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First COVID-19 case on St. Maarten confirmed. More restrictions in effect

Chairperson of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs has confirmed the St. Maarten has recorded its first COVID-19 (coronavirus) case. This was stated in her national address held today, March 17.

Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs has confirmed the St. Maarten has recorded its first COVID-19 (coronavirus) case Photo The Daily herald

The prime minister said a local male resident recently traveled to the United Kingdon (UK) via Miami. After returning to the island he called the Collection Preventive Service (CPS) hotline 914 and on Sunday, March 15 samples were taken via the lab in Guadeloupe. This was one of several samples taken, of which the others all returned as negative.

Jacobs said a second test will be carried out by RIVM in the Netherlands in order to confirm the case. She reiterated that a first test must be confirmed by a follow-up test to officially be called a COVID-19 case.

She added that CPS has already started contact tracing, while the male resident is currently in self-isolation and will remain in quarantine for the next 14 days.

Jacobs also announced that schools will be closed as of Wednesday, March 18 for a period of 2 weeks. The first week of closure will be a vacation week using time from the planned carnival break. She said after that period schools can hold essential classes and the examination classes, if possible.

According to Jacobs this decision was taken in order to stop the process of spread of COVID-19 within schools and to monitor in the event there are cases.

All non-essential services will be shut down in an effort to help mitigate the spread of the virus. This will go into effect on Wednesday from 12:00am (today, Tuesday at midnight) for a period of two weeks.

Travel restrictions have been changed. The minister said as of today, March 17 at 12:00pm only Dutch side Maarten residents with a valid form of identification (ID) or proof of registration will be allowed to travel to St. Maarten until Friday, March 20.

Regional airlines will continue to come only until 12:00am tonight, after which all flights will be restricted unless bringing in St. Maarten residents.  Persons who are on the island can leave the island on these departing flights.

These restrictions do not apply to persons travelling at the invitation of the government, medical specialists or technical assistants.

Jacobs said all returning residents and crew members are required to adhere to a mandatory self-quarantine, meaning self-isolation in their homes, for 14 days. These persons will be monitored by the department of health.

Air and sea cargo shipments will not be affected by these restrictions, said Jacobs. “This does not mean any products, services or goods won’t be able to come into St. Maarten,” she said.

Jacobs asked the public to continue to practice social distancing, while reminding everyone to remain calm and call the CPs hotline 914 or their general doctor if experiencing symptoms.

A press conference will be held at 7:00pm this evening to update the public on the details of government’s response to COVID-19 and recent developments.

Govt. developing economic stimulus plan

The government of St. Maarten is busy developing an economic stimulus plan to deal with the potential economic fallout from the coronavirus disease COVID-19, which is spreading rapidly globally resulting in the slowing and shutting down of economies around the world.

Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs told Members of Parliament (MPs) on Monday that the potential economic impact of the virus, is expected to be “even more devastating to our economy than in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.”

“We are already experiencing a complete halt of tourism as of (today) Tuesday, March 17, for at least two weeks. The slow season has effectively come prematurely and will be felt for a longer period than we had anticipated or are accustomed too,” Jacobs said during the “urgent” public meeting, which was about COVID-19.

“We anticipate that our economy will need a boost to prevent a complete recession and to maintain jobs. That is why discussions with relevant stakeholders are being had and the Government is busy developing an economic stimulus plan to deal with the potential economic fallout.”

She said the stimulus plan is also to deal with the social aspect such as maintenance of jobs and community development and will be very essential for Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs). “Unfortunately, I cannot go into the details as these are still being fleshed out. This too is being looked at and has not been forgotten. We are assessing the various financial funds that are being made available both in the Kingdom and internationally in order to finance this stimulus Plan and are engaging all partners,” she said.

She said the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), which she chairs, is in full deployment. “The situation is very fluid, and measures are continuously being taken to expand on our preparation as well as capacity to deal with the COVID-19 international crisis and the eventuality of a COVID-19 outbreak on St. Maarten.”

The Daily Herald

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