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Bottlenecks at Immigration and Border Protection Service not yet resolved

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – A review of the Law Enforcement Council has shown that four of the six recommendations to resolve a number of bottlenecks with regard to admission and expulsion practices at the Immigration and Border Protection service (IBP) have not been followed up.

In 2014 the Law Enforcement Council published a report about the admission and expulsion of foreign nationals in Sint Maarten, focusing on applications related to the performance of work. In the report, the Council made six recommendations to the Minister of Justice to resolve the identified bottlenecks with regard to admission and expulsion practices at the IBP. In 2019 the Council included a review of this report in its annual plan which focused on how the recommendations were given follow up. The general conclusion of this review was that of the six recommendations made in 2014, the majority were not (fully) taken up.

Followed-up

The recommendation that was followed relates to the IBP upgrading their file registration and

follow-up system to Decos Join with which, among other things, all files can be traced quickly and better insight is gained into the nature and quantity of the total inflow of foreign nationals to Sint Maarten and foreigners residing in Sint Maarten. The Council is content with this important step towards digitization.

Partially followed-up

The recommendation that was partially followed consists of two parts and concerns investing in the training of employees regarding recognizing falsified documents and making use of local knowledge on the one hand and on the other investigating possibilities for a database containing the most common falsified documents from the most common countries of origin.

Training has been provided for employees in various areas and local knowledge is used, but due to the lack of finances, there has been no investment in the aforementioned database that could potentially benefit the recognition of falsifications by employees.

Not followed

Four of the six recommendations were not followed. The first recommendation concerns cooperation between ministries with regards to a labor market study and the formulation of a labor market policy and admission policy on the basis thereof. The second recommendation is related to the latter and concerns ensuring that the (admission) policy is effectively implemented and enforced. The main reason for a lack of follow-up with regard to these two recommendations is the fact that although they are addressed to the Ministry of Justice, they require partial cooperation and willingness of both the Ministry of Public Health, Social Affairs and Labor (VSA) and the Ministry of Justice.

The Council believes that it is important that the two Ministries work together to ensure that the recommendation is followed and ensure that the necessary judicial view is not lost whilst conducting a labor market study and in the preparation of policies.

The third recommendation that was not followed concerns the formulation and publication of policy. Among other things, the directives of the Ministry of Justice have not yet been updated and published.

Also not followed was the recommendation that concerns the harmonization of requirements in legislation, policy, and the application form utilized for applying for a residency permit on the one hand and the decision and removal practice of the IBP on the other. There is still a discrepancy between the requirements set on the application forms and which documents the IBP requires in practice.

The Council will continue to monitor the developments in the coming period, but is cognizant of the difficult times Sint Maarten is currently facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the strain it is causing on the various (judicial) organizations. Therefore, while the realization of the aforementioned recommendations might not be attainable in the short term, the Council hopes that the focus on improving the identified bottlenecks will not be lost in the (mid) long term.

The Council would also like to use this opportunity to commend all our front-liners on a job well done.

The review report and all other Council reports can be found on the Council's website: www.raadrechtshandhaving.com or http://rrh-sxm.org.

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13-days since no positive COVID-19 Cases. Public Transportation could be Operational by May 13

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - People of St. Maarten here and abroad, I hereby address you as Prime Minister and Chair of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), in an update for today, Monday, May 11, 2020, as part of the process to keep the community of St. Maarten informed about the latest developments and the Government’s COVID-19 containment, mitigation and response measures.  

Post-Mother’s Day  

I would like to take this time, one day post Mother's Day, to wish each and every mother, mother figure and a person who makes an impact on our youth. Know that you are appreciated every day and that I'm very happy we had the opportunity yesterday, to relax and be put in the sunshine and receive our due as mothers. I wish that each and every person would remember to enjoy their mothers while you have them, because the time goes by ever so quickly. 

13-days since no positive COVID-19 Cases

I would like to take this time to thank each and every one who have tuned in over the past weeks to our broadcast. It is of course our pleasure to be able to inform you and our duty during a disaster. I am very happy that we are doing all that we can to mitigate the spread and the measures are working according to plan. We are seeing the numbers going down and I can say that today marks 13 days since we had a positive case.

Community Outreach Continues

Collective Prevention Services (CPS) will continue to do its outreach within neighborhoods. However, as per the cases that we know about, we remain at 15 active cases, of which 4 are at the Mobile Medical Pavilion (MMP). According to SMMC, 2 of the 4 patients are already recovered however, are still undergoing treatments for other issues regarding their health. Eleven persons are in self-isolation at home and I asked that they continue to isolate properly until they have been given the green light by CPS. 

