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MP Bijlani question objective of some MP’s in St. Maarten

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Member of Parliament (MP) for the United People’s Party the honorable Sidharth “Cookie” Bijlani is questioning the objective of some Members of Parliament saying it appears that their sole goal is to “criticize and topple the Government?”

MP Bijlani’s comments came on the heels of the recently passed law that formalizes a 12.5 reduction in employment benefits for civil servants and those employed at (semi-) public sector entities by the Parliament of St. Maarten. “In these difficult times, I have no desire for rhetoric but rather advice and encouragement for the Government to "leave no stone unturned" while solving our people's challenges. Contrary to the opinion of some who claim that Government has sold St. Maarten to Holland,” said Bijlani.

In March 2020 the Minister of Finance projected that an 80% SSRP relief would safeguard salaries and allowances for Civil Servants. This optimism of the local Government was met with stringent demands from The Netherlands who is expected to fund the financial relief for St. Maarten. “The Government of St. Maarten has, reluctantly, accepted The Netherlands, "take it [the relief] or leave it, "ultimatum," to ensure our citizens will get still some income in an economy that has slowed to a crawl due to the COVID-19 Global Pandemic.”

According to MP Bijlani the COVID-19 Pandemic has impacted our economy, health, and ability to educate our children in safe learning-friendly environments. He said, “This era of our lives is unlike anything we have experienced before. Not all ideas will pan out as projected based on the unique nature of the Global Pandemic. Decisions made, even with input from community leaders, may need to be changed. It is an uphill battle to figure out which approach is best. The question will become whether our citizens starve from hunger or get sick and this is not a popular thing to say but it is our reality.”

Attempts continue to be made by the Government to balance our economic activity with our health and safety needs, and in a democratic society we must accept that some voices are louder than others, but all voices should be heard. While Carnival and the Heineken Regatta were considered as a means of boosting economic activity, if done responsibly, we accept that it is a risk that with one error can easily outweigh the reward.

Bijlani urged Members of Parliament to realize that with a NAF. 550 million budget and all efforts must be made to generate economic activity, and the people of this country can't eat rhetoric and grandstanding. “As Members of Parliament, we cannot only be at the forefront criticizing Government's attempts to navigate these troubled waters. He said the fact is that despite the economic uncertainty, and personal health risks, the Civil Servants on St. Maarten were courageous to work at risk to themselves in COVID-19 and serve the community and that cannot be forgotten. “They come to work without knowing the end result for them where things like their vacation pay and other allowances were concerned, “is absolutely commendable, and we should not disrespect that with rhetoric but rather work on finding solutions so they can eventually get what belongs to them.”

“These are difficult times and we need real solutions from people who are willing to work with the Government and Parliament to achieve results that help, not results that insight and harm.” We must bring at least one solution to the floor, and not just raise our flags of resentment,” said Bijlani. He posed the question in his press release asking, “when will we recognize the need for a unified approach to get us through what will perhaps the most challenging period of our lives?” “Sacrifices will have to be made across the board if we are to survive this unprecedented economic crisis. I applaud the employers who struggle each month to pay their staff, yet they keep pushing forward in hopes of a brighter tomorrow. We must recognize that some businesses have closed their doors, and an increasing number of our citizens lose their jobs every month. So rather than fueling a struggling nation's frustration and anger, be a voice of reason and become part of the solution,” said MP Bijlani.

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Incorrect, slanderous, and defaming publication about the recruitment process within NV GEBE

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Attorneys at Law Bloem Bonapart & Aardenburg has sent an open letter to the media regarding two online websites. The open letter reads as follows: “The Dear Ms. Shaw, Providing NV GEBE with the opportunity to respond after you made false, incorrect and even defamatory publications, certainly does not constitute independent and objective journalism.

“Your actions do not meet the threshold for the requisite duty of care and diligence, imposed by law, for media publications. Please note in this respect that the qualification or adjective “online media blog” for the website of SMN News that you use for the litigious publications, does not derogate to your personal responsibility, and consequently, liability.

