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SMMC welcomes volunteer doctors back home

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) - St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) is temporarily receiving assistance from two medical doctors who are very familiar with the island, Dr. Kim Verschueren, who was born and raised on St. Maarten and Dr. Katja Andeweg, who has worked on the island for several years in the past.

Dr. Kim Verschueren was born and raised on the island and has been a medical doctor for two and a half years. In 2011, she graduated from MPC and left the island to study medicine in Utrecht, the Netherlands. In the beginning of her fourth year, in 2014, her first rotation (internships in medical school) was on the surgical ward in SMMC under supervision of SMMC Medical Director and General Surgeon Dr. Felix Holiday. She graduated as a medical doctor in 2017 and a year after that she started working in The Hague until coming to St. Maarten. In October 2020, she will be starting her six-year residency in Gynecology/Obstetrics in The Hague/Leiden.

Dr. Katja Andeweg is a Dutch medical doctor with a special love for Sint Maarten and its people. Nine years ago, she interned at the Bushroad Clinic and after graduating, she worked at the Emergency Room (ER) of SMMC for a year and a half, after which she returned to the Bushroad Clinic and also taught at the American University of the Caribbean (AUC). After completing her Master’s degree, she now works as a GP in training Amsterdam and will return to the Netherlands in July.

What made you decide to assist SMMC during the COVID-19 pandemic?

KV: As health care workers, many of us feel the urge to help your 'own' country, especially when you feel potentially more valuable. In my situation, with the guarantee of starting my specialization at the end of the year, I felt free and able to quit my job in the Netherlands and come home to help where necessary.

Quite some colleagues of mine, working abroad (in Suriname, Curacao, Sub-Sahara Africa), returned to the Netherlands as soon as the pandemic threat grew. In addition to this, some of the richest countries in the world (UK and USA) are currently recruiting doctors from all over the world to help during this COVID-19 pandemic. This has catastrophic consequences for countries most in need of their health care professionals and made me feel inclined to come back to St. Maarten.

KA: The main reason to come back is because of the request of the hospital for doctors. In my workplace in the Netherlands, it was very quiet and wanting to make myself more useful I decided to come back. The GP-specialty training (huisartsenopleiding) and the foundation (SBOH) agreed that I could be working in the SMMC to help fight the COVID-pandemic instead of working in a GP-office in Amsterdam. They promised to allow me to continue my training while still paying me and I am very grateful that they gave me this opportunity. 

In a nutshell, can you tell us what your primary role will be while here?

KV: I will help where necessary as a general doctor. From what I've understood, this may be the general wards, the COVID-19 ward, the intensive care unit, the emergency rooms or wherever else.

KA: I will work as a medical doctor where ever is needed: on the ER-department, the general wards or the COVID-19 ward. Another contribution will most likely be improving the communication between the hospital and general practitioners and helping setting up COVID-protocols for the hospital. My working experience on the island, also after hurricane Irma, and the experience with COVID in the Netherlands as a general practitioner will certainly contribute to that.

What has your first day(s) working at SMMC been like? 

KV: Katja and I were immediately tested upon arrival (blood and swab) and have been quarantining ourselves awaiting the results. We also received work instructions and learn how to work with the electronic patient database via a video-conference. 

KA: The first thing we got when arriving in the hospital was a COVID rapid test and a swab. Until both results were in, we didn’t have any patient contact.  

What is your first impression of SMMC’s COVID response?

KV: SMMC's COVID response seems very adequate, even better than the initial response in the hospital I worked in the Netherlands. Instructions are clear (wash, social distancing, self-quarantine), gatherings are avoided and video-conference are used to provide work instructions. Next to this, triage of patients is done outside the emergency department and a separate Covid-19 pavilion is built next to the hospital to be able to keep providing regular, Covid-19 free, care in the SMMC building.

KA: The first impression that I got from the video SMMC made is that it looks very professional. All details on the floor I still have to look into, but in the hospital, everything seems to be well controlled.  

SMMC is proud and grateful to welcome Dr. Verschueren and Dr. Andeweg back to the hospital and thank them for their commitment and dedication to the health and wellbeing of the people of St. Maarten.

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COCI & CARICHAM Invites Businesses to Webinar about Agriculture

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations will be organizing a webinar about COVID-19 and Food Systems under the banner, “Enabling agriculture investment in the Caribbean for an effective response and post-COVID-19 recovery.”

The St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce & Industry (COCI) along with its regional partner the Caribbean Chambers of Commerce (CARICHAM), is inviting local businesses as well as those with an affinity to agriculture development, to participate in the free webinar.

According to the FAO, “The COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, and many Caribbean countries are threatened by potential disruptions in their food systems and agricultural production. The abrupt drop in the tourism activity also threatens to generate a recession, and the arrival of the hurricane season completes a complex scenario for all Caribbean countries.