First Day of Lockdown Easement

I have noticed that even though today was the first day of the openings for this week, I did not see a rush. Therefore, the behavior of our population is now completely in line with our new normal. We are getting accustomed to the way things have been. We will continue to put our health first, and stay at home as much as possible, only going out, if we are working at places rendering essential services or to purchase essential needs.

French & Dutch Authorities Discuss Various Issues

This morning, in our weekly meeting held with our French counterparts, I sat together with Madam Prefet Sylvie Feucher, President Daniel Gibbs, 1st Vice-President Valerie Damaseau as well as the Minister of Justice Anna Richardson and the Minister of Health Richard Panneflek, together with our support staff. We had discussions pertaining to our weekly updates on the COVID-19 realities including the health situation, border controls, and de-escalation measures which we are both carrying out. As a result of our meeting today, and not having enough time to go in depth, we have organized a second meeting for this week specifically to go into the discussions on our border controls and the re-opening of our schools.

1915 homes visited by CPS

CPS has now been executing the community outreach program for the past three weeks. CPS has visited a total of 14 neighborhoods. In these neighborhoods, 1915 homes consisting of a total of 5132 persons were visited. Of the 5132 persons, 36 of them reported having flu-like symptoms, 21 of those persons agreed to be tested and of the 21 cases, 1 person has been confirmed COVID-19 positive.

Of the 21 cases, 10 persons did not have flu-like symptoms related to COVID-19, 3 of these persons had chronic illnesses and 5 persons refused to be tested. This past weekend CPS reached a total of 5 districts including Belvedere, Bishop Hill and Middle Region and will be visiting 6 more neighborhoods. It is great to note that from the beginning of the community outreach testing program only 1 persons has been confirmed COVID-19 positive. As we continue to carryout the outreach, we will inform the general public if more confirmed COVID-19 cases are found. that case was several weeks ago.  

Multi-disciplinary Task Force

A multi-disciplinary task force was established whereby, criteria were looked at based on the health, social, and economic needs and demands, and a rating was given whereby, we came up with 4 phases. We are expected to move directly into phase 2. However, seeing that several new businesses came online that qualify to be open in phase 1, we felt that it was imperative to give them at least a week to get things up and running.

When we state in a particular phase, a business is allowed to be opened, that does not mean that it is mandatory for them to be open. Businesses that are allowed to be open during this week, May 11th, may only do so once all the guidelines are in place and the business or entity agrees to open to serve the public. As such, entities or businesses can decide to defer their opening to a later date as well. Therefore, any persons requiring a particular service, or are questioning whether a service that they need is open, should check if the business is open before leaving their homes. 

The guidelines have been printed and shared and stakeholders continue to meet to finalize preparations and plans to be able to open as per the dates listed. I must re-iterate that many businesses have decided and especially as it pertains to the daycare centers, to defer their opening until they can properly put all guidelines in place. 

Education

I can update from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports, that they are having meetings together with the schoolboards to determine when and how schools would re-open. The Ministry is mainly focused on the exam students as several exams have come back online. On Tuesday, May 12, the Ministry of Education will follow up with meetings together with their relative stakeholders. Additionally, the department of Youth Affairs is currently in discussions with SECDA, known as the organization which regulates day care centers in order to ensure that the guidelines are completely understood before they open.

Persons requiring the services of day cares or schools should remain vigilant for when these schools make their opening announcements and under what conditions. Some of the guidelines include a maximum number of students per class and adhering to social distancing rules. Many schools will decide not to open, however, as parents, it is totally up to us to decide when our children will return to school. Students who have not been able to follow classes is also a concern for government and the Ministry of Education. Once more information is forthcoming, either myself or the Minister of Education will give an update as we move forward in this regard.

General Guidelines

General guidelines that must be upheld at all times businesses includes:

1.     Wearing of masks   

2.     Distance of 2 meters (6 feet) between all persons (incl. Employees & Customers)  

3.     Implementation of sanitation stations in the entrance and throughout the business in strategic locations   

4.     Frequent Sanitization of Common Touch Areas & Equipment   

5.     Wearing of protective shield in the event the 2 meters distance for service rendering is not possible  

6.     One-way aisles indications and keeping social distancing in aisles

7.     Limiting persons in the establishment to ensure social distancing at all times  

8.     Markings or barricades on the floor to ensure social distancing  

9.     Plexiglas to protect workers and shoppers  

10.  Clear and Visible Signage of regarding COVID-19 directives  

The government is also assessing our own situation to determine which members would be needed to come in. As such, the Public Service Center Department will be putting out a schedule as to when and how the public will be able to visit the government offices.

