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DCOMM and BTP offer Tips to enhance internet performance while the population stays at home

GREAT BAY, Sint Maarten (DCOMM) – The Department of Communication (DCOMM) in cooperation with the Bureau Telecommunications and Post St. Maarten (BTP), would like to offer the community a number of tips that would enhance your internet performance as residents stay at home in order to protect the people of Sint Maarten and prevent the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19.

  1. Protect your WIFI password

This avoid other people to connect to your network without you knowing it, or without your consent, and can ultimately causing speeds to drop.

  1. Minimize the number of devices on your network during the daytime

Your Wi-Fi network can only handle a certain amount of traffic before it slows down. Unplug video game consoles, Smart TV’s, Tablets, and other (smart) devices and restrict other users on your internet connection from using Video Streaming, Online Gaming, Video Conferencing, Music Streaming during the daytime. This will free-up bandwidth for Home Working or E-Learning.

  1. Connect directly via your Ethernet cable

Try connecting your laptop or desktop computer to your router with an Ethernet cable, if possible. This will enhance the internet performance. Please note that not all laptops have Ethernet Ports.

  1. Find the ideal position for your router

There are many factors that can impact the strength of a wireless signal, such as interior walls, doors, microwaves and metal objects. Ideally, WIFI routers should be positioned high up on a bookshelf or mounted on a wall and be centrally located in the house/ office. Avoid placing it near a microwave oven, near metal objects, on the ground or in a small room with concrete walls.

  1. Decrease the distance between your computer and your router.

For a good internet performance, it’s recommended to stay as close as possible to your router. Your signal and internet speed may drop as you move further away from your router.

  1. Line of sight between your computer and the router.

If your router's signal has to travel through a wall or appliances such as a refrigerator, its signal will be weakened. It’s recommended to have your router visible from where you're using your computer or laptop at all times.

  1. Ensure Computer Health

Perform software updates, security scans, virus scans and malware scans & remove harmful programs from your computer. Malware and viruses can interfere with your computer's ability to access the Internet.

  1. Close down non-essential applications

There are often a large variety of applications on your computer that are running in the background and using the internet. Often without you even knowing it. To boost your internet speed, shut down applications that you're not actively using.

  1. Internet browser

Update your Internet browser. An out-of-date Internet browser can result in slow webpage load, poor video quality and other Internet issues. It is also recommended to delete old files and clear your browser history from your web browser options menu.

  1. Engage with your Internet Service Provider

Contact your provider to learn more about alternative internet plans and their latest offers. You may want to consider an upgrade to a higher package, if available, and budget allows.

BTP falls under the Ministry of Tourism and Economic Affairs, Transport & Telecommunications (Ministry TEATT).

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Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunrise donates educational devices to foster home

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Prime Minister and Chair of EOC, Honorable Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs, instructed all schools on the island to be closed to students and the general public as of March 18, 2020.

As a result of the closure most schools turned over to digital/online educational platforms to continue the learning process for their students. This new style of learning forms a hindrance for some students due to no internet or laptop/computer at home.

In the wake of the current state of affairs, the Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunrise began brainstorming on projects that the club can execute to serve our community as we deal with the current crisis. The club was approached by Ms. Brigette Halley of New Start for Children Foundation seeking assistance. The foundation which was founded by Mrs. Veronica (Sally) Benjamin runs a foster home which is currently housing over 25 children; the children are students of various elementary schools.

Due to low internet speed and lack of sufficient devices, the children were facing difficulties in following their classes and completing their school assignments. The club offered assistance by purchasing and donating 11 Alcatel 1T 10 Wi-Fi tablets and facilitated the upgrading of the home Internet speed. While preparing a budget for the project, the club approached Telnet for their internet package rates, once the corporation was informed on the project specifics they offered to contribute by complimentary upgrading the internet speed from 12MB to 32MB for a period of 3 months.

In an invited comment, Club President Prakash Dialani stated that the club is extremely grateful for the contribution received from Telnet; it is good to see corporations stepping in to assist the community where ever they can. We are urging other companies to do the same, whatever service you can donate or contribute once it is in benefit of the community it will be greatly appreciated. When the devices were delivered the children were very excited and Mrs. Benjamin expressed her gratitude to the Rotary Sunrise Club and Telnet.

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Confirmed COVID-19 cases climb to 16, One person succumbs on Tuesday

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – The Prime Minister and Chair of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Hon. Silveria Jacobs announced that the total number of confirmed cases has climbed to 16 as of Tuesday, March 31, Jacobs said in a Tuesday night address to the nation via social media.

Jacobs also disclosed that one suspected case in isolation at home passed away on Tuesday, and that no further details were known. The prime minister wished families suffering and of the family of the deceased much strength in moving forward.

The prime minister pointed out that the St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) is limited in its capacity, and the reality is that there are only two ventilators at SMMC; that these as of Tuesday are currently in use by non-COVID-19 patients; that the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) has only three beds which as of Tuesday are occupied by non-COVID-19 patients.

SMMC has expanded its capacity by six additional spaces which are currently occupied by suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases.

288 persons in quarantine and being monitored

103 persons in isolation

58 persons have been tested

16 positive cases

36 negative cases

6 pending cases

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TelEm Group suspends home installations and repairs as of March 31

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - TelEm Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr. Kendall Dupersoy, has assured company technicians and engineers working in the field that their decision not to enter a home to complete a customer installation for fear of contracting the COVID-19 virus, is supported by management as part of the company’s current Coronavirus Contingency Plan.

The CEO was responding to questions from one media body yesterday, suggesting that TelEm Group is sending its technical workers into customer homes without proper protection, therefore putting them as risk of being infected from the Coronavirus - The comment was made prior to new government guidelines that go into effect Wednesday, April 1, 2020.

“Seeing that these new measures have been put into place by Government, we will be suspending all home installations and repairs for the rest of this week and possibly longer,” said Mr. Dupersoy earlier this morning.

He said the duration of this action will depend on further information from government.

“We regret that this may lead to members of the public and TelEm Group customers waiting for connections and repairs not being served,” said Mr. Dupersoy.

The CEO had previously assured that TelEm Group had informed personnel and technicians carrying out installations, in writing and also verbally, that they could enter homes at their own discretion.

“If the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) were not available, our workers in the field and also contractors were advised not to enter any home, and again to use their own judgement,” said Mr. Dupersoy.

The CCO said because of the stay at home instructions from government, internet access has become even more important than before to customers, some of whom are now working from home and some of whom are depending on the internet for entertainment and to provide continued education for children who are not in the classroom.

“In some cases, the internet is the only way grandparents can stay in contact with their children and grandchildren. It is the only way parents can keep in contact with their children overseas whom they may be worried about,” said the CEO. He says all of this was putting an added responsibility on the company to continue to provide service at the highest level possible and even make new installations for those requesting them.

According to Mr. Dupersoy, the telecommunication services provided by TelEm Group have been classified as being “essential” to the community, therefore personnel were called on, before these latest guidelines, to assist in providing that service as best they can while the company did all it could to secure their safety.

Mr. Dupersoy also assured that the company had taken several steps to protect its workers in the field including consulting with a doctor about the safety protocols to put in place and providing a checklist for employees and contractors on the precise steps they should follow when doing an installation.

“The doctor advised against providing gloves and facemasks because they can lead to a false sense of protection, however, we informed the technicians and contractors that if they found it more comfortable wearing gloves and masks, then they would be provided,” continued the CEO, noting that the maintaining of a social distance of 2 meters when entering homes and paying keen attention to your surroundings while frequently washing hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds are more effective ways of keeping safe.

“I wish to state clearly once more that TelEm Group was not requiring technicians to enter homes if they did not feel comfortable doing such – it was left at that time to their discretion,” said Mr. Dupersoy.

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Stakeholders agree on strict guidelines in Statia’s oil storage sector

SINT EUSTATIUS - Following intensive consultations between the Executive Council of St. Eustatius, GTI (former NUSTAR), Public Health Department (GGD), Harbour authority, Dutch Shipping Inspector and all shipping agents, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed on Thursday March 26th 2020, in order to implement stricter regulations in light of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

“The maritime industry stipulates its own set of strict operating guidelines, however, due to the COVID-19 virus that causes the corona disease, the Public Entity of St. Euststius found it necessary to implement even stricter guidelines. By signing this MOU signatories have agreed that safety comes first and that there is no business more important than public health,” states Government Commissioner, Mr. Marnix van Rij.

On Sunday March 29th, in a statement on social media, an employee of a company in this oil sector expressed his concern about the safety of people working with these vessels. This in turn resulted in concern from the public regarding the implementation of this protocol. In connection with this discussion, the community is informed that further strict measures have been taken to prevent the virus from reaching our shores and to keep the people of St. Eustatius safe.

It aims to minimize contact between land and ship personnel. It describes conditions under which personnel may board vessels, personal protected equipment (P.P.E.) requirements and prescribes how communication must take place. Land personnel can only board a vessel after it has been cleared by the Public Health Department. This department is in charge of supervising the revised protocol.

There is also a key role for the Harbour authority with regard to the implementation of this agreement. Captains of all vessels entering the waters of St. Eustatius are subject to a series of questions by the Shipping Inspector.

Attention is paid to the crew list, the last 10 ports visited especially in the past 4 weeks and the maritime health declaration. Ships that do not meet requirements are placed in quarantine. “Due to the strict adherence to the protocol there are presently 4 vessels in quarantine. This means these vessels and their crew are not allowed to dock and there is no physical contact (person to person) with oil inspectors and sample takers.

Two different types of vessels are taken up in the protocol. The protocol for type 1 vessels concerns ships that come for bunkering only. This means no one is allowed to board these vessels and the exchange of documents and samples is done by bucket and communication via VHF.

The protocol for type 2 vessels concerns inter-island vessels that provide fuel for various surrounding islands or ocean-going voyage. Here the regulations stipulate that no one will board these vessels until the Public Health Department gives the greenlight.

For type 2 vessels, only a limited number of professionals are allowed on board. This concerns cargo representatives, pilots bringing ships in and out of harbour, persons in charge and sample takers from Emspac, Calebret, Intertech, Petromar and General Maritime. Nobody will board a type 2 low risk vessel without approved gloves, goggles, coverall and face masks. No one will go aboard during dark hours, except for authorized pilots.

The PPE is to be put on upon boarding the vessel and to be taken off and put into a bag before boarding the line boat or return to the jetty. The number of persons, the length of time on board the vessel and the interaction with the crew at a safe distance has been brought to a minimum through these measures.

For the type 2 vessels in the high-risk category the Public Health Department determines if they themselves will board the vessel or whether the vessel will be placed in quarantine. No one will board the vessel until the Public Health Department has given the greenlight. If this is required, it will take place under more stringent measures.

“When a ship is deemed as a high-risk category the judgement of our Public Health Department is immediately binding and has to be obeyed. There is no room for opposing or negotiating. Since implementing these extra measures, 27 vessels have been assessed. A total of 4 vessels were placed in self-quarantine. COVID-19 is teaching us to revert to traditional ways of doing business (using the bucket for exchanging oil samples) and at the same time how to use innovation”. (GIS)

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Jacobs updates on social distancing, border controls, and business regulation clarification

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – The Prime Minister Hon. Silveria Jacobs provided an update on Monday evening March 30 with respect to the national state of affairs related to the COVID-19 fight.

The national address is as follows:

Social Distancing Policy

People of St. Maarten, good evening, I come to you as Prime Minister and Chair of the EOC for today’s update, March 30, 2020. It gives me pleasure to enlighten you on the latest regulation that has been put in force today, March 30, 2020, which brings a little bit of structure to St. Maarten’s Government Social Distancing Policy to prevent the further spread of the COVID-19 virus. This temporary regulation is a public order with measures related to COVID-19.

Border Control Movements

In our discussions with our French counterparts, it has been brought to our attention that we needed to be more coordinated in our efforts to control movement in our particular parts as well as across borders. Our Police departments have been collaborating since Friday in carrying out controls at the borders to ensure that persons with their documentation could be able to traverse safely.

Required Travel Documents

As we did not have such on the Dutch side, it was decided that in an effort to have coordination synchronized, we would ensure that our population also had ‘Professional Travel Proof, which is called Form A, a ‘Personal Travel Waiver,’ which is called Form B, and last but not least Form C, which is a ‘Certificate of Exception’ to be able to travel for work from Dutch to the French side and vice versa.

Persons, who at this moment are allowed to work in essential services, should carry as of today, March 30, 2020, Form A, a ‘Professional Travel Proof.’ This is available on our Government website page www.sintmaartengov.org/coronavirus. You are allowed to fill in the form for travel to work for a maximum of one (1) week. You should carry this travel document with you whenever you are traveling to and from work during the week as we are trying to limit the number of persons who are traveling.

For every other movement within our borders, you are asked to carry Form B, a ‘Personal Travel Waiver.’ By filling in this document, you are declaring that you’re either making a trip for essential services, for essential family, to assist the vulnerable, for child care, for making a short trip close to your home for physical activity such as exercise or to be able to walk your domestic animals. If you are deviating from your work-to-home route you should have your personal travel waiver. This document will have to be changed per day.

The Certificate of Exception,’ Form C, is in French and English, as it has to be read by both authorities. This authorizes you, as a Dutch citizen, to go to the French side to be able to work, vice versa or for urgent medical reasons with supporting documents. I’m hoping through this short elucidation that the general-public of St. Maarten understands what the three (3) forms as has been published on our website means. We have also asked all our stakeholders that are allowed to be open, to provide copies as well, at their location. At the Government Administration building, we have also set up the opportunity for persons unable to print the document to pick up blank copies in front of the government building.

Clarification on Business Regulation

I hope this clarifies that we are trying our best to restrict movement as that is one of the best ways in which we can mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus. In saying that, and seeing the business regulation that came out today, persons were quite confused and for this, we apologize. The decisions taken in this regard, hoping to have met the needs of the people of St. Maarten, we respect that sometimes, not all these decisions come across in the way they were intended. Therefore, this regulation has been retracted and adjusted in keeping with the regulations for closure as well as restriction of movement.

I’d also like to take this time to clarify what has happened today with the posting of the regulation for the opening and closing of businesses as per the Minister of TEATT. It had been determined that we would allow a couple of other businesses to open. However, after perusal of these businesses, as well as understanding that we’re trying to restrict movement, it was determined that we will retract that regulation and republish a new one tomorrow March 31st, 2020, which will go into effect as of April 1st, 2020.

As such, some changes will be noted in that food suppliers, and wholesale and retail will continue. However, restaurants and bakeries will not be allowed to sell alcoholic beverages, so that those going out for take-out and delivery will not have the opportunity to stand and socialize for any other reason than to pick up their food and leave. Being removed from this list of food suppliers are vendors (no one with a vending license will be allowed to open as of April 1st, 2020).

Moreover, the telecommunication and utility companies, while they will be only open for technical services and back office, they will not be open to the general public. Essential government services will only take place upon appointment and insurance companies as well. Other essential businesses may remain open and no other businesses that had remained closed will be opened as per the regulation presented today. This regulation will be printed tomorrow and published for all to see.

I’d like to reiterate that no barbershops and salons will be allowed to open and none of the other new businesses that had been mentioned in today’s regulation. I apologize for any confusion this may have caused. Those services were only going to be included to be able to facilitate persons who may need them. However, seeing the increase in cases, we believe that mitigating the further movement of people is more important at the moment than providing services related to such.   

COVID-19 Update

I take this opportunity to update on our cases. At this moment, we have not received any update of new positive cases. Some results are still pending. The count as per March 30th, 2020 are as follows: quarantined-336, isolated-129, we have tested 52 persons of which 6 are positive, 27 are negative and 19 pending. One of the 6 persons are hospitalized and one returned home. However, over the past 24 hours, we now have 4 persons who are pending testing and may be COVID-19 positive. In this, we are realizing that there is still too much movement on the island and that is also one of the reasons why we decided to retract the declaration issued stating that more businesses would still be allowed to be open.

As a result of all the above, I would like to reiterate to the people of St. Maarten, these regulations are being put in place in order to provide safety for you and your family. Schools have been closed, businesses have been closed, and many services that others may consider essential have also been closed. We all must do without these services for a good while because of the way that this virus behaves. Social distancing and proper hygiene are the only ways other than staying in your home, that you can avoid being able to contract this disease.

In your interactions in public places, I advise you to go to that place, do your particular business and leave as soon as possible. The shorter your exposure, the fewer chances you have of contracting the virus. Utilizing good personal hygiene, and hygiene at those locations will keep you and your family safe. I do not advise you to take young children out on these errands and trips. Please avoid that as much as possible. If moving around the country, even during curfew for emergencies, please ensure that you have a document stipulating what the reason is for you to be on the road. We are avoiding people unnecessarily moving. That is what these measures are about. The forms are an explanation as to why you are still on the road. This should be only for work purposes, medical emergencies and only for the use of essential services.

I urge the people of St. Maarten to take the COVID-19 virus very seriously. We are working hard, we are working overtime, and so should you to ensure your own safety by following the rules as a compliant people of St. Maarten that you are. Resilient, strong, St. Maarten people, we continue to pray for the best, but prepare for the worse.

Be safe, stay at home as much as possible, and I will continue to update you daily as these developments continue. Stay safe St. Maarten! 

mar 30 Meeting with PM and the Prefet PM Jacobs and EOC

 

 

 

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Over 580 companies participate in SHTA COVID-19 economic impact survey

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Over 580 companies, approximately 20% of the total count of operational business supporting over 8000 employees, submitted entries to Business Survey conducted by the SHTA from Thursday, March 26th until Sunday March 29th.   The results are clear, acute job loss, lack of income for households and long-lasting economic decline if swift measures are not taken to mitigate financial impact of the world-wide pandemic.

The effects of this pandemic are not only causing a world-wide health crisis but also a financial one. There have already been more than 3 million people laid off in the United States, thus impacting our largest segment of visitors, the cruise industry has taken a major hit with recommendations from major countries against traveling via Cruise. Essentially, we do not know when demand for travel will resume and whether we will be able to be in the forefront of it.   These are examples of the influencers of St. Maarten’s economy and some of the challenges we will have to face together in climbing out of it.

Given that travel and tourism are disrupted business sectors; and demand has dried up, it means it will not rebound as soon as curfews are lifted, St. Maarten will have to reinvent itself in the face of a changing Tourism, without knowing how it will change.   To alleviate short-term unemployment, which is inevitable with only very few types of businesses allowed to operate and earn turnover; the Sint Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA) has proposed a reduction in the TOT tariff to 0% and a 90% payroll subsidy to all sectors. This proposal is endorsed by the St. Maarten Timeshare Association, the St. Maarten Marine Trades Association and The Indian Merchants Association and the Labor Union WIFOL.   The proposal, while may seem high, is aimed at keeping businesses alive, and employees paid.

The