“The location/country where you and this media house are established furthermore leave unaffected that the tort is committed against, and affects, a corporation established in Sint Maarten. In other words: the consequences play out on Dutch Sint Maarten. Its established that you have not made absolutely any effort to explain what investigation or independent analysis was conducted that could have possibly justified the disputed media publication.

“Instead, you present a populistic slogan of not divulging your sources and misinterpret a reference to codified law made by the NV GEBE, to show that when it comes to recruitment matters for members of the Management Board, the authority to act on behalf of NV GEBE lies with the Supervisory Board. As such, also the obligation to address incorrect and slanderous publications conducted without any, or at least proper, independent and objective journalistic investigation. Your publication severely violates your duty of care by law.

The following representations made by you and/or your media blog are factually incorrect: (i) The shareholder representative of Government-owned company NV GEBE has declined the offers sent to the Council of Ministers for the candidates for the vacant positions of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Financial Officer (CFO); (ii) A letter was sent to the Supervisory Board of Directors on Tuesday informing them that the offers do not meet the Jacobs norms and proposed cuts for government-owned companies as outlined by the Dutch Government; (iii) The CEO candidate Robert Jan James requested NAF 30,000.00, including severance pay, travel allowance, and six months’ vacation pay; (iv) The SBOD of NV GEBE offered the CEO candidate NAF 20,000.00 excluding severance pay; (v) James also requested two months to notify his current employer SOL while he made clear that he will not take up the position unless he clears the screening process, in the event, he fails then N.V GEBE would have to pay him out 3 years of his contract agreement; (vi) The shareholder denied the request made by the candidate CEO; (vii) The CFO candidate, Randel Hato requested a salary of Naf 30,000.00, severance pay, travel allowance, and performance appraisal. Hato requested a five-year contract but was offered a three-year contract and a salary of NAF19,000.00 gross salary; (viii) Randel Hato declined N.V GEBE’s offer when he was told that should he accept the job as an ex-pat then he would not be entitled to any of the other benefits. The source said that right there and then Hato told the legal advisor of the Supervisory Board of Directors that he could keep the position; (ix) The negotiations and interviews were done by the legal advisor to the Supervisory Board of Directors. The source said that the members of the Supervisory Board did not engage the candidates when they were each interviewed, and they also did not verify the calculations that were done by the said legal advisor for the incoming candidates.

The candidates were told that while they will be receiving a gross salary of NAF19,000.00, another Naf13,000.00 will go their way through the Vidanova payments that were not calculated correctly; (x) With the information sent to the Supervisory Board of Directors by the Shareholder on Tuesday, the SBOD of NV GEBE now has to go back to the drawing board.

This overview is b.t.w. not exhaustive. Because basically your entire article is a cacophony of factual misrepresentations about nota bene a confidential and ongoing recruitment process, coupled with your refusal to state by which objective and journalistically proper process(es) you derived those assertions and deemed them credible enough for publication, NV GEBE holds that you and/or SMN News have severely violated your duty of care.

This constitutes a torturous act and very possible a criminal one also, namely slander. Unless you and/or SXM News immediately and in any case on or before Friday, February 5th at 1730, rectify the article in question by: (i) publishing that the representations therein, quoted above, are factually incorrect; (ii) publishing that the publication thereof was done without proper fact checking and following independent and objective journalistic good practices, (iii) confirming in writing that you will refrain from making incorrect and slanderous publications about NV GEBE, NV GEBE will seek appropriate relief against you and your media blog.

Finally, please note that your decision to publish the first summons of NV GEBE and your response thereon on your media blog are noted. Whilst this is certainly also your prerogative, you are urged to take the content of these summons and specifically the damages that you have and are causing to: (i) the recruitment process; (ii) NV GEBE, and (iii) the applicants for functions within NV GEBE, seriously. NV GEBE attends you hereon because so far, your actions show a total lack of understanding and consideration for their consequences.

