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SCDF rolls out extensive health and safety measures

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) has rolled out a safety and health plan for Carnival 2021 with the most COVID-19 preventative measures than any other event to date. The foundation went public for the first time with a plan that covers every aspect of the festival in April and one that attempts to create a fully sanitized bubble in Carnival Village.

In other words, every person that enters the village will pass through sanitizing measures including state-of-the-art sanitizing tunnels. Once in Carnival Village patrons will have to adhere to strict measures (see below). The foundation also secured its only road events, the Parades, as much as possible with a spacious route change and restrictions for the troupes.

“There has been no event in the COVID-19 era on St. Maarten that has employed as many measures as we will in April. We are taking the issue as serious as we take Carnival very year. We are a well-equipped foundation that probably was more ‘COVID ready’ before COVID even struck,” President of the SCDF Alston Lourens said.

He explained that prior to COVID Carnival was used as a staging point for many of government’s health related pilot projects. Health initiatives that are now the standard island-wide, was first used in Carnival. “So when COVID came on the scene, we simply had to add to some of our existing measures,” Lourens said.

All measures are subject to change and persons with questions and/or suggestions can email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The extensive Carnival 2021 plan is as follows:

General Measures

  • Additional hand-washing stations in the vicinity of the rest rooms will be placed
  • Masks will be required upon entering Carnival Village and are to be worn as long as patrons are not eating or drinking.
  • Six sanitizing walk-through mist stations will be placed at the entrances to Carnival Village. These will be in operation 23-7. These machines also perform temperature checks.
  • Possibility of Rapid Antigen testing being performed at Carnival Village (still being discussed).
  • Possibility of rapid testing for all Village staff.
  • Two additional mist stations will be on premises, one back stage, one leading to the main office of SCDF.
  • Sheriff Security team will also be carrying hand thermometers and will be wearing face shields, masks and gloves. The security team will also be equipped but a portable fogger.
  • Cleaning crew will double its manpower and execute increased thorough cleaning of public areas.
  • The usual health & hygiene random inspections will be executed by government health inspectors.
  • A fully stocked kiosk with face masks, sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizers (for sale) will be erected in Carnival Village and will be functional 24-7
  • No vehicles will be allowed in the Village at any point in time. This will allow booth holders to spread out their seating arrangements and social distance.
  • All events will be streamed LIVE to allow person to view at home.

 Village Shows

  • There will be no tickets sold at the gate for any event, thereby minimizing lines and people having to stand close to each other to get into the Village. All tickets for every event to be sold in advance. In the event of lines forming, SCDF has enough volunteers to ensure social distancing at the gates.
  • 4,000 maximum in attendance. A reduction from 12,000 max. This allows a crowd to spread out in the Village.
  • The crowd will be encouraged to spread out as much as possible
  • No water trucks or pools during any concert.
  • All events will be live streamed for those not wanting to attend physically.


  • Three hand sanitizing units must be placed at each booth.
  • A box of masks at every booth just in case
  • All booths will be sanitized by a professional crew every morning before the booths are operational.
  • Booth holders will wipe down/sanitize the booth every hour.
  • Booth holders will minimize the seating areas or spread out and encourage take out at lunch.
  • Workers in the booth will at all times wear masks.
  • Booth holders may be subjected to rapid tests in the Carnival period.
  • SCDF will convert one of its VIP sections as a food court for persons who do not want to dine at the booth.


  • Parade strategically placed at the end of Carnival
  • The parade will NOT traverse Fronstreet to avoid crowds in close proximity of each other. The Grand Parade starting point will be MPC. The route will move along Pondfill where it is more open and spacious, not Frontstreet.
  • Troupe leaders must space their revelers accordingly. Revelers should be masked.
  • Troupe helpers must be masked and wearing gloves when serving food and drinks
  • Band members must be masked. Singers can be unmasked.
  • Revelers should have no interaction with onlookers.
  • Parade onlookers should social distance in their own group along the route.
  • Picture taking will be from a distance, not close-up with onlookers.
  • Revelers and band members must have small hand sanitizer units on their person.
  • Revelers jammin’ on each other are strictly prohibited. Revelers caught doing this will be removed by police.


  • An elaborate COVID-19 Awareness Campaign where stakeholders (booth holders, Calypsonians, hosts, artists, pageant contestants, police, sponsors, revelers, troop leaders, djs, promoters etc) will be involved to inform the public about the new measures.
  • Awareness videos are being produced to be played on digital billboards and throughout Carnival Village 24-7. Radio will also be used.
  • Daily updates and reminders of measures in Carnival Village.
  • Show MC’s will actively relay safety measures throughout any show.
  • Effective signage, digital and banners, will be visible everywhere in Carnival Village and leading to the Village.