“In this context, recovering and strengthening the region’s Agri food systems has become a strategic priority, both for the food and nutritional security of the countries, and as a means to generate new sources of income for the rural sectors.

“The FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean has taken the task to coordinate and carry out a series of discussions, through online conferences, focused on the effects of COVID-19 on the agri-food system.”

This is the fifth webinar of the FAO-COVID-19 and Food Systems Series, co-organized with in collaboration with the CARICOM Secretariat.

The webinar will take place on Thursday, 7 May 2020 - 12:00 PM Barbados time (UTC -4), with a foreword by Julio Berdegué, FAO Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, and by Renata Clarke, FAO Sub-regional Coordinator for the Caribbean (SLC). The link for the webinar can be found on the Facebook page of the St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

Speakers during the webinar will be: Máximo Torero Cullen - Chief Economist and Assistant Director General of FAO, Economic and Social Department (ES-FAO), "Coronavirus: The Food Supply Chain Under Pressure What Can We Do?;"

Saboto Caesar - Minister of Agriculture, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Chair of CARICOM Agriculture Sector COVID-19 Response Task Force, "CARICOM COVID-19 Food and Security Action Plan Coordination and Implementation;"

Joseph Cox - CARICOM Assistant Secretary-General, Trade and Economic Integration Blueprint for Transitioning to Post-COVID-19 Economic Recovery; Patrick Antoine - Caribbean Private Sector Organization Representative, “Private Sector Leading Growth in the Region in a post COVID-19 world;”

Selected experts will pose questions following the presentations: Michael Clifton Pintard, Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources, the Bahamas; Jeremy Stephen, Economist; Lystra Fletcher-Paul, FAO Former Sub-regional Coordinator SRC-SLC.

The webinar initiative is part of the agreement made between 11 international organizations present in the region to coordinate their actions and provide technical support to governments in order to keep agri-food trade alive, expand social protection systems, reach common sanitary and phytosanitary standards, and increase intraregional trade.

St. Maarten COCI became an official member of the CARICHAM Network in February 2020.

CARICHAM was officially launched on April 1, 2019 to promote cooperation and collaboration between its 19-members within the Caribbean Basin. The grouping also seeks to improve the levels of trade and investment within the region and between the region and other trading partners.

CARICHAM would represent the interest of the private sector on regional and international issues; facilitate capacity building opportunities for members and representatives of the Chambers of Commerce; identify and undertake training, and facilitate other cooperation programs that will benefit the membership of the Chambers, as well as the next generation of Caribbean business leaders; foster innovation and strategic collaboration among members to increase global competitiveness of industries; develop and share business-to-business market intelligence; share experiences and best practice in areas such as trade and investment, renewable energy/energy efficiency, disaster risk reduction and climate change; and finally add value as well as identify opportunities for the members of the respective Chambers.

The members of CARICHAM are Chambers of Commerce & Industry from the following countries: Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago, Guadeloupe and St. Maarten.

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Remembrance Day Commemoration 2020

SINT MAARTEN (HARBOUR VIEW) - Today May 4, 2020 we observed two minutes of silence in remembrance of the men and women who gave their lives in the fight to protect our democracy and freedom during War and peace keeping missions, according to a statement from the cabinet of the Governor His Excellency Eugene Holiday.

“Our yearly commemoration is our display of our appreciation for their sacrifices. And this year it takes on even greater significance against the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s commemoration comes at a time when our generation is called upon to help fight the global war against COVID-19.

“A war that has disrupted our lives and way of living in so many ways. Today many among us are suffering with the corona virus and several families have lost a grandparent, a parent, a brother, a sister or a friend.

“In our effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 many among us are faced with the consequences of losing jobs or pay-cuts as businesses experience financial fallout. Marie Louise and I pray for everyone who are suffering as a result of the corona virus. And our hearts and sympathy go out to the families who have lost loved ones and friends.

“As we take on this unprecedented public health and socio-economic challenge, we can draw inspiration from the courage of the men and women we honor on this Remembrance Day. We can, moreover, draw strength from our courageous men and women out there risking their own health to keep us safe and to provide for our essential needs.

“Every day our health care professionals, our law enforcement officers, our grocery workers and other frontline employees remind us that our wellbeing and our country is worth fighting for. And as they do so, I express my deepest gratitude for their commitment, and I pray that God will keep them safe.

“As we endure these trying times and fight this unprecedented crisis let us on this Remembrance Day draw strength from the knowledge that generations before us have faced seemingly insurmountable challenges and prevailed.

“Let us as a Sint Maarten people remember that we have faced adversity before and overcame. Let us remember to remain steadfast in our knowledge that together we will overcome again,” the statement from the cabinet concludes.   

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UPDATED: Business Payroll Support Deadline Extended to May 6. 291 Employers with over 4,770 Employees Sign-up for Payroll Support Plan

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The Minister of Finance announced today, Friday, May 1st that the application deadline for Business Payroll Support would be extended. The new application deadline is May 6, 2020 midnight. This is a final extension for the first month of Business Payroll Support. 

