PHILIPSBURG–Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs said during the live virtual Council of Ministers press briefing on Wednesday that government is considering additional measures in response to the rising number of cases of COVID-19 in St. Maarten and the closure of the border with the French side.
According to Jacobs, the Council of Ministers had a meeting on Tuesday during which further measures were discussed in response to the coronavirus. However, she emphasised that these measures stopped short of total business closures. Government has already empowered police to shut down parties or gatherings that violate social-distancing guidelines.
When pressed for details by reporters, Jacobs declined to divulge additional information, saying only that Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour VSA Richard Panneflek was to announce the measures later Wednesday evening. As of press time Wednesday, Panneflek had not issued any statement regarding the measures.
Jacobs said the current situation has not been deemed a state of emergency, despite the fact that government’s coronavirus multidisciplinary task force remains in effect and is advising the Council of Ministers. The task force comprise key personnel of the Emergency Support Functions (ESFs).
While complete business closures were not discussed, Jacobs said government is considering ordering some businesses to close earlier to bring St. Maarten more in line with protocols on the French side.
“That would bring us more in line with the 12 o’clock [midnight – Ed.] closures of the bars on the French side and in so doing we could get our French counterparts to relax their [border] controls,” she said.
Jacobs said she has had no meetings this week with Préfete Déléguée Sylvie Feucher about the border closure. “I have made some attempts. However, that has not borne fruit as yet, as we know everyone is quite busy.”
She said government is willing to meet with French-side authorities to discuss ways to avoid keeping the border closed.
“We are one island in terms of our people, culturally, but we have to accept that, constitutionally, we are two different systems. And if one system refuses to meet the other halfway there is absolutely nothing that we, on this side, can do. We can only live with it,” said Jacobs.
According to her, there is a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to ensure cooperation between the Dutch side’s Collective Prevention Services (CPS) and the French side’s Regional Health Authority ARS, especially in terms of contact-tracing. However, a formal agreement on health protocols is proving to be “a bit more difficult,” said Jacobs.
“It is not local government [on the French side] that has purview over health or over the border. We do. So, that makes it very, very difficult,” she said.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/govt-pondering-further-coronavirus-measures