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Parliament approves all three laws presented to enforce cost cutting measures

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs together with Minister of Finance Ardwell Irion presented the three publicly debated legislative amendments to the Parliament of Sint Maarten on the cost cutting measures. The first being the Temporary National Ordinance to standardize the top incomes and reduce the employment benefits by 12.5% per July 1, 2020, within the (semi) public sector entities in order to meet the conditions set by the Government of the Netherlands for receiving the second tranche of liquidity support.

This measure will also apply to existing employment contracts with a maximum salary to a limit of 130% of the new standardized salary, including an equal maximum of the secondary employment conditions of the Prime Minister of the country and with an equal effect on the rates for consultants. This law was successfully passed in Parliament with 14 votes in favour and one against on Tuesday, February 2, 2021, after much deliberation between the Ministers and the members of Parliament.

During Tuesday’s public meeting, Members of Parliament (MPs) also passed a motion tabled by MP Claudius Buncamper, for the government to evaluate whether the three temporary national ordinances are still needed within no more than six months, and every six months thereafter until further notice. Government continues to state that it is until St. Maarten has improved financially to the point where there is no longer a need for financial assistance for government’s budget.

Today, February 3, 2021, Parliament unanimously passed the Temporary National Ordinance to amend the employment conditions of political authorities. As such, this law will reduce the employment conditions of political authorities by 25% per July 1, 2020. This evening, Parliament also passed the third Temporary National Ordinance to reduce the employment conditions for civil servants by adjusting the terms of employment by 12.5% per July 1, 2020. This will entail the temporary reduction of holiday allowance and the right to holiday hours, the non-granting of increases in the remuneration and the reduction of the remuneration for overtime for government employees until the government finds itself in a position to afford such.

“Prime Minister Jacobs stated, “Moving forward, here we are at a crossroads where the work of recovery and getting St. Maarten back on its feet financially is far from done. There is lots of work to do. None of us are happy to come here with this type of law. No one wants to touch the income of civil servants. We all have to grow and you’re never too old to grow. The words you say, the actions you do and your very thoughts come back three-fold. Even your thoughts, the words you speak in secret and the actions that you do in secret will come back to you. A liar has to remember a lie, and through the consistency of what has been said, sent and repeated over and over and over again, I have shown what are the facts, and so I thank the members of Parliament and the people of St. Maarten who understand the position,” stated Prime Minister Jacobs.

The passing of these temporary national ordinances will make the implementation of these cost cutting measures enforceable. All previous governments before, stood on the precipice, but never took any cuts in solidarity with the people of St. Maarten and civil servants. The Government and Parliament of St. Maarten put the country above itself. They took office during one of the most difficult moments in the country’s recent history during this COVID-19 pandemic which struck not only St. Maarten but the entire world. The government will continue to do what is right, ensuring that its vision for the country is realized; building back better, building reserves and strengthening St. Maarten’s economic capacity.

“I challenge you the people of St. Maarten to read; it’s fundamental. My love of reading as a child has served me well today. I do not have a law degree but I can read laws and I can analyze them. In our earlier education days, we were rewarded for remembering and regurgitating. Now, we talk about reading to analyze and apply... this is what I want for our people – to be able to listen, read and draw their own conclusions. In every situation, you do not have to be in four walls to learn and COVID-19 taught us that. We do not need to leave the country to learn either. Everyone needs to be looking online for all the free courses possible. Build yourself up, because when you build yourself up individually as a united front we are stronger,” she continued.

“We do not want to hurt our civil servants. There are civil servants who we need to still assess. There are those we want to get to work. Let’s find ways to get them to work. That is what I say as the head of General Affairs. For those doing their work and the work of others, thank you. Without you, we could not be here today. We are not standing on your backs and your shoulders and taking any kind of credit for it. Every time I stand and I speak, I speak on behalf of you. You are government. I look forward in a positive manner towards better days,” concluded Prime Minister Jacobs.

