Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs
PHILIPSBURG–The coronavirus COVID-19 death toll on the Dutch side climbed to four on Friday, when two more persons succumbed to the highly infectious illness. This means that four persons have succumbed to the illness in four days.
The first person, a man who was in self-isolation at home, passed away on Tuesday, March 31. The second person, also a man, succumbed at St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) on Thursday, April 2.
The genders and locations where the two additional deaths occurred on Friday were not provided in a national address by authorities on Friday, and information on any of the four COVID-19 victims such as their ages, whether they had pre-existing conditions, whether they had recently travelled or had been in contact with persons who had recently travelled or with positive cases has not been provided to date.
Collective Prevention Services (CPS) head epidemiologist Eva Lista-de Weever, who confirmed the two additional deaths, said the total number of confirmed cases still stands at 23, the majority of whom are men.
The news of the additional deaths comes as efforts are being made by government to institute a total shutdown of the country to force persons to remain at home to further stem the spread of the virus.
Prime Minister and Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Chairperson Silveria Jacobs said a total shutdown is being planned due to the trend of increasing COVID-19 fatalities.
“Two more persons died today and that is indeed troubling,” she said, noting that one of the reasons is that persons are not adhering to the “voluntary cry” to stay at home and some are even defying the curfew set. A National Decree regarding the curfew has been prepared and has been sent to Governor Eugene Holiday. Jacobs said that as soon as this has been finalised and she has received confirmation of the decree, she will announce the date of the total shutdown.
In the meantime, Lista-de Weever said the CPS surveillance team is currently tracing more than 90 close contacts of the confirmed cases to ensure that “due diligence” and the necessary follow-ups are conducted in a timely and appropriate manner.
She said also that in many of the confirmed cases, persons have underlying medical issues (comorbidities) with pre-existing conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity and asthma. Persons with any of these conditions who have signs and symptoms of COVID-19 should stay at home, as their pre-existing condition puts them at an additional risk. COVID-19 has a greater impact on persons with pre-existing conditions.
Jacobs shared similar sentiments, noting that persons with comorbidities are more at risk and should remain at home if they experience these signs and symptoms.
“From the information that is available, we know that there are certain communities that need to step up prevention measures. We are working out plans to have Collective Prevention Services and a representative of St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) go into these communities. These communities are very religious-based and cultural as well,” said Jacobs.
“In addition, employers need to pay better attention to their employees. Once you see your employees exhibiting signs and symptoms, please send them home.”
As it relates to burial of persons who were COVID-19-positive or -suspected, Jacobs said families of these persons have been made aware that the international standards for dealing with deceased COVID-19-positive and -suspected persons is to have them buried or cremated.
However, she said St. Maarten currently has limited tomb spaces and no more burial plots. As a result, all COVID-19 patients can only be buried underground or cremated, and at the moment there are no more burial plots at the Cul de Sac cemetery.
She urged the populace to be aware that now that almost everyone is working digitally, St. Maarten is even more susceptible to cyberattacks. Therefore, persons should be cautious of suspicious emails and websites.
She said even with the stacks against the country, St. Maarten has always been and will always be a resilient nation.
“This resilience has built this country and has been inherited from our forefathers. Much like after Hurricane Luis, much like after Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and even through COVID-19, St. Maarten will rise again. Even though many are suffering, and these times and restraints can be overwhelming, there is hope. This hope cannot be overshadowed,” she said.
“Acknowledging the significant impact of COVID-19, let us give thanks for what we do have, and let us find a way to ensure the common good of all. Protect yourself and continue to pray for St. Maarten and her people.”