Public Transportation

The government has also been approached by persons in the public transportation sector in regard to them being able to resume their services this week. The EOC expected to implement phase 2 this week, however, adding the other businesses in phase 1, there was an oversight and bus drivers did not get the opportunity to be in that phase. We’d hope that bus drivers would have more time to plan and prepare in order to ensure that they follow the guidelines for public transportation. In the next two days bus inspection will take place and once all goes well by Wednesday, May 13, 2020, bus drivers will be given the opportunity to operate as well. All busses must be properly marked with the locations they are going and must follow all the directives of the Ministry of TEATT. More information in this regard and concerning inspection will be forthcoming from the Ministry of TEATT.

Conclusion

In closing, I would like to thank the people of St. Maarten. Your great behavior, over the past few weeks during the current ‘State of Emergency’ or ‘safe at home,’ you’ve had a lot of practice in keeping yourself safe. Those on the frontlines, however, not so much. As we move into our new reality, as more persons get the opportunity to be out and about, I ask that you remember to be conscious of the persons around you. Going out in public, where there are people moving, may always lead to a resurgence if there are persons out there with COVID-19 and have not come forward.

Do not be afraid, CPS will look out for you. Your general practitioner or family doctor will assist you if you are having any type of flu-like symptoms. I ask that you get in contact with your doctor or CPS by calling 914 so that you can be properly monitored and others around you can be safe. Contact tracing for all confirmed COVID-19 patients has continued and will continue as any new cases pop up. We hope and pray that that isn’t the case, however, it is better to be prepared than to be sorry.

The experience with COVID-19 will forever alter the way we interact as well as our hygiene practices. I know for a fact that it has taught me to be more conscious of everything that I am touching, and all that you may be tracking back into your homes. In the short term, we know that social distancing, mask usage, and practicing good hygiene, will be the norm for St. Maarten and the rest of the world for some time. So far, we have not seen a widespread of the COVID-19 virus on the island. It has been properly contained up until now and that means our measures are working. It also means conforming to our new normal. 

For our continued safety, the safety of you, your family and all those persons whom you love, these measures must be a part of your everyday life. Remember our resilience is not just a word, it is who we are. We always fight back, we always come together, and we always help the weakest among us. So, I am asking you to stay blessed St. Maarten. Never lose hope! We are moving forward and we will conquer this new adversity as no one has ever had to in the past. We will show them in the Caribbean how St. Maarten recovers. Just like always; faster than expected, because of you the people of St. Maarten. Stay Blessed!  

COVID 19 Stats May 11

SXM COVID19 Cases Monitoring Dashboard

Corona Virus Daily Stats May 11

 

 

 

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Support the Nature Foundation St. Maarten by voting for the Summer Sea Turtle Sustainability Grant

SINT MAARTEN (COLE BAY) - The Nature Foundation St. Maarten is eligible to receive votes for the Summer Sea Turtle Sustainability Grant of $5,000 USD, which has been made possible by the Turtle Island Restoration Network and SEE Turtles to support sea turtle research and conservation projects.

The Nature Foundation has actively managed and monitored the sea turtle nesting activities on St. Maarten since 1997 collecting data of Leatherback, Hawksbill, Green and loggerhead sea turtles both on land and in the waters surrounding St. Maarten. The Foundation conducts various activities with regard to nesting including; beach surveys, nest excavations, tagging activities, and nest success research as well as capture and release programs for data collection via scuba diving. By monitoring sea turtles, the Nature Foundation is better able to protect these creatures by enforcing existing rules and regulations and educating the public.

On St Maarten, all sea turtle species are protected by international laws and treaties as well as local laws. However, they still face great threats, namely plastic pollution, poor water quality, loss of nesting grounds, and boat strikes. Some turtles mistake plastic bags or debris for their food source. When eaten plastic can cause blockages and even make turtles unnaturally buoyant, meaning that the turtle may starve to death and becomes more prone to boat strikes. Poor water quality can lead to tumor growth or skin disease on turtles. Nesting grounds are often lost to beachside construction and development. Driving on beaches, strong artificial lighting and umbrellas piercing the sand disturb those areas that can be nested. Boats driving through the bay and lagoon areas at high speeds have caused several turtles strikes where the shell is cracked, and the turtle dies due to impact. In 2019 there were five fatal strikes reported to the Nature Foundation, while so far in 2020 there have been three.