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Public health closely monitoring for new COVID-19 variants within community

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour (VSA), Richard Panneflek would hereby like to inform the public of the new variants of the COVID-19 virus circulating around the world.

Three of these new variants have shown to be more infectious than the original COVID-19 strains and have originated from South Africa, Brazil, and the United Kingdom.

If left uncontrolled, these new variants can lead to an exponential rise in hospital admissions and deaths within a few weeks. If they are introduced to St. Maarten, it will have a severe impact on our health services and resources. 

The Collective Prevention Services (CPS) is closely monitoring the presence of the new COVID-19 variants on St. Maarten. 

They are collaborating with St. Maarten Laboratory Services (SLS) to send weekly samples to RIVM in the Netherlands for genotyping.

This way the specific strain of the COVID-19 virus can be determined. Among the first batch of 10 samples from COVID-19 patients from St. Maarten that were sent last week, none of the new variants were detected. 

Minister Panneflek urges everyone to take heed of the mandatory guidelines implemented for your safety. It is your civic duty to protect yourself and your family, as we are still amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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PFP Questions MinECYS on NIPA Status, Director Role

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – Members of Parliament for the Party For Progress (PFP) Faction, Melissa Gumbs and Raeyhon Peterson sent questions on Monday, 1 February 2021 to the Honorable Minister of Education, Culture, Youth & Sport, Minister Rodolphe Samuel regarding the status of the National Institute for Professional Advancement (NIPA). This is in addition to questions submitted by Gumbs separately on the state of the public schools.

PFP asked for an update on two key areas of NIPA: student numbers and the institute’s financial status in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. They queried specifically whether any cost-cutting measures had been taken at a board or management level, whether through stipend or benefit cuts, or in the number of hours put in by course instructors.

“The importance of NIPA cannot be understated,” the faction noted in a media statement. “COVID-19 has put a strain on all academic institutions and we can imagine that NIPA is no exception. It’s critical that any steps that can be taken to mitigate current risks, like low student enrollment, and to protect it from future shocks like COVID are explored.”

The faction concluded by requesting an update from Minister Samuel on the status of the Director’s position at NIPA, expressing their confusion at learning that listed director Sergio Blomont was no longer in the role. Press coverage of NIPA’s Nursing School opening ceremony mentioned Ian McIntosh as the ‘Interim Director.’ PFP questioned why Blomont had been removed, as well as what the duration of McIntosh’s time as ‘Interim Director’ was expected to be.

“The opening of the nursing school was well covered in local press,” the faction continued in their media statement, “but we were curious to note that Mr. McIntosh was mentioned as the ‘Interim Director.’ To our knowledge, there has no formal announcement of Blomont leaving or being removed from the role he played in leading and managing the school, so we’re curious to know why he is no longer in this position. All due respect to Mr. McIntosh and his professional background, but Mr. Blomont is a St. Maartener with essentially the same credentials as his apparent ‘interim’ replacement. So, we believe some clarity is needed in this situation.”

Raeyhon A Peterson

MP Raeyhon Peterson

 

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SKOS CELEBRATES CATHOLIC SCHOOLS’ WEEK 2021 Feb.1-5

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Foundation Catholic Education St. Maarten (aka SKOS) has been established since 1890. It is the competent authority for eight (8) schools. There are six (6) Primary Schools and one (1) English High School and six Early Childhood Stimulation Groups. The Foundation caters to over 2000 students and dedicated staff members, SKOS said in a press statement on Sunday.

The Foundation will be celebrating its annual Catholic Schools’ Week from February 1 through February 5th, 2021 to enhance the unity amongst our schools and to celebrate our 131st year of Catholic Education on St. Maarten. Some activities have been planned to highlight this occasion. Staff and students will attend Communion Services this weekend (Jan. 30 & Jan.31 ) dressed in their school uniform.