The Sint Maarten Stimulus Support Relief Plan (SSRP) team has decided on this final deadline extension in order to grant companies the additional time to gather the required documents to apply for the first month of Business Payroll Support.

The final deadline extension also takes into consideration the review and payment process that needs to take place. At present, payments are scheduled to take place the week of May 11th. Applications will be reviewed and confirmed based on a ‘first in, first out’ order. Companies that were first to apply will be reviewed first. Approved applications will be paid out in the same order. 

A reminder to companies who may not have initially qualified for Business Payroll Support based on the exempt list, you may still qualify for the Lockdown Payroll Support Plan.

The deadline to apply for Lockdown Payroll Support is May 22, 2020. To verify if your company qualifies, visit www.ssrp.sx and go to Lockdown Payroll Support. 

Payroll Support Plan is available to qualifying companies for a maximum of 3 months. For each month, the company must submit an application requesting Payroll Support. An overview of payroll support plan options, deadlines and requirements can be found on www.ssrp.sx.

ARCHIVE - APRIL 30 - SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - As per April 30, 2020 time 11.30 am, 291 eligible employers with over 4770 employees registered their company online with SZV for online stimulus support. The deadline to apply is tomorrow May 1. Even though the new deadline will fall on May 1, though this is a national holiday, businesses will still be able to submit their documents online.

As of next week, the review committee, which consists of one representative of the government, one representative on behalf of SZV and one independent representative. The review committee will follow up on the applications as needed, during and post-review. The payouts for stimulus support will then begin during the week of May 11th.

Important deadlines

The deadline to apply for Lockdown Payroll Support is May 22, 2020. The application form for “Lockdown Payroll Support” will be available in the first week of May via SZV’s Employer Portal.

For each month of the Payroll Support Program, employers are required to complete a separate application form. The deadline for May Payroll Support is May 22, 2020. The deadline for June Payroll Support is June 19, 2020

Government would like to remind the general public that the ideology for providing the assistance is based on assisting those most vulnerable in our society.

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Supermarkets/Grocers to Open Tue-Wed-Thurs. GEBE, TelEm and UTS to also Open. Optician services can be arranged

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The Prime Minister and Chair of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Silveria Jacobs issued an update on Sunday evening as it concerns the latest developments and the Government’s COVID-19 containment, mitigation and response measures.

CPS social media production

I know you have just enjoyed a very good production that was just held by CPS. I know you will look forward to hearing from our medical professionals in the future, as this will be a weekly feature. I hereby congratulate them at this moment for an exceptional job thus far.

Condolences

We would like to extend our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of the deceased and wish each and every person dealing with a COVID-19 death, as well as a regular death, much strength during these trying times, as you’re not able to comfort each other as is usual.

COVID-19 Cases

Based on the latest available data, the counts for April 25, as of 4:00 PM are as follows:

  • Self-Quarantine: 127
  • Self-Isolation: 103
  • Number Hospitalized: 7
  • Number Tested: 295
  • Number Positive: 74
  • Male: 52
  • Female: 22
  • Number Negative: 211
  • Number Pending: 9
  • Inconclusive: 1
  • Deceased: 13
  • Recovered: 33
  • Active Case: 28


Pie graphs

My Cabinet staff will publish pie graphs demonstrating the total numbers of positive cases, amount deceased, recovered, tested, as well as the current active cases. The majority of these cases have been negative and I believe that bodes well. We should also pay attention to our positive numbers. In this way, we can see that what we are doing now to flatten the curve is actually working. Of the seven persons, currently in the St. Maarten Medical Centre, three are in the hospital, while three are in the medium care pavilion and one is in intensive care in the ICU tent.

We wish all persons still struggling with the COVID-19 virus much strength and we continue to work together with our doctors and CPS to ensure that the number will flatten and slowly start to go down. We have been assessing our data on a daily basis, and hopefully by next week, we will be able to give you a better overview of what has been happening as it relates to our COVID-19 patients. Those in isolation, quarantine as well as those who are being monitored very carefully by our medical personnel. 

Strategic discussions

We have had several meetings over the past week with ESF 5, 6, 7, 9, and 10 coordinators, together with the Ministers and their respective teams. We have been strategically discussing the next steps forward based on our plans and we have decided on the following in or EOC meeting of yesterday, April 24, 2020.

Relaxation of measures
It was determined that we should make the necessary changes to the ‘State of Emergency’ in order to further relax the safety and security measures currently in place, still allowing for three days of shopping despite it being a holiday week. The relaxed measures will ensure that some economic activity will still take place. These measures will also maintain the necessary safety measures to continue to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus as CPS goes about their day-to-day assessment within our community.