In addition to local threats sea turtles are declining worldwide. Currently only 1% of sea turtles survive long enough to reach sexual maturity. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists Hawksbill Sea Turtles as critically endangered, Greens are endangered, and Loggerheads and Leatherbacks are both vulnerable.

By voting for The Nature Foundation to receive this grant you will be supporting the effort to protect these animals locally. The Summer Sea Turtle Sustainability Grant winner will be chosen exclusively by public vote; the organization that receives the most votes will win the full $5,000 to support their efforts to protect these creatures.

Public voting for the grant selection is open from May 4th until June 1st, 2020. To vote please visit the following website www.seaturtles.org/vote and submit your vote for the Nature Foundation St. Maarten today.

The Nature Foundation is the designated focal point for Sea Turtle Conservation according to the Inter American Sea Turtle Convention, the SPAW Protocol on Endangered Species and Country Representative for the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Network and has received specialized training in Sea Turtle conservation, including in relocating turtle nests that are in danger due to human activities or natural events such as storm surge. Suspicion of sea turtles nesting and tracks can be reported via Facebook; Nature Foundation St Maarten or by email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and phone numbers of the turtle patrol can be requested.

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The Dutch Government has asked the Red Cross to coordinate humanitarian aid for Sint Maarten

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The consequences of the corona pandemic can be felt everywhere. The impact in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom is significant. The islands are largely dependent on tourism, which has come to a complete standstill.

Unemployment on the islands is increasing rapidly, resulting in more and more households falling below the poverty line. There is an urgent need for emergency assistance.

The Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations has made € 16.000.000 million available. The money will be used to provide vulnerable households with direct food aid so that the minimum basic needs are met.

The need is high and immediate. It is important to utilize a capable network quickly. This is why the Red Cross will take on the coordinating task and provide aid together with the other aid organizations on the islands.

The Red Cross has departments on all the islands and many years of experience with local aid. The emergency aid organization is in close contact with other aid organizations on the islands. Together they will help those who are most severely affected in this corona crisis.

Discussions are currently being held with various aid organizations so that the preconditions can be met as quickly as possible. Assistance will be provided in the form of food packages, and distribution of ready-to-eat meals for the homeless and those who are no longer able to cook or shop for themselves. A special payment card will also be made available for grocery shopping. The relief work will start immediately and will run until the end of August.

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Fire in a container at Sucker Garden under investigation

SINT MAARTEN (SUCKER GARDEN) - The police and the personnel of the Fire department were directed to the Sucker Garden area, on May 09, 2020, around 07.50 hours, where a container was on fire, police said in a statement on Sunday.

Upon arrival at the location, the police found that a container located behind the company S.B.S. was burning.

While questioning onlookers the officers at the scene were made aware that no one was in the container. The fire brigade who were already at the location managed to put out the fire very quickly.

The reason how the fire started is not yet clear. The personnel of the Fire department are busy with this investigation. (KPSM)  

FIRE INS1

 

 

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Prime Minister Jacobs Updates on the Economic Re-Opening Plan

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - In addition to those businesses already allowed to operate, the following services in the infographic may resume from Monday – Friday between 8:00 AM and 6:00 PM, the cabinet of the Ministry of General Affairs on behalf of Prime Minister and Chair of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Silveria Jacobs said in a media statement on Sunday.

All businesses and services must implement the mandatory guidelines of the COVID-19 Prevention and Safety Plan for the Business Community of Sint Maarten’ and have their operational plans in place prior to re-opening. This document may be found on www.sintmaartengov.org/coronavirus by selecting the ‘Forms, Laws and Protocols’ option.

The phased re-opening is contingent upon the Country’s ability to contain the spread of the corona virus (COVID-19). If there is a resurgence in the number of cases, the phased re-opening will be delayed and/ or reversed.

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Another person succumbs to COVID-19 bringing the total to 15. One New Positive Case on the French side

SINT MAARTEN/SAINT-MARTIN – The Prime Minister and Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Chair Silveria Jacobs announced during the EOC Press Briefing on Saturday evening that another person has died from the COVID-19 disease at the St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC). This person had underlying conditions.

This brings the total number of deceased to 15.  The number of persons who have recovered is 46 leaving only 15 active cases. 

