The state of emergency St. Maarten is currently under to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is proposed to be extended by another three weeks.
Prime Minister and Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Chairperson Silveria Jacobs said the national decree to extend the state of emergency is still being finalised with stakeholders. The extension is proposed for an additional three weeks, she said on Friday evening.
A state of emergency went into effect on April 5 and the country was placed under 24-hour lockdown for two weeks. This initial two weeks comes to an end this Sunday, April 19. The extended state of emergency is expected to go into effect when the current state of emergency expires on Sunday.
Jacobs said that although the 24-hour lockdown will remain in effect during the extended state of emergency, authorities are looking into allowing persons to make use of essential services such as supermarkets, grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, wholesale distribution companies, banks and cooking gas companies for three days each week of the lockdown. Deliveries from supermarkets will continue on days supermarkets are not open.
Health-food stores will also be allowed to open to sell health food. Fisheries and agriculture also have been added to the list of businesses, and fishermen are now allowed to go out and fish. Jacobs urged fishermen to ensure that they adhere to social-distancing guidelines and to adhere to the highest level of hygiene when selling their fish. She said delivery is still the number one way to get products to consumers.
The extension of the state of emergency is to continue to mitigate the effects of the spread of COVID-19 and to enable the Health Ministry’s Collective Prevention Services (CPS) to continue its assessments and amped-up testing in the various communities. The CPS team will be in the Cay Bay area today, Saturday.
Jacobs said she noticed that there had been another morning rush for groceries on Friday, but this had subsided by mid-afternoon. She encouraged persons to shop once weekly. Families are urged to designate one person to do their shopping and for other essential services. Not more than two persons should be in a vehicle at any one time if it is not necessary and if two persons are required then the second person should sit in the back seat.
Establishments are reminded that the first hour of their opening should be designated for vulnerable persons such as the elderly, disabled and pregnant women. Jacobs said she had been advised that irrespective of what time an elderly person shows up for an essential service they are given preference.
Social distancing should be adhered to and the public should always wear protective face gear, including masks. Persons should also refrain from greeting other persons with hugs, kisses and handshakes, as this can be detrimental to one’s health, not knowing who has COVID-19.
Supermarkets will be required to have proper markers inside and outside their establishments to ensure that social distancing is observed between customers, and should have clear arrows indicating one-directional traffic inside. Supermarkets should also ensure that the required maximum number of persons are inside at any given time. For large supermarkets, it should be no more than 20 persons. More than one person should not be in a supermarket aisle at any given time.
Supermarkets and grocery stores should also provide some type of sanitisation measure for customers at their entrances and should ensure that shopping carts and shopping baskets are sanitised after each use.
Jacobs said persons should take care of their health as authorities do their utmost to ascertain the real numbers of COVID-19 cases in the community, “because we do believe that there is more out there and the only [method – Ed.] to stop the spread is to properly isolate.”
The Daily Herald.