The main considerations concerning the relaxed measures, which allows for more businesses to be able to offer their services, will allow us to take a step closer to our new normal and maintain the necessary safety measures. The first priority, being the health perspective and flattening the curve, the second, being law enforcement and reducing civil unrest, and the third, being Economic Affairs, thereby mitigating further economic decline.

This week scheduled business openings
Due to the upcoming public holidays, the new essential business list schedule will allow for the general public to shop on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Monday and Friday, are holidays and as such, the general public will be allowed to make use of their right to do necessary grocery shopping, going to the pharmacies or visiting other essential businesses as listed in the addendum to the Ministerial Regulation on these particular days. Deliveries will also be increased. Therefore, more businesses are allowed to do deliveries this coming week onwards.

This one-week deviation was to ensure that our public still had three days to make use of necessities on the following week. The Monday, Wednesday, and Friday structure will resume after. Additionally, the general public will have access to more business services such as GEBE, TelEm and UTS to be able to pay their bills.

Tenants under the care of the St. Maarten Housing Development Foundation will also be able to carry-out their urgent and necessary errands on the three days that persons are allowed to make use of the public roads. Therefore, that is this week Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and thereafter, we will be back to the Monday, Wednesday, Friday, arrangement until the regulation has been lifted.

Optician services
Another new addition to the Ministerial Regulation is the option for the general public to make use of optician services as of next week. Additionally, on the three days, several persons have mentioned that they need to make use of the optician services in order to get their glasses renewed and as such, next week Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and thereafter, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, you will be able to leave your homes once you’re out doing your shopping,

Maintenance and repair services

Persons may arrange appointments to have maintenance and repair personnel come to their homes to do the necessary repairs and maintenance on the given days as well. Persons may also make use of insurance, notarial, legal services, and veterinary services by appointment only on the above-mentioned days that the public is allowed to make use of the roads. Those in need of these services are asked to stay within your own district as much as and to respect the zones as has been determined by National Decree. Namely, east of the Cole Bay hill (Zone A) and West of the Cole Bay hill (Zone B). We have asked all the banks, GEBE and TelEm to ensure that both branches on either side of the hill are open to minimize the amount of movement across the both sides. 

Courier services

Persons will also be able to get their packages ordered online as the courier’s will be allowed to deliver in the coming week. All these businesses may offer their services through delivery only. You are not allowed to go to their location of business to pick up your package. Last week, we already allowed for home delivery for baby and maternity stores, hardware stores and electronic stores as well as IT sales. This arrangement will also continue. 

By appointment only
Medical practitioners, laboratories and dental clinics are open to the public by appointment only all days of the week according to their schedules. This was already allowed last week; therefore, this will remain in effect. You do not need a personal waiver for these matters, as you just need some form of proof for your appointment with your doctor. Once your doctor issues you a letter to go to the lab or to the pharmacy, then that would serve as your proof of appointment in case you are stopped on the days when the curfew is in full effect for 24 hours. Moreover, construction projects are still only allowed for the COVID-19 related projects, as well as a police station, as these are emergency services in need of dire repair for their proper functioning during this COVID-19 period. The restaurants that have arrangements with essential Services may also continue to do so.

Other restaurants
Unfortunately, I am not going to allow other restaurants to open in the meantime until we can ensure that we have flattened the curve. All safety measures apply to all businesses allowed to be open for the three days. Therefore, you must ensure that your staff is healthy. Ensure that no one reporting to work has no flu-like symptoms, ensure good hygiene and sanitation protocols are in place. If you do not, you will most definitely be shut down.

Conditions
Persons venturing out on the public roads during these times are asked to only do so on a needs basis. Do not go out there just for sightseeing. This complaint has also come forward. Please stay at home for your own health. Only one person per family is allowed to go out and stand in line to do any type of shopping remembering to maintain a 2 meters distance from other customers. We are totally against any groupings of persons standing in line.

In cars, there should be no more than two persons. I ask that you wear protective gear as many are being homemade and they’re using filters to ensure that the cloth masks are effective. Many companies are selling mask out there, therefore, ensure that you get yours. I ask that you refrain from hugging, kissing and shaking hands when you are out in public. These are strictly forbidden, as they will most definitely cause the spread of the virus.

There should be clearly defined markings outside and inside of all locations including at cash registers, 1.5 to 2 meters between clients, as well as in the back of the cash registers. Clearly marked arrows should be visible in all aisles ensuring one-directional traffic as well as ensuring proper social distancing inside and outside the stores. All staff must be free of flu-like symptoms and must wear protective gear. These places of business are to provide sanitizing spray or hand sanitizers for their customers entering the establishment. Proper sanitization of baskets and shopping carts are also a must and proper crowd control must be in place. Therefore, you must have a security guard or a community leader and ensure that no groupings larger than what your store can hold is allowed inside.

Delivery system
All businesses must ensure that they can put out a good and efficient delivery system in order to keep the population satisfied. On days, when you are not allowed to visit the stores, they are allowed to make deliveries. Many stores have been doing that and I commend you for doing so and keeping our population as safe as possible.