SCDF Booths

SCDF Parade

SCDF PR Awareness

SCDF Village Shows

SCDF General Measures




Prime Minister Jacobs presents legislative amendments to Parliament

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Today, Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs attended a closed-door working meeting of the Committee of General Affairs of Parliament. During the meeting, she presented the legislative changes to three national ordinances for implementation of the cost cutting measures per the conditions for receiving the 2nd tranche of liquidity support from the government of the Netherlands. To meet these conditions St. Maarten drafted the following three amending National Ordinances in order for the cost cutting measures to be enforceable.

Temporary National Ordinance to amend the employment conditions of political authorities. This draft National Ordinance will temporarily reduce the employment conditions of political authorities by 25% per July 1, 2020.

Temporary National Ordinance COVID-19 cuts employment conditions for civil servants.

This draft National Ordinance will temporarily reduce personnel cost by adjusting the terms of employment of public servants by 12.5% per July 1, 2020.

Temporary National Ordinance on the standardization of top incomes and adjustment of employment conditions at (semi) public sector entities.

This draft National Ordinance will standardize top incomes and reduce the employment conditions by 12.5% per July 1, 2020, within the (semi) public sector to meet the conditions set by the Dutch Government.

During the meeting, there was a misunderstanding concerning what documents were confidential and what could be shared openly with the members of Parliament pertaining to the country package agreements concluded in December 2020. These documents formed part of a Kingdom Council of Ministers meeting which also included letters from State Secretary Knops, and as such were classified as confidential. Prime Minister Jacobs and her support staff were able to make clarifications regarding what is confidential and what is not. As the country package agreements have now been signed and therefore established, it is now a document that can be shared openly. Prime Minister Jacobs apologized to the members of Parliament for the misunderstanding.

Unanswered questions posed by the members of Parliament will be sent in writing to Parliament before the handling of the National Ordinances in a central committee meeting of Parliament to be held on Monday, January 25, 2021.


The Maho Group Offers Regular Rapid Antigen Testing for Staff since Wednesday

SINT MAARTEN (MAHO) - The Maho Group, owners and operators of the all-inclusive, adults-only luxury Sonesta Ocean Point Resort and the all-inclusive, family-centric Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, Casino & Spa announce they will provide regular weekly rapid antigen testing for staff. This comes on the heels of the announcement made earlier this month that the resorts are offering this service to guests as well. 

“In light of the limited testing facilities on the island and for the safety of guests, employees, and the community, we believe staff should periodically and voluntarily be tested for COVID-19,” said Saro Spadaro, the Maho Group’s president & CEO.

In consultation with unions, management is introducing a medically supervised testing program using The Abbott Panbio™ COVID-19 Ag Rapid Test to be administered to staff by a healthcare professional, with results available within 30 minutes. Abbott’s Panbio™ COVID-19 Ag Rapid Test has been authorized by WHO (World Health Organization), it is widely used in the Netherlands by the Dutch Public Health Authorities (RIVM) and it has been approved as a pre-travel test by the Sint Maarten Government.

The testing is voluntary with the intention to test groups of staff every week prior to the start of their work shifts.  Based on the testing algorithm developed, all staff members who opt to be tested will receive a test at least once a month. The rapid antigen testing will augment the COVID-19 measures already in place with the resorts’ Pure Care program, that includes temperature checks, masks, sanitizing stations, personal protective equipment, and social distancing protocols, providing both staff and guests with an additional level of security.

The use of the testing will provide early identification of asymptomatic/pre-symptomatic infections to reduce group interactions when an infection is detected. In addition, the testing program will assess the effectiveness of current COVID-19 mitigation measures and ultimately support a commitment to the well-being of the community and the company’s staff and guests.  

More details on the company’s COVID-19 travel measures, offers and current promotions can be found at the company’s website


AUC Phi Chi Medical Fraternity Raises funds to support the Nature Foundation

SINT MAARTEN (COLE BAY) - The first Virtual 5k hosted by the Phi Chi Medical Fraternity of the American University of the Caribbean (AUC) School of Medicine raised over $1000 for the Nature Foundation St. Maarten. This event organized by Phi Chi Service Chair Julie Wancik offered prizes for participants to complete a 5 kilometer walk or run on their own time. Fifteen local businesses contributed prizes in an effort to reward participants ranging from gift cards to local restaurants, hour long massages, and even an introduction to scuba diving course. 

