Dutch Royal Military Assistance
Several persons have complained that it is a challenge crossing to the French side of the island. I’d like to reiterate that both French and Dutch St. Martin are working together on the controls and are utilizing the same form for cross-border movement. That is ‘Form C’ on the Dutch side and the ‘Form of Exception’ on the French side of the island. Both forms are valid for both sides of the island for work, caring for the elderly or emergency purposes that cannot wait. The French form is signed by the Prefet Sylvie Feucher and the Dutch form is signed either by Minister of VSA Richard Panneflek, Police Chief Carl John or by my person. Some forms are also being signed by the Minister of Justice Anna Richardson.
Minister of Justice Anna Richardson has requested for the St. Maarten Police to receive the assistance of more Royal Dutch Military (Koninklijke Marechaussee). This request is being processed and we expect that we will have some more assistance on the ground to assist our police force in keeping law and order. Any abuse of the waivers will not be tolerated and the inspectors of businesses and police will carry out inspections. Should any grocery stores be in violation of this, the store will be shut down and fined.
The Police reported that 80-90% of the population are complying with the lockdown measures, however, there are still youngsters within the community who are behaving very dangerously on motorcycles. Therefore, I ask all parents to keep your children at home, no matter their age. Everyone is expected to remain at home and within the confines of their yard.
In closing, I’d like to remind the people of St. Maarten why we are doing this. We are facing a pandemic of worldwide proportions. Everyone is feeling it all around the world. We must do our part as citizens of St. Maarten to curb the spread of this virus. I ask each and everyone, if you have symptoms that are COVID-19 related, please call CPS at 914 and register.
Please also notify your doctor as they are assisting the government in swabbing their patients and following up to ensure that they are doing well while isolating at home. Those in quarantine are also asked not to venture outside. Pray, reflect, stay inside, take care of your family, spend lots of time with them doing all the wonderful things that you now have the time to do and enjoy. You are safe at home. It is a difficult time, however, we are strong people and we will get through this together. The government is doing all within our power to ensure that the people of St. Maarten are safe but you as St. Maarten people must do what it takes to keep yourselves safe as well.
Tomorrow, April 10, is Good Friday, a National Holiday, as such, no deliveries will be made nor on Easter Sunday, so I am hoping that if you have and your neighbor doesn’t have, that you would share. We expect each and everyone to behave as good citizens of St. Maarten and ensure that people are happy, healthy, and safe. For those with religious and spiritual beliefs in our communities, I call on you to pray. I call on you for a moment of silence for the daily departed; those from COVID-19 and those that are not COVID-19 related. Every life is valuable and we hope to be able to save more lives as our days go by.
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.
Continue to spread the love that I’m seeing out there and encourage others to keep up their good spirits. Remember that our resilience is not something that we got overnight. It has been handed down by the ancestors and this too shall pass. I would like to wish each and everyone a Happy Easter and as much as we are confined, we are in our home. Share love through social media, share caring through social media, share with your neighbors if you have food and pray that the effects of the COVID-19 virus are less than what we would expect and that we would quickly be over with it and move forward.
God bless you people of St. Maarten. God bless each and every one of us as we reflect and think about this serious season that we are now in. Happy Easter to all!