Curacao

I’ve also taken note that due to the situation in Curacao, where medical personnel brought in to assist were noted to have been COVID- 19 positive, I would like to reiterate that when our medical and technical assistance arrived, we ensured that were tested prior to arrival and upon arrival. These persons also had to maintain a two-week quarantine here on St. Maarten before going into society. While working they must wear protective gear at all times in case they do start to show symptoms at a later time.

Our marines and police officers that have come in have been tested and will continue to be tested as long as they are going to be active in our society. We will not put our people at risk when we are looking for assistance and I must say that the Dutch Marines were in quarantine for two weeks before getting on the ship and they have been at sea for about a week. They will continue to remain on the ship until we can ascertain that they have been tested and are safe to enter our community. 

Waiver system
In clarifying the waiver system, persons on the French side who need to travel to the Dutch side will need to permission from the Chief of Police (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or myself (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). These waivers may also be submitted digitally via www.sintmaartengov.org/coronavirus under the ‘Law, Form & Protocols’ option. Persons on the Dutch side needing to cross the border to the French side will have to request permission from the Prefete via the following link https://forms.gle/QugqNVS1nWrCnY9U9.

Ad hoc

As we near the end of today’s announcement, I would like to tell the people of St. Maarten that we are not working in an ad hoc manner. We have very strict plans in place, but we continue to assess the delivery of these plans and how it is actually working in the community, and as such, we are adjusting and ensuring that people can receive what we plan for them to get in the time that it is allotted. 

Plan B, C and D
Of course, every good plan must have a Plan B, C and D, and therefore, as we are just moving along and we see that the curve is actually flattening, we can then have a release of more and more services. This way the persons on St. Maarten can feel that we are in a sense of normalcy. I must say that many people are using this time to find new ways to earn funds and find new ways to become productive while remaining at home.

Students
We are actively looking at ways to ensure that some students who have not yet been able to make up online classes would be able to do so. We’re actively seeking funds, as well as ensuring that every child will be able to understand and learn, even in this COVID-19 reality. E-government and E-education was always on my vision board, but COVID-19 gives us the unique opportunity to be able to enforce it right away. No longer can we say that we don’t have enough money for this or we don’t have enough money for that. We must find the money, and with COVID-19 money being available out there in the community and in the international world we will use every opportunity afforded to us to be able to ensure that every child gets the necessary education even while they are at home. Therefore, we are looking at ways to get devices as well as Internet connection to all our students.

EU funds

There are EU funds available, however, you must have your project ready to go. They are not going to give the money directly to the government of St. Maarten. Therefore, we have to identify organizations that are ready to go to execute hard work in order to get those funds moving on St. Maarten.

Opportunity

This is an opportunity people of St. Maarten. Let’s make use of it. St. Maarten was not up to par as it pertains to being online, paying bills online, ordering food or materials online. We know how to order from Amazon etc. however, here is your opportunity to offer the general public of St. Maarten products made in St. Maarten. Start your own online business.

You start realizing your dreams. It is about time that the people of St. Maarten realizes the strength that lies within them. Realize the strength that lies within you to find your dream. Think of a way of making online business work for you. Let us see how inventive you can be. Even our own local University can do better in offering more online classes and I’m willing to sit with each and every one who has great ideas about that. I know many great ideas exist within our community and together we can solve the problems that the world is facing.

As a matter of fact, we will be trendsetters by showing how after this COVID-19, we bounce back better. We bounce back smarter. We bounce back, more efficient and able to handle our business. So, let us put all our hands-on deck, improve our own lives, thereby, improving St. Maarten as a whole.

When we are ready to open St. Maarten, people will say, “Wow! St. Maarten has worked hard, despite the difficulties faced, despite having persons showing up at the hospital undocumented and unregistered by CPS.”

We are still doing our best and making sure that everybody is informed. Information is power! Ensure that you are informed. Ensure that your neighbors are informed and make sure that we are all executing a high level of social distancing and personal hygiene, as well as when we go out so that we do not infect others if we may be positive ourselves and do not know it.

If you feel any symptoms whatsoever, get tested. By getting tested, we can get you healed, recovered and back in society. That is what we want because around the world, COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere. It is going down and going up, but on our tiny island, while we have the opportunity, let us kick it in the butt and send it on its way. We can do this people, we can do this!

I wish each and everyone of us a blessed weekend and remember, stay strong, stay faithful; we are blessed.

april latest fig

 

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CIBC FIRSTCARIBBEAN DONATES USD $10K TO SMMC

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) - The St. Maarten Medical Center will soon be equipped with two Dominant Flex Mobile Suction Machines and five SSCOR Duet Portable Suction Devices through a recent USD $10,000 donation by CIBC FirstCaribbean.  

The machines, which are scheduled to arrive on the island within the coming weeks, will be used in the fight against Covid-19 on St. Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius.  