This year’s theme is " We are called to be Courageous, for our God is Great!

During the week the staff and students will be challenged to be courageous in these difficult times. This will be possible because we trust in God, who is Great!

Students will be given the opportunity to view videos, listen, write or dramatize stories of courageous men and women in our community and in the world.

They will be encouraged to imitate these courageous qualities. These activities will be posted on the school's own Facebook page or website. Staff and students will also receive a video message with words of encouragement from our Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. Adam Oleszczuk SVD. A theme song has also been composed by our music teacher, Mr. Dennis Amajan. The week will close on Friday February 5, 2021 with virtual sessions for our staff. The students will have no school on that day. I wish the staff and students of the Foundation Catholic Education St. Maarten a spirit-filled week!

SKOS Picture 2 ins

A group picture with the School Manager and staff of the St. Joseph School.

 

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The 41st St. Maarten Heineken Regatta Cancelled. See You in March 2022

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY) - On Monday January 25th, organizers of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta published its plans for the 41st edition of this annual event, eliminating the parties and social gatherings from this year’s event format and focusing on hosting the 4 days of world class racing, as it is first and foremost an outdoor sporting event.

Yesterday, the Sint Maarten Council of Ministers decided to cancel the March 2021 execution of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. The government body stated, “…various new strains of the COVID-19 virus have been detected in several countries around the world resulting in a travel ban of linked countries; this also includes Sint Maarten for which a temporary ban on incoming flights from high-risk countries containing stronger strains of the COVID-19 virus has taken effect. With these substantial developments, the government was strongly recommended to impose stricter public health measures. This would include the withholding of licenses for large events”.

After months of actively working together with Government to construct a safe and professional sailing event, organizers are disappointed to have been informed they are now unable to offer any sailing to the participants that were willing to make such efforts to attend the Regatta.

“We do of course understand the concerns people have regarding the hosting of events during these challenging Covid times and will comply with the Government’s request and will now focus our efforts on the future of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. The past 10 months did allow us to assess new ideas and developments that can now be incorporated in upcoming editions of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta.” States Regatta Director, Michele Korteweg.

Organizers are most grateful for all the support and guidance along the way from sponsors, participants and other stakeholders and will reach out to all involved to address any concerns and plans for the future. Stay tuned for latest developments and exciting news! The 2022 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta is set to take place from March 3 – 6, 2022.

St. Maarten Heineken Regatta

Celebrating 41 years, this Regatta just keeps moving forward. Four days of world-class racing with some of the world's most seasoned sailors, hailing from over 35 countries. This is truly a Regatta for everyone including professional teams sailing Maxis, Monohulls and Performance Multihulls to holiday-makers on chartered Bareboats to live-aboard families cruising the Caribbean. Crystal clear waters and cooling northeast trade winds give the pristine conditions for spectacular racing just off the coast of St. Maarten. And with Heineken as title sponsor, the racing days blend seamlessly into “Serious Fun!”. This event is your bucket list must-do!

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Prime Minister Jacobs meets Préfet Délégué Serge Gouteyron to discuss synchronizing measures to safeguard public health

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - On Tuesday, January 26, 2021, Prime Minister Silveria E. Jacobs, Minister of TEATT Ludmila de Weever, and a delegation including the Ministry of VSA, attended a cooperation meeting held by Préfet Délégué for St. Martin and St. Barths Serge Gouteyron together with Secretary-General Julien Marie and Regional Health Agency (ARS) Territorial Director Paul Guibert to discuss measures each are taking to safeguard public health as it relates to COVID-19.

Collective Prevention Services (CPS) and the ARS have been meeting weekly to update and discuss response measures to the pandemic such as the synchronization of communication in preparation for the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine. Both delegations discussed the status of COVID-19 on both sides of the island and areas where the synchronization could improve. Health protocols, testing, travel restrictions as a result of the variants of COVID-19 and business closing hours, as well as the discouraging of events attracting large gatherings were also subjects discussed.

