MARIGOT–The Executive Council EXCO has called on the French government to remove the “compelling reasons” for travel to St. Martin, saying the new sanitary measures imposed at the national level February 2 were done without consultation, with the result that business and leisure travel was drastically disrupted.
Meeting in plenary session on Wednesday, February 24, the Executive Council expressed the unanimous wish of the six councillors present to ask the government to reconsider the situation in St. Martin and lift the travel restrictions.
President Daniel Gibbs reminded the meeting that the territory presents a lower vulnerability to COVID-19, as the demographic structure of St. Martin is not the same as in France: the over-75s make up only 2.2 per cent of the local population, which is four times less than in Guadeloupe (9.1 per cent) and in France (9.5 per cent).
Moreover, since the re-opening of the border between the two sides of the island (September 16, 2020), the incidence rate in St. Martin is generally lower than in mainland France. At the same time, for almost three months now, the rate of positivity displayed has remained systematically below the alert threshold of 10 per cent (4.7 per cent during the week of February 15, 2021; national average: 6.5 per cent).
Furthermore, St. Martin needs the air links with Guadeloupe and beyond that with France, as business travel is likely to be frequent.
For all these reasons, the elected members of the Executive Council consider it essential to take into account the important dependence of the St. Martin economy on the tourism sector.
The Executive Council is asking the government for a significant and sustainable reinforcement of the material and human resources for the hospital in St. Martin, in the event that the “UK variant” of COVID-19 proves to be truly more contagious and, above all, more lethal; an improvement in public health statistics tools and a strengthening of local testing capacity, including for detection of “variants” of the virus; follow-up on the proposal to the Minister for Overseas France (dated August 17, 2020) to hold a face-to-face quadripartite meeting (known as “Q4 mode”) on the issues of health cooperation between the two sides of the island; and to open up the territory completely to leisure and business visits from March 2021.
The Executive Council considers that everything must be done to lift the measures restricting travel by land, sea and air – in particular, those affecting air travel between St. Martin, the French Antilles and France. This objective of lifting restrictions on a scheduled basis must be accompanied by locally-decided relaxation measures, and assessed on a weekly basis.
Said Gibbs: “It is vital for the economy of the territory and its social balance that the requirement of compelling reasons to travel, imposed arbitrarily on February 2, be removed as soon as possible.”
Finally, the Executive Council requests ambitious acceleration of the vaccination campaign currently underway, to obtain collective immunity likely to allow the territory to open up even more rapidly to regional, national and international tourism (particularly from North American states). Today, only 1.3 per cent of the population of St. Martin is vaccinated, three times less than the national average.
The Executive Council’s wish has been conveyed to Minister for Overseas France Sébastien Lecornu.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/exco-demands-government-lift-compelling-reasons-for-travel