The bank, through its charitable arm the FirstCaribbean International ComTrust Foundation, donated a total of USD$250,000 across countries in its regional footprint. The donation is amongst a list of Covid relief efforts by the bank. 

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Eight COVID-19 Cases Hospitalized including Two Dialysis Patients

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - Prime Minister and Chair of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Silveria Jacobs, update for Thursday, April 23, 2020 is as follows.

Eight COVID-19 Cases Hospitalized 

There are no COVID-19 updates for today, as Government is awaiting lab results from the St. Maarten Laboratory Services which had to be sent to Institute Pasteur in Guadeloupe. However, I can update that as of today, April 23rd, 2020, the St. Maarten Medical Centre (SMMC) has 8 COVID-19 suspected patients admitted. 

Of the eight patients, two are dialysis patients who have been transferred to the Mobile Medical Pavilion, one has been admitted to the ICU tent and the other five remain at SMMC. Five persons are also currently isolated at our isolation facility and 22 persons currently recovering at home.  

Doctors Guests on Prime Minister Talks 

CPS Head Eva Lista-de Weever and Dr. Raissa Tjon-Kon-Fat were featured on Prime Minister Talks today as well and disseminated information to the general public. CPS will continue to weekly update the public in a live interview on St. Maarten Government Radio 107.9 FM and Government’s Facebook page. 

Border Control and Security 

Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs held a fruitful four-country ministerial consultation together with the Minister of Justice Anna Richardson and Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion pertaining to the plan of action in regard to border control and security. 

Minister Richardson is currently preparing the necessary plans in order to secure our borders. Additionally, the Joint Regulation on Border Control agreements have been extended until December 2020, and discussions pertaining to a further extension will continue throughout this period. Lastly, discussions were also had concerning further developments and training of our customs officers. 

Consultation with Dutch State Secretary Knops

This afternoon, a four-country ministerial consultation on an administrative level was also held with State Secretary of Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops to discuss the COVID -19 developments and measures implemented.

Prime Minister Jacobs shared the status of the St. Maarten Medical Centre in regard to COVID-19. Epidemiological reports were shared between all countries in the consultation, as well as measures to be implemented by each respective country where it pertains to financing and restarting the economy. Also discussed, were de-escalation measures and current measures that the countries will be implementing to secure the social and economic welfare of persons.  

Stimulus Plans Shared 

The countries also shared their various stimulus plans. In addition, St. Maarten provided clarity in regard to the liquidity support 2019 received, and the pending liquidity support to deal with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

State Secretary Knops reassured of the Dutch pledge to support the Caribbean countries in the Dutch Kingdom and is awaiting the CFT advice on St. Maarten’s Stimulus and Relief Plan financing request, which is expected in time for a decision at the Kingdom Council of Ministers meeting of May 1st, 2020. State Secretary Knops also stated that we continue to learn from each other as we face this pandemic together. 

Adapt to the New Normal 

As St. Maarten moves further into the depths of the digital world, Prime Minister Jacobs urges both the community and businesses to accept the changes before us and begin to adapt to our new normal. This is the only way to keep a calm head during this pandemic. “It is very important to remain indoors, join an exercise group online, or start one within your family or friend circle. You can also start a book club, take up sewing, bookkeeping, or take time to learn or develop a skill you’ve always wanted to master. Continue practicing proper hygiene and boosting your immune system.  

COVID-19 was unexpected, however, just like all the other challenges St. Maarten has overcome, this too shall pass, and we will have been stronger for the experience. Every storm has its silver lining, and I challenged each and every citizen to find and highlight one good thing that has come out of this period of quarantining ourselves at home. Remember that those front liners have no choice, they must work to save US, protect US, care for US, and provide essential service for US. Let us help them to help us by staying at home, and only going out if it really cannot be avoided. 

God bless St. Maarten and her people as we work together; Government, community, and each and every St. Maarten resident, to keep her safe,” concluded Prime Minister Jacobs.”  

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COVID-19 deceased climbs to 12. Cases Now at 73. Some Businesses to Reopen Next Week

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - Prime Minister and Chair of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Silveria Jacobs issued a statement on Wednesday giving an update with respect to current COVID-19 developments.

COVID-19 Cases  

Based on the latest available data, as updated by CPS Epidemiologist Eva Lista-de Weever, the counts for April 22, 2020 as of 4:00 PM are as follows:  

  • Self-Quarantine: 130  
  • Self-Isolation: 95   
  • Number Hospitalized:   8  
  • Number Tested:  266 (+8)
  • Number Positive: 73 (+2)
  • Male:  51  
  • Female:  22  
  • Number Negative: 169 (+28)
  • Number Pending:  23
  • Inconclusive:     1  
  • Deceased:  12 (+1)
  • Recovered:  22 (+10)
  • Active Cases:  39 (+1)

Today, April 22, 2020, the St. Maarten Medical Centre Outbreak Management Team has updated that the works on the Intensive Care Unit ICU tent have been completed and that the tent is ready for its first patients.