“We are so thankful for the hard work of Ms. Wancik and the 5K committee to put together this event. Due to the restrictions of the COVID19 virus pandemic it was difficult to host group events throughout the year. Having a virtual 5K was a great way to promote the foundation and help motivate the community to get out into nature and stay healthy. This event would also not have been a success without the generous support of the many local businesses that donated prizes for runners. We can’t express how very thankful we are that so many chose to support us even in these difficult times,” said Leslie Hickerson Educational Outreach officer at the Nature Foundation St. Maarten. 

Over 50 participants showed their support for the Nature Foundation by donating the $20 registration fee and competing for the amazing prizes by running or walking 5 kilometers. As a gift for registering for the run each runner received a Nature Foundation Eco Bracelet. Prizes were given to the top fastest runners and random prize drawings were held throughout the submission dates. 

Both the American Medical University and the Medical Fraternity Phi Chi often show their support for the Nature Foundation through beach clean-ups, program support, and awareness campaigns. “Phi Chi (Medical Fraternity) has always had a commitment to the environmental health of SXM.  As the Nature Foundation helps us with Mullet Bay beach clean ups every term of the year, it felt only natural to support the Foundation in a way that helps them sustainably further their mission.  Further, as medical students learning online during this pandemic, I knew how important maintaining physical activity is. My team of fellow Phi Chi members, Andy, Teresa, and Tanique and with Leslie at the NFSXM’s help, were able to reach many across SXM and across the USA to participate. I am very grateful for the business who donated their goods and services to reward participants.” 

The funding raised from the Virtual 5K will help the Nature Foundation continue to perform its essential tasks in order to preserve and protect the natural environment of St. Maarten. The Foundation preforms essential research and monitoring, responds to environmental disasters, works to help educate residents and visitors about the importance of protecting our delicate ecosystem, and monitors the marine protected area in St. Maarten. 

The Nature Foundation Eco-Bracelets are available at many locations including the Nature Foundation office in return for a $10 donation to the Nature Foundation. The Eco-bracelet is made from recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) fabric, which is the primary material used for the production of many water bottles around the world. Billions of PET bottles are discarded each year and a significant amount of them become littered in the natural environment, representing one of the biggest waste problems on Earth.  

A special thanks to our generous prize donations from: Fit Foods SXM, FM Hair Salon, Grace Yoga, Jules French Bakery, Ocean Explorers Dive Center, The Scuba Shop St. Maarten, Spaghetti House, Sunset Spa, The Palms Restaurant, Tri-Sport, and Yami Sushi. 

Watch to enter and participate in the 2nd Annual Virtual 5K run/walk benefiting the Nature Foundation of SXM later this Spring of 2021.  













CPO, SBS assist Coach Tom at the Little League Stadium

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - Over the last year, it has become much more difficult for organizations and individuals on the island who give their time to educate and support the children in our community, the Sint Maarten Police Force (KPSM) said in a statement on Tuesday.

One of those persons who played an integral part in the life of the kids on the island is Mr. Tom Burnet, AKA Coach Tom, who has been involved with kids on Sint Maarten since 2009.

In 2012, Coach Tom with some volunteers, started an afterschool program with the Sint Maarten Little League, offering sports training and tutoring to at-risk kids of the community.    

The Sint Maarten Little League designated a special location in the park where Coach Tom could assist the kids with their homework and life lessons.  

In connection with the rainstorms near the end of 2020, the location where Coach Tom and the kids used as a study location was flooded and rendered almost unusable.

Philipsburg Community Police Officer (CPO) Inspector S.P. Carty, who was made aware of the difficult situation at the Little League Stadium, approached Ivan Havertong to see what his company SBS could do to assist the after-school program at the Little League stadium.

Recognizing the importance of the program to the Sint Maarten community, Mr. Havertong decided to contribute to the plan, which would place gravel to cover the area where the children normally do their schoolwork. With this, the covered area would be usable by the kids for a longer period of time, even when it rains.

On 14 January 2021, the plan to surface the covered area was carried out whereby gravel was delivered by Mr. Havertong's company, and the community officer together with the volunteers carried out the work needed to assist Coach Tom and the children of the after-school program.