The Prefecture of Saint-Martin and Saint Barths announced on Saturday, May 9 has a new positive case which was discovered during its mobile community outreach program that started on May 4 and runs to May 18. This person is in quarantine at home.

french side stat

 

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MINISTERS CUT SALARIES BY 20%

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The council of ministers decided in a meeting on Wednesday, May 6th that they would cut their salaries by 20%. Before the financial impact of COVID-19, Parliamentarians and Minsters had already agreed to a 10% cut on their salary in February.

During the budget debate, MP Ludmila Duncan had her motion approved for an additional 5%. During the meeting on Wednesday the council of Ministers agreed on an additional 5%, bringing the salary cuts to a total of 20%.

It was also agreed upon that there would be budget cuts across the board for Parliamentarians and Ministers alike. The government is currently making as many cuts as possible in every area of the budget. There has been an increase in spending in areas related to COVID-19.

The government is maintaining that taking care of the most vulnerable in our community is still top priority. A bulk of the current spending is focused on stimulus relief, food security and health.

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Justice confirms random search for a weapon at the Point Blanche Prison

SINT MAARTEN (POINT BLANCHE) - On Friday May 8, 2020 officers at the Pointe Blanche Prison executed a random search after concern that a weapon may have been concealed in the facility, the cabinet of the Ministry of Justice said in a press statement on Friday evening.

“The management of the Prison enforces a zero-tolerance approach and does not take any chances when it comes to concerns of weapons suspected of being in the Prison.

“Considering the fact that in recent years there have been incidents at the Prison, the slightest hint of such a risk is not taken lightly and is tackled immediately.

“Safety and security are absolute priorities for both the Prison and the Ministry of Justice.

Both parties are pleased to inform the public that the search turned up clean with no weapons found,” the press release from the cabinet of the Ministry of Justice concludes.

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SMMC to gradually expand services per May 11

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) - St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) will gradually expand services as per May 11th since all COVID-19 cases have been treated outside of SMMC and a plan has been implemented to safely restore the care capacity.

Since April 27th, 2020, there have been no new COVID-19 confirmed patients admitted to SMMC and all COVID-19 related care has been transferred to the Mobile Medical Pavilion (MMP) and the ICU tent outside of SMMC where all future COVID-19 care will be administered.

SMMC is currently implementing a plan geared towards gradually resuming non-emergency services to their patients in a safe and responsible way while adhering to guidelines from the local government and international health guidelines.

The plan incorporates social distancing guidelines, a mandatory universal face mask policy, imposing a maximum waiting room capacity and the continuation of the suspension of in-patient visiting hours until further notice in the interest of safeguarding the health of patients and SMMC staff.

A major aspect of the plan is geared towards minimizing patient traffic within SMMC while still being able to offer regular care. This includes a check-point entry where persons will be pre-triaged for COVID-19 symptoms and must present proof of their appointment before being allowed entry.

To avoid large crowds on the premises and in the waiting rooms, persons will only be allowed entry to SMMC no more than 45 minutes prior to their scheduled appointment time. Persons arriving more than 45 minutes early will not be allowed entry and will be requested to wait off premises.

In addition to this, only persons with appointments, medically indicated companions, parents of minors, translators and spouses/partners of Obstetrics and Gynecology patients will be allowed entry to SMMC and must wear face masks.

Appointments that were cancelled due to COVID-19 and urgent appointments will be given preference over new, non-urgent appointments and thus may result in a longer waiting list for new appointments. Until the end of the lockdown period, persons with appointments are required to have a personal travel waiver (Form B) with proof of their appointment.

SMMC is committed to moving forward and adjusting to the new normal and as such has embraced the concept of tele-consulting. Tele-consulting has been used successfully during the lockdown to perform medical consultations such as giving test results to patients and other consultations via telephone. Upon the end of the lockdown, SMMC will continue to utilize tele-consulting where possible to avoid persons coming to the hospital unnecessarily.

As it pertains to the rendering of services at the Emergency Room (ER), over the next few weeks SMMC will be informing and educating the public via press releases and social media of the procedure and reasons for coming to the Emergency Room as patients often visit the ER for non-urgent medical care which should be administered by their General Practitioner (GP). We will be reiterating that persons should contact their GP by phone prior to visiting the ER and what constitutes an emergency. This is in an effort to reduce the amount of basic and non-urgent medical care given at the ER thus allowing ER staff the time and resources to handle urgent care.

SMMC thanks the general public for their cooperation and understanding and urges anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms (Cough, fever, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and/or loss of taste or smell) to contact their GP or call the CPS hotline (914).

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