Moving forward, any COVID-19 suspected or confirmed patient requiring ICU care will be admitted to the tent which will be manned by Medical and Nursing personnel provided by the Ministry of Volksgezondheid, Welzijn en Sport (VWS) via AMI Healthcare.

Some Businesses May Reopen Next Week

On April 22, 2020, a meeting was held with Prime Minister Jacobs and Emergency Support Function 10 to receive updates and further deliberations concerning the effects of COVID-19 on the business community. Considering that Government’s stimulus plan was launched this week and that certain businesses cannot qualify for the payroll subsidy, ESF 10 is considering allowing these businesses to be open, through limited opening hours effective next week. 

Businesses Closed in Contravention of Decree

The Inspectorate of the Ministry of TEATT conducted controls today and closed businesses that were operating in contravention to the published National decree of April 18, 2020. The government urges businesses not to engage in such as they will be fined.

Prime Minister Jacobs has decided to allow freight, shipping, and cargo companies to make deliveries to all their clients and not just emergency and essential services. Veterinary clinics and the St. Maarten Marine Trade Association (SMMTA) have also sent in their waiver requests to resume their operations in order to provide services to the public and these are being considered.

WIB to Open More Branches

The Windward Islands Bank will have 3 branches open as of next week to facilitate the month-end traffic and payments of pension, social welfare & payroll. The third branch will be announced at a later date. Prime Minister Jacobs encourages persons to visit the branch closest to their home and to continue to practice social distancing.

Waiver

Lastly, the waiver or ‘Certificate of Exception’ also known as ‘Form C’ is usually granted for persons traveling for work, urgent medical appointments, or doctor visits. Though it is not stated on the waiver, it is allowed for persons to travel across the border to Dutch St. Maarten for banking purposes as well and they should state their reason.

Encouragement

“I encourage each and every one of you to pray and continue checking up on each other virtually via the internet and phone. Use this time, to reach out to your neighbour, family, and friends. Let's be mindful that there is no “one size fits all” policy to address all the challenges associated with the COVID-19 virus and the challenges to come. However, rest assured that the EOC, Council of Ministers, and their respective teams are working tirelessly as one team; Team St. Maarten, to mitigate and contain this deadly virus. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that the people of St. Maarten love one another and are strong and resilient people. I cannot stress enough. Continue to be blessed St. Maarten,” concluded Prime Minister Jacobs. 

 

 

 

 

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BES Islands seek additional economic support in response to COVID-19 Crisis

SINT EUSTATIUS - On March 25th, the islands of Statia, Saba and Bonaire (BES Islands) received an Emergency Package for employees, employers and entrepreneurs to deal with economic consequences of the Corona pandemic. This Emergency Package, including contribution for labor costs of microcredits for employers, is much appreciated by the governments of the three islands.

However, based on the lessons learned from the aftermath and recovery after hurricanes Irma and Maria, the local governments of the three islands point out that the current package will not suffice. Governors of Saba and Bonaire joined forces with Government Commissioner Van Rij, to seek additional economic support measures from The Hague.

In a joint letter of April 22nd, addressed to the Ministers of Economic Affairs, Social Affairs, Finance, and Internal Affairs, a broad spectrum of economic consequences and possible responses are explicated. A week prior, the Minister of Economic Affairs Mr. Wiebes and State Secretary of Social Affairs Mrs. Van Ark, had already received a letter from Central Dialogue Statia, requesting an economic recovery stimulus.

Government Commissioner van Rij: ´We appreciate the emergency package offered to the BES-islands. Many of our citizens need it dearly. But looking ahead, an additional economic package is essential. The aftermath of COVID 19 is expected to be far greater than for example the effects of hurricanes in recent years. Therefore, we need to look beyond the coming three months for a more structural and comprehensive solution.

Suggestions for additional measures include a marketing fund for tourism, increased social security and reduction of transport costs between Saba and Statia to St. Maarten.

The letter addresses a number of problems Statia and the other islands are facing as a result of the Corona crisis. This includes:

  • The current Emergency Package offers up to 80% compensation of loss of turnover. However, the remaining 20% ​​cannot be borne by many companies on the island. In many cases their turnover has been brought down to zero and margins are often so minimal that entrepreneurs are not able to absorb the remaining 20%. Reserves of these businesses are often too minimal to compensate out of pocket.
  • Tourism has come to a virtual standstill in a matter of weeks.
  • Projects are delayed, leaving money on the shelf. For example, renewal of the airport is ongoing, but has suffered delays, because of the crisis.
  • There is a poverty trap for people who are not part of the target group of the initial emergency package. These include the elderly and others who depend on peers for their income. This is a large group on Statia, where few people use social security of the government.
  • Day laborers or people with a 0-hour contract are also excluded from the scheme. Especially because often are paid off the record and in cash.
  • The public entities of Statia and Saba are not in a position to take additional measures, because of their financial outlook.
  • The oil terminal, as an important employer on Statia, has cancelled contracts at the beginning of this years. As a result, subcontractors lost their business. Companies that rely on the oil terminal are affected as well, including supermarkets, rental companies, restaurants and hotels.
    With the current Corona crisis, this sector is hit for a second time in a short period. Because officials from the Netherlands have postponed their trips, as a result of the current crisis, these businesses are dealing with an accumulation in decrease of income.