The St. Maarten Police (KPSM) would like to thank all those who have contributed towards improving the situation for the afternoon program. (KPSM)

police benches tue19




COM gives greenlight for Carnival 2021 under agreed upon parameters

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The Council of Ministers (COM) is convinced that the agreed upon public health protocols to be implemented by the Sint Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) will ensure public safety. As such, SCDF has been granted the greenlight to proceed with planning and execution of Carnival 2021 on St. Maarten. This decision was taken during a Council of Ministers meeting on January 14, after taking into consideration the plans for a safe Carnival 2021, given by representatives of SDCF.

This decision was taken with the understanding that should St. Maarten’s COVID-19 situation worsen in regards to the spread of the virus and medical capacity, cancellation of Carnival 2021 can still take place. As such, the infection rate will continue to be monitored as well as the capacity of the health sector to handle any possible outbreak.

The planning and execution of Carnival 2021, will continue with strict COVID-19 protocols to ensure that all the COVID-19 health protocols are upheld during all the events and aftermath of events including all approved parades. As, such the highly anticipated Jouvert Morning parade, including jump ups in general will not be allowed to take place as these events pose the largest health risk in terms of COVID-19 contamination and spread.

In order to monitor the adherence of the COVID-19 health protocols put in place, SCDF will be required to submit daily updates to the Ministers of VSA and TEATT. There will be a limitation of persons attending events at the Festival Village. In the interim, SCDF will embark on an intense information and awareness campaign which will begin soon.

Government has concerns regarding the hosting of large events, however, it is expected that the infection level of the COVID-19 virus will be different during the months of March and April as a result of more intense testing which remains ongoing and the administration of vaccines expected mid-February.

In the event St. Maarten’s medical capacity may become overburdened due to a significant rise in the number of COVID-19 active cases, which may lead to a cancellation of Carnival 2021, the Government of St. Maarten will not be held responsible for any loss of income, investments or otherwise.


West Tech Shipping Extends Gratitude to Customers for Toy Drive Donations

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - West Tech Shipping is expressing a heartfelt “Thank You” to its employees and customers who partnered with the shipping company for its Christmas Toy Drive.

The Toy Drive which was themed “Getting Christmas To You” saw at least one Children’s Home in each of West Tech’s six territories, receive toys and games for the Christmas Season.

Facilitators of the homes were grateful for the donations and are welcoming donations from other corporate citizens.

“We were not expecting many donations for 2020 due to the current situation with COVID and with people limiting their spending. I am happy that West Tech and its customers remembered the children and made such an important gesture.” One Children’s Home Facilitator expresses.

“We are very grateful for these donations. We cannot do everything on our own and donations from companies, organizations and even individuals go a long way in helping. Thank you, West Tech, your employees and customers.” Another Facilitator comments.

West Tech Shipping says it believes in giving back to the community in whatever little way that it can. Apart from the Christmas Toy Drive, West Tech Saint Lucia’s employees donated food and other necessities to underserved families on the island. The Company’s Regional Marketing Manager states that giving back has always been at the core of West Tech’s values.

“The number of donations received from both our employees and customers were very heartwarming. Once we added the donations to West Tech’s contribution, we were able to comfortably reach our goal of “giving the gift of a smile to children for the season.”

“We are very grateful for the contributions from our employees and customers. One customer in St. Maarten donated an entire box of toys. To receive these donations, when everyone has been affected by the pandemic, speaks volumes.” Expresses West Tech’s Regional Marketing Manager- Delia Louis

West Tech says it looks forward to many similar partnerships with customers and other stakeholders. At the same time, the regional shipping company would like to encourage corporate entities to continue to support community development no matter how small, as every little goes a long way, especially now.

WEST SKN Donation

St. Kitts & Nevis

WEST SVG Donation

St. Vincent

WEST Regional Marketing Manager SLU Donation

St. Lucia

WEST GND Donation



Past Community Activities

West Tech has partnered with Rotary/Rotaract Club to donate Back To School supplies to underprivileged students; the Buddy Bench programme to fight bullying in schools; the Dunnottar School to provide employment experience to a disabled student, the Make It Happen Foundation on prisoner rehabilitation, the Salvation Army through volunteer time, made donations to local charitable causes and supported sporting, cultural and social events through sponsorships. West Tech Shipping continues to work with local colleges to provide annual internship and employment opportunities for students.


About West Tech Shipping

West Tech Shipping is the leading, regional courier and logistics company. West Tech customers enjoy fast, easy and affordable air shipments (Monday to Friday), and one weekly sea freight package shipment, from the United States into the Caribbean region.

Simply order your items anywhere online, or West Tech orders for you, and you can receive your packages in as little as two business days, once the packages reach our US warehouse.