During the meeting, Prime Minister Jacobs and Minister De Weever were able to relay the decision of the Council of Ministers to cancel Carnival and Heineken Regatta for 2021 in the interest of the general health of all residents and visitors after consultations with the various relevant stakeholders. Prime Minister Jacobs informed the delegation about the massive testing efforts headed by CPS in regard to the free drive through testing that began on January 11th, for all members of the community. Préfet Gouteyron expressed that the ARS reported a similar average of positive cases per day on French Saint-Martin. Minister De Weever also reassured that increased controls and enforcement are taking place in an effort to ensure compliance and safety for all.

Préfet Gouteyron and his delegation were also updated on government’s preparations for the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccines which are expected to arrive from the Netherlands by mid-February. The plans which are being spearheaded by the Ministry of VSA COVID-19 Taskforce will ensure St. Maarten is well prepared once the vaccines arrive including a public awareness campaign.

Prefèt Gouteyron also highlighted their vaccination plan and challenges experienced with low interest in taking the vaccine. Both parties agreed that continued and improved cooperation and collaboration are key to safeguard the entire population and keep infections manageable, and pledged to continue to meet each halfway to realize such.

Prime Minister Jacobs stated, “The cooperation meeting held was a fruitful one in which much agreement was made moving forward with the established health protocols being implemented by both sides of the island in combating the COVID-19 virus. We have already synchronized our travel restrictions to both sides of the island in order to avoid importing the more contagious new variants of the virus to the island. The percentage of imported cases of COVID-19 remain below 1%, therefore, our efforts also remain in decreasing the local spread of the virus. As such, we can now say that we are much further in combating the virus together compared to when we began synchronizing our health measures. It remains paramount that we continue to collaborate and synchronize our efforts in order to ensure the safety and health of the general public. As Préfet Gouteyron mentioned more than once, (main dans la main) hand in hand we will be able to do so.”

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SCDF Carnival Fd. disappointed, but will move on and reset

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) on Wednesday said that in the wake of yet another postponement of Carnival festivities it will move to restructure, partially re-brand and re-examine all relationships with Carnival. After celebrating 50 years in 2019 and based on certain developments recently, the foundation views this as the perfect time to reset.

“We can spend all day and night going back and forth but as the old saying goes everything happens for a reason and although we would have preferred to host Carnival for the people and our stakeholders, we cannot sit and lament. We are disappointed but we move forward as we always have and we prepare for the next staging Carnival,” the SCDF said, adding that as usual preparations for the following festival will commence immediately especially with a reset in mind.

“We have already engaged a local professional brand development company to project manage our way forward and all develop our supplementary services that we believe will further elevate the festival.

Regarding stakeholder relationships, the SCDF noted that there are areas that require addressing in each specific relationship, from booths to promoters to troupes to corporate sponsors. This does not mean a one-sided review, the foundation said, but a complete review of policies.

“With corporate sponsors for example we will maintain our approach to how we manage our relationship with them, despite public statements. We have never discussed our confidential contractual obligations with corporate sponsors publicly and that won’t change. We believe this is the ethical thing to do. We have seen times, including recently, when this is not reciprocated but that does not influence how we choose to operate. We will deal with our corporate partners internally but we always have to keep in mind that are also sponsors of troupes, booths, and concerts so we have more than the foundation to think about,” the SCDF explained.

The foundation also re-iterated that all season passes purchased is still valid for when Carnival is held. It also asked the general public to cooperate with promoters, troupe leaders ect to whom they have already paid funds. Promoters and troupe leaders, the foundation explained, have their specific ways of either ensuring that tickets ect are still valid or making refunds.

“We ask that you have some patience in understanding that COVID-19 has changed everything for these stakeholders who have already invested funds that were paid. Everyone is working towards realistic and amicable solutions. Please extend patience and cooperation,” the foundation said. 