To prevent further damage to the economy and to stimulate a speedy recovery and in addition to the offered Emergency Package, a number of measures are suggested:

  • A budget neutral economic impulse, by implementing planned government projects earlier than scheduled.
  • Facilitate deferment of payment for mortgage and loans, electricity and telecom, for businesses in distress.
  • Reduce permanent or temporary cost of living of Statians, by guaranteeing utility depreciation charges.
  • Impulse tourism and marketing:

    It took two years after hurricanes Irma and Maria for tourists to make their way to Statia and Saba. A multi-faceted approach to promoting tourism is needed to stimulate tourism. For example, being physically present at fairs is essential. Therefore, a tourism promotion fund is required.
  • Reduced fare of flights from Saba and Statia to St. Maarten, to make the islands more attractive for tourists and bring down transport costs, as part of living expenses for its inhabitants.
  • Strengthening social security services, for instance by an increase of food stamps and temporary allowances for regular living costs.

Many of these suggestions, have been on the table, long before the current situation. Implementing these measures now, would be addressing some of the root causes for the lagging behind of the economic development of the islands. By stimulating the economy in direct response to the Corona crisis, an increased dependency on government spending in the long term can be minimalized.

The Public Entity of St. Eustatius is currently awaiting a decision by the Dutch cabinet about additional economic support for the BES-islands. The decision is expected soon. (GIS)

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Multihull Racing in the Caribbean: The CMC leads the way

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY - By Robbie Ferron) - Regattas featuring primarily monohull yachts are as common as sunshine; and the nature of that game is well known and understood by almost all. But racing in large multihulls – the sort of boats that are particularly good as cruising platforms – is not yet quite accepted for that blood tingling purpose.

Meanwhile, the Caribbean Multihull Challenge (CMC) -- going into its third year in February 2021 -- is proving that yacht racing with cruising-style multihulls is as interesting and challenging as it is with any single hulled vessel. In our 2020 edition, racing for all kinds of multihulls – no matter the design -- was exhilarating, stormy, exciting; and full of an electric passion for multihulls that brought forth well more than four days of glorious and windy fun.

At the event, one end of the speed spectrum was the ocean racing multihull machines, that in contrast to the smaller more ‘cruisy’ models dominated the ultra-top-end of the sport where the challenge is to cover long distances at unheard of sailing speeds. The 2020 CMC was entertained by three of these amazing vessels that led to the dropping of many jaws. The Mod-70’s Masarati and Argo; plus the 63’ trimaran Shockwave were brilliantly fast and mainly crewed by experienced professionals; all participating in the CMC and at the same time preparing for the Caribbean 600 to start in Antigua the week after the CMC concluded.

Most people do not get to see these awesome vessels when they do their offshore races so being in close proximity to them at the start and finish of each race in Simpson Bay is akin to being witness to the first time the Wright Brothers took off at Kitty Hawk. In particular, Masarati was sensation because when accelerating her bow shoots skywards which was a most spectacular sight.

Because cruising multihulls do not get raced often, they have attracted the reputation that they cannot sail and maneuver quickly. Wrong. As soon as some good sailors get on board these boats and do some tuning and learning, it turns out that they can perform fantastic nautical tricks. We saw this in our Cruising Classes where close results and tight racing clearly led to a great regatta experience. As in monohull racing, podium success is usually found by experienced sailors who get to know their boats well and who spend the time, energy, and resources to set them up.

The joyous lesson is that the more cruising catamarans are raced and the more their crews are practiced; substantial speeds, crisp maneuvers, and great results become readily available.

Looking at the 2020 results one sees that older and newer boats can be competitive via the CSA rating system that we use. For instance, in CMC II we had great racing between two Robertson and Caine boats that have very different construction dates. The older one is a Leopard 45 called Spellbound. The newer one is also a Leopard called La Novia -- a little larger but with a good rating rule applied in each case both crews enjoyed very close racing.

In the 2021 Caribbean racing season – after the 2020 Covid-19 shutdown - a big boost will be offered by there finally being a single rating rule for all multihull events. The rule - owned and administered by the experienced team at the Caribbean Sailing Association - and administered by an enthusiastic assemblage of measurers will make the 2021 Caribbean Multihull Challenge not only a prestigious event for all makes of multihulls, but a fair one as well. Can’t wait to see you there!

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