The shipping service can also be utilised to receive packages from friends and relatives in the US, or if you are travelling and do not wish to pay extra charges for flight luggage.

West Tech offers tracking and shipment notification services, as well as, the option to pay online or via our mobile app, using your personal West Tech account. West Tech customers also benefit from “Shippy” points on their orders, which can be used to pay for shipping and handling fees.

West Tech Shipping provides six convenient locations across the region, in Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Maarten, Grenada, Barbados and Saint Vincent.


SMMC gives tour of ACF to State Secretary Knops

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) - St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) gave a tour of its Auxiliary Care Facility (ACF) to Dutch State Secretary Raymond Knops and his delegation on Thursday January 7th.

Before touring the ACF, the State Secretary and his delegation were given a presentation regarding the construction of the various COVID-19 facilities since the start of the pandemic and how these evolved over time: from the emergency erection of the ICU Tent and the Mobile Medical Pavilion to the transfer of the ICU Tent to the gym hall of the Asha Stevens Hillside Christian School at the start of the 2020 hurricane season while simultaneously constructing the current ACF.

Also discussed was the construction of the St. Maarten General Hospital (SMGH) as the design upgrade to become Cat 5+ hurricane resistant was made possible by a grant from the St. Maarten Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience Trust Fund, funded by The Netherlands and managed by The World Bank.

The financial impact on SMMC in 2020 due to SMMC having to downscale non-emergency care on two separate occasions as a result of the local COVID surges was also highlighted. Lastly, parties were satisfied with the cooperation agreement made since the start of the pandemic with other hospitals within the Dutch Caribbean in coordination with the Dutch Ministry of Health (VWS) aimed at leveraging each other’s areas of strength.

The ACF was created by welding special medically outfitted containers (Hospitainers), donated by the Dutch Ministry of Health, and shipping containers together and securely anchoring them to a solid concrete foundation. The ACF is located across from SMMC and features sixteen (16) beds of which six (6) are ICU and ten (10) are medium care.

The ACF project was made possible in part by the funds of Trust Fund, funded by The Netherlands and managed by The World Bank. SMMC extends its gratitude to its employees, the Government of St. Maarten, the Dutch Ministry of Health, the World Bank and the AMI team for all of their contributions towards the health and wellbeing of the people of St. Maarten.

SMMC COVID Facilities timeline





St. Maarten government representatives meet with State Secretary Knops

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - On Thursday, January 7th, Prime Minister & Minister of General Affairs Silveria Jacobs, Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion, Minister of Justice Anna Richardson, Minister of VROMI Egbert Doran, and their support staff met with State Secretary of Interior & Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops and his delegation in a series of meetings at the Government Administration Building to update and follow-up on agreements made prior to the end of 2020. The Dutch delegation consisted of Dutch Representative Chris Johnson, Country Director-General of Kingdom Relations Saskia de Reuver and Acting Program Manager for St. Maarten Sanne Kouwenhoven who are appointed to the Temporary Working Organization (TWO) of BZK awaiting the establishment of the Caribbean Organization for Reforms and Development (COHO).
Both delegations were able to convey their support and eagerness to begin this process while emphasizing the long and challenging road ahead to realize the ambitious Country Reform package. The Ministers specifically took the opportunity to highlight areas of importance for which work and collaboration are immediately needed as well as to outline their hopes and intentions for the many projects that can be implemented under the umbrella of the Country Packages. During the working visit, State Secretary Knops and his delegation were also introduced to government’s newly implemented and approved structure for the discussions regarding the Country Package. The structure consisting of a Monitoring Committee and Secretaries General Platform/Consultation was explained giving an indication of communication lines with counterparts in the TWO established by the Dutch. 
“The government of St. Maarten, including Ministers, Secretaries General, Department Heads and civil servants, will all play a major role in the planning and execution of the reforms ensuring that the subsequent programs and projects have the interest of St. Maarten and its people first and foremost and have our input from the beginning,” stated Prime Minister Jacobs. As such, the St. Maarten government representatives will commence meetings on a technical level scheduled for today, Friday with the Dutch TWO and will continue Monday and Tuesday to deal with the most urgent matters with upcoming deadlines.
During the first meeting, Prime Minister Jacobs and Minister of Finance Irion were able to provide State Secretary Knops and his delegation with an update on meeting the conditions for the second and third tranches of liquidity support. Furthermore, the reconstruction via the Trust Fund was discussed along with progress and challenges. Prime Minister Jacobs also highlighted gratitude to the Dutch Government for the areas of collaboration in the matters related to public health and the COVID-19 response, as well as challenges that still exist in relation to needed personnel and the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccination strategy of the Kingdom and St. Maarten. These topics will be further elaborated on in the technical meetings to be held in the coming days.
The State Secretary Knops provided an update on the status of the COHO draft legislation law, upon the query of the Prime Minister, which is still at the Kingdom Council of State and confirmed that St. Maarten’s questions were added to those of the other Caribbean Kingdom partners. The timeline moving forward was also briefly discussed, including the trajectory for the draft law to be handled in all the Parliaments in the Kingdom after the Council of State has rendered their advice. Throughout the negotiation process, Prime Minister Jacobs has sent all documents pertaining to St. Maarten’s Country Reform package to Parliament and has also kept the members of Parliament updated on a regular basis about the conditions agreed upon for the second and third tranches of liquidity support. 
In subsequent meetings held, the Minister of VROMI Doran highlighted several matters in relation to the Trust Fund’s Emergency Debris Management Project (EDMP). Solid waste management, challenges at the Landfill, as well as the challenges being faced with the resettlement of residents living near the landfill were among the issues discussed. Challenges experienced with the World Bank regulations and the necessity of awaiting their input and approval to be able to proceed in areas needing immediate attention requires real collaborative efforts on all sides to get this project moving, seeing the three years that have already elapsed.
In the meeting related to pending Justice matters, Minister of Justice Richardson discussed matters in relation to the working relationship with UNOPS which is the organization proposed to build and manage the new prison. Minister Richardson also discussed the collaboration of our law enforcement and immigration matters and there was agreement that much of the follow up would be done in the upcoming Kingdom Ministerial consultation in the JVO meetings.
“This marks a new beginning for the Netherlands and St. Maarten as we embark together on this mutual agreement. The government of St. Maarten identifies and acknowledges the opportunity to make St. Maarten resilient through structural reforms. As such, we are developing our implementation strategy for the package of reforms which is to be complementary to the projects and initiatives already in place via the Trust Fund and World Bank,” stated Prime Minister Jacobs.

