July 1 is the earliest date that St. Maarten can reopen its airport to receive visitors, Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunications (TEATT) Ludmila de Weever announced on Wednesday.
She cautioned however, that this tentative reopening date is heavily dependent on whether “everything on the island holds steady in terms of no new (COVID-19) cases.”
The country has an internal deadline of June 15 to finalise and communicate any required guidelines for visitors coming to the country to all stakeholders.
The minister said authorities are currently looking at allowing travel from sister islands such as Saba, St Eustatius, Curacao, Bonaire and Aruba as well as Anguilla and St. Barths. “In the next phase and up until we reopen the airport, we will be looking at travel between the islands that are considered COVID-19 free. This is being worked on.”
Locally, efforts will be made to ensure that protocols are being enforced for public spaces. This will be a joint effort amongst the Ministries of TEATT, Justice and health inspectors. “We are going to share the responsibilities of going out in the public and ensuring that this is adhered to before we can even think of opening up to extra persons coming back to the island.”
She said while some neighbouring islands had been eager to announce June 1 as their as their reopening dates for American guests without requirements in place, these ended up having reservations cancelled. “One of the issues that has been happening… is that countries that are premature with the opening of their airports, subsequently ended up canceling flights due to stringent requirements they were placing on their visitors,” De Weever said during the live Council of Ministers press briefing.
“What was happening on the side of St. Maarten, is that we were trying to control and manage this pandemic. We were still determining what was the best date for us to open up. Economically, it needs to happen soon, health-wise they would love to push it to later and we need to find the perfect balance now that we can actually sustain before we open up. So, the earliest date is July 1.”
She made clear that any changes for travel between the sister islands as well as COVID-19 free islands, will be determined between now and the next 27 days, before July 1. “The date can be pushed forward, but it depends on how the island is going in the meantime.”
The Daily Herald.