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Dutch side now 8 days with no new confirmed COVID-19 cases

Dutch St. Maarten entered its eighth day with no new confirmed coronavirus COVID-19 cases on Thursday.

Prime Minister and Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Chairperson Silveria Jacobs said based on the latest available data provided by Collective Prevention Services (CPS) epidemiologist Eva Lista-de Weever, as of 4:00pm on May 7 there were no new reported COVID-19 confirmed cases.

She said also the data show a decrease in active cases by two, which relates to two more persons who have recovered. All patients who were isolated at the government’s isolation facility have recovered and have returned home.

CPS continues its community outreach and will continue to test and do contact-tracing as needed to ensure that the virus is contained.

The measures undertaken are having the desired effect. However, anyone with flu-like symptoms should immediately contact their doctor or CPS at tel. 914 as soon as possible. Symptomatic persons and those who may have come into contact with them should remain in self-isolation (alone) and/or quarantine (if without symptoms) for at least two weeks afterward to ensure the virus does not spread.

Such persons are not allowed to be moving around in society, as this will indeed cause a second wave or continuous spread of the virus, Jacobs said.

There have been no new COVID-19 confirmed admissions to St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) since April 27. The number remains at five COVID-19 confirmed patients admitted to SMMC. One of the patients is in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) tent and four are in the mobile medical pavilion (MMP). Two of the five patients have recovered, but arrangements are still being made to have them discharged and sent home.

SMMC will start gradually resuming non-emergency medical care on Monday, May 11. The plan, which includes safety measures, is aimed at allowing regular care to continue while safeguarding the health of patients and staff when the state of emergency is lifted, while continuing to do their part in mitigating the further spread of COVID-19.

Emergency Support Function (ESF) 6 coordinator Fenna Arnell held a meeting with the Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and Environment (RIVM), CPS, St. Maarten Laboratory Services (SLS) and microbiologist Radijn Steingrover on May 7 to discuss the logistics for the arrival of serology tests.

The defining criteria for serology tests based on testing capacity were also discussed during the meeting. This meeting was a follow-up to the Ministerial Consultation held with the Ministers of Health within the Dutch Kingdom and RIVM on May 6.

A subsequent meeting was also held with ESF 3 coordinator Louis Brown, ESF 6 coordinator Fenna Arnell, and the management of SMMC to discuss hurricane preparedness regarding medium care at the MMP and the Hospitainer located next to SMMC.

ESFs 5, 6, 7, and10 together with their respective teams are finalising their proposal on the business guidelines and phased opening of businesses for public access. This will be officially presented to the EOC on completion for decision-making.

ESF 9 is responsible for governmental affairs. As such, all administrative and legal measures related to the public administration that need to be taken by the government during a disaster require advice from ESF 9 coordinator and general affairs secretary-general Hensley Plantijn.

For example, this entails requests for military support, preparing the national decree for the state of emergency, and the necessary adjustments needed at government administration level pertaining to government services coming online during the de-escalation process in the next few weeks.

A meeting was held with Jacobs and ESF 9 on Tuesday, May 5, concerning the phasing in of the various government services. ESF 9 reported that their focus at this time is the continuity of government via contingency plans that are being coordinated by a sub-workgroup of ESF 9. This sub-workgroup called the Ministerial Operations Center (MOC) consists of representatives of all ministries within government.

Therefore, ESF 9, dealing with governmental affairs, is not just tasked with emergency disaster management, but also the recovery phase of disaster management.

Regarding the phasing-in of government services, ESF 9 coordinator Plantijn reported that government is currently focused on re-opening the essential services to be offered to the public. The guidelines on proper hand hygiene, proper mask usage, and social distancing when entering the Administration Building will be shared and published for civil servants as well as for the public once finalised and approved.

Social distancing remains a challenge in the government building; therefore, very strict measures are being worked out to keep both the public and civil servants safe, Jacobs said.

“As we finalise the de-escalation schedule and the associated guidelines and measures that will be taken soon, I implore each business or organisation to start making plans, protocols and policies which will ensure the safety of your employees, clients and/or customers,” Jacobs said.

“If the proposed guidelines have not yet been communicated to the individual sector or business, this will happen shortly. This is the only way that we can continue to see a decline in our numbers until we are COVID-19 free. When we get there, and I have faith that we will, all measures must be upheld by us all. It will take all of us working together, looking out for each other to make this work.

“I also want to encourage individuals who have not yet done so to have that conversation within their households – plan exactly what measures you will continue/start to take to ensure your family remains safe. This can be as simple as remembering to wash your hands often or showering upon re-entering your home and before interacting with members of your household.

“While I do not think we should ever live in fear, being proactive will prevent the spread. This will indeed be a new normal for us. We must build new customs and be disciplined as we protect our health and livelihoods and prepare to get St. Maarten back up and running.”

The Daily Herald.

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