~ Supermarkets to remain open, restaurants only for delivery/take-out ~
PHILIPSBURG–Schools and businesses providing non-essential services across the country are required to close for two weeks as of today, Wednesday, March 18, until April 1, and the Police Force will be taking a zero-tolerance approach to businesses that are not in compliance.
The move comes as the country recorded its first confirmed case of the coronavirus COVID-19.
Not allowed to open are educational institutions (with the exception of classes that can be given remotely); day care centres; early childhood development institutions; all schools; universities; training facilities; retail stores such as those selling clothing, jewellery and souvenirs; sales outlets and shopping centres; vending stalls at the Philipsburg Marketplace; conference facilities; outdoor establishments that accommodate events; outdoor recreational activities; casinos (stand-alone as well as those attached to hotels); nightclubs and dance establishments; adult entertainment centres; art galleries and other exhibition halls; recreational centres; cinemas; businesses offering recreational activities such as zip-line, boat trips, quads, etc.; gyms and other indoor and outdoor sports facilities; museums; hair and nail salons; and barber shops.
Restaurants can open only for delivery and take-out services. Dining in is not allowed at any restaurant even if the restaurant is located on a hotel property, Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) Secretary General Miguel de Weever said at a joint Emergency Operations Center (EOC) press conference Tuesday evening.
Supermarkets and grocery stores are on the list of businesses providing essential services that will be allowed to remain open during the two-week period. Also allowed to be open are hotels and other types of short-term accommodation; yachting agents and vessels; maintenance and repair of motor vehicles, boats, machinery and equipment; sales of auto parts; construction companies; retailers of building materials, hardware, paints and gas; rental and leasing of heavy machinery and equipment; repair of communication and ICT equipment; food and beverage suppliers (wholesale and retail until 8:00pm nightly); bakeries, roadside vendors, and restaurants (for take-out and delivery only); food distribution by charitable originations; St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC), medical offices/practices; dental clinics; physical therapy practices; White and Yellow Cross Care Foundation; pharmaceutical suppliers and pharmacies; medical labs; veterinary clinics; all paramedical services; Mental Health Foundation; government services; banks and money transfer services; financial and insurance services; postal services; law offices, notaries and accounting firms; kadaster; shipping agents and cargo services; real estate firms; utilities and telecom companies, including retails of telecom equipment; employment agencies; suppliers of fuel (UPG, gasoil, diesel, etc.); media outlets; Turning Point Foundation; public transportation services; funeral services (limited groups or in open spaces taking social distancing into consideration); laundromats/drycleaners; cleaning companies and garbage collection; retailers of computers, software and related equipment; retail of newspapers; pet stores; natural health stores; and churches and other worship establishments (social distancing must be adhered to).
Prime Minister and EOC chairperson Silveria Jacobs said the closures are necessary to minimise movement in the community. She said persons are able to spend time with their family during this period and can do things such as going to the beach, but should avoid large gatherings, follow proper hygiene practices and refrain from touching their faces.
The mandatory closure of non-essential businesses is one of the steps taken to stem the spread of the virus and is in keeping with similar measures taken in French St. Martin. De Weever said businesses present the most risk of spreading the coronavirus.
Chief of Police Carl John said the Police Force would be strictly enforcing the measures instituted by government and ensuring that they are adhered to along with its justice partners. He assured that police will adopt a zero-tolerance approach to those in breach and sanctions will be issued by the Prosecutor’s Office for non-compliance.
“It’s for the wellness of the community and has nothing to do with crimes but [is – Ed.] for the health of everyone. This is why we are asking for everyone to cooperate,” John said.
As it relates to the closure of schools, the first week of closure will be a vacation week using time from the planned Carnival break. After that period schools can hold essential classes and the examination classes, if possible.
The Safety and Emergency Management Committee of the Education Ministry held an extraordinary meeting with school boards and the Public Education Division at 10:00am Tuesday to discuss the continuity of education. Many school boards had already started to work on their plans based on previous communication and they were given until end of this week to finalise and submit their plans to the Committee. School boards will make arrangements with teachers and staff to finalise these plans.
Some boards said they plans to use various means such as online platforms, paper folders and lesson guides with books to deliver lessons. Some indicated that they had already given training to use various platforms. Other boards will do training to ensure that teachers can easily communicate with students from a distance.
The Ministry of Education has been in talks with Bureau Telecommunication and Post (BTP) as it relates to Internet connectivity for proper online services to be offered. The intention is for schools to start with education from home as of March 25.
School boards are also continuing with their meetings internally to properly prepare for the continuing of the education of exam candidates at primary and secondary levels. If the possibility does not exist for schools to hold online study, there are free online programmes from which students can learn and the accredited courses can be followed online to ensure that students can continue with their education.