Extensive Plan/Mass testing

The foundation said it put months of work into a health and safety plan for Carnival 2021 knowing that it would be held against a COVID-19 backdrop. “We are very proud of the plan we put together and if we had the opportunity to roll-out all other initiatives, we believe we would have given the country a unique opportunity for testing ect through Carnival (see related story). What we do know is that we had the most extensive health and safety plan announced on St. Maarten since the start of COVID. We put a lot of work into it and the public didn’t even see all of it,” the foundation said.

“As explained, when we launched our COVID-19 Safety Measures on January 22nd, it is a working document and the SCDF will continue to develop the idea of executing a safe carnival during the global pandemic. We opened up an email address to take suggestions from the public since everyone is being so vocal on social media and we continued to meet stakeholders and speak to experts on the subject.

“Unfortunately, we were not given the chance to reveal our advanced plan which would focus on using the two weeks of Carnival to also serve the community as a mass testing event. We have seen the government try different strategies to test more people including a drive-through testing area near the harbor. We planned on presenting to CPS ideas and scenarios to give incentives to Carnival lovers to get rapid tested at the village (for free with help of a sponsor) during the two weeks of Carnival, which would be measures added to the temperature screening, sanitization at the village’s gates, social distancing of picnic tables and the testing and re-testing of all the persons working in the village.

“The plan would have outlined the process of what happens when someone entering the Village is found to possibly have covid-19 symptoms, they would be isolated from the socially distanced line with the persons they came with and tested nearby, if this person is found to be positive they are immediately taken home to quarantine and contact tracing begins, removing the threat not just from the village but from society. We believe this strategy would have helped the country to get a better grip on the real situation. Could we have announced this sooner? Sure, however that would have been irresponsible to announce without working out the execution fully. Our meeting with CPS was scheduled for the first week of February.”

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Prof. Dr. A.J. Duits reacts to remarks made by a local doctor about Covid-19 vaccine

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The article which was published on Monday, January 25th on the online news platform Caribisch Netwerk, reports about the situation on Sint Maarten regarding the upcoming vaccination program. In this video, a remarkable comment was made by a local GP, saying that: “The Covid-19 vaccine changes your DNA structure”. 

Professor Dr. A. J. Duits, who is a medical immunologist and the head of the Department of Immunology in Curacao, responds to these remarks to provide clarification and stop the spread of misinformation. 

Prof. Dr. Duits: “First of all vaccines are the most effective and successful medical interventions in history (about 2-3 million lives saved yearly). 

The first two vaccines that are used to fight the Covid-19 virus are RNA-based vaccines (from Pfizer/BioNTech & Moderna). These vaccines contain RNA (genetic information) for just one part of the Covid-19 virus which is called a spike protein. 

After injection, this genetic information is used by the cellular machinery to make the viral protein (spike protein) and stimulate the immune system (without making the person sick). This way you’ll create effective protection against future infections by the virus itself. A vaccine therefore only simulates an infection without making us sick.

It is very important to distinguish, that the genetic information used (RNA) is different from our genetic codes that consist of DNA. Therefore, the viral genetic information in the vaccine can never become part of our genetic information.  Interestingly when we get infected by the Covid-19 virus in a normal way, it's also viral RNA that uses our cellular machinery. It can make us sick but will never become part of our genetic information. 

The vaccine itself will disappear in a couple of days to weeks from our body. The only final effect is a stronger immune system ready to protect against infection by the virus itself. 

The vaccine has been extensively tested (45 thousand persons) before being approved for use by all regulatory agencies and by now millions of people have safely taken it. Vaccination is not only of importance to protect yourself but also to protect the community. 

Only by having sufficient persons vaccinated and protected, we can guarantee that the remaining persons cannot be infected, and the virus is not able to reintroduce itself.

Prof. dr. A.J. Duits

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