De Jonge brings forward date to Jan.06 of first vaccine as hospitals make own plans

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Health minister Hugo de Jonge has brought forward the start of the Netherlands’ Covid vaccination programme after hospitals said they would start immunising acute care staff earlier than the scheduled date of January 8.

Amsterdam’s UMC hospital said it would start vaccinating staff working with coronavirus patients as soon as it received the first batch of 5,000 Pfizer vaccines. De Jonge informed parliament by letter that the Hart voor Brabant health authority in Veghel would begin on Wednesday.

The health minister is expected to come in for criticism from MPs when they debate the cabinet’s vaccination plan on Tuesday. Originally Hart voor Brabant was one of three health board regions, together with Utrecht and Rotterdam, that were scheduled to begin vaccinating frontline healthcare workers from January 8, three days before the rest of the country.


The Netherlands is the last country in the European Union to begin immunising its population against Covid-19. Last month De Jonge dismissed calls to bring forward the programme, telling MPs it would be ‘irresponsible’ and other countries were starting earlier for ‘symbolic’ reasons.

De Jonge has already adjusted the vaccination plan several times to bring forward vaccines for people working in hospitals and nursing homes, as well as family doctors, in response to appeals from professional bodies.

A spokesman for the UMC hospital told Het Parool organising vaccines for its own personnel was ‘not a difficult task’. It will prioritise people working on the coronavirus ward, in intensive care and in the accident and emergency department.

‘We give our staff flu jabs every year. That’s slightly different but we don’t have to do a lot extra. The only thing we are dependent on is when the vaccine comes.’ The UMC is also responsible for distributing Covid-19 vaccines to other hospitals in the province of Noord-Holland.

Community role

Teachers, police officers and community wardens have also called for early vaccinations because their jobs expose them to large numbers of people.

A spokesman for teaching unions AOb told ANP news agency: ‘We realise we’re not in the first group and that healthcare should go first, but if we want to get things fully back on track soon, we should make sure teaching staff are vaccinated as quickly as possible.’

Unions representing the police and community enforcement officers said their members should receive the vaccine as soon as possible given their status as ‘vital’ professions. Ruud Kruin, chair of the association of community wardens’ union, said: ‘They have a lot of contact with other people which means they are at greater risk of being infected with coronavirus.’

On Saturday health minister Hugo de Jonge agreed to reserve the first 30,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine for ambulance crews, accident and emergency staff and those working on Covid wards and in intensive care. Family doctors have also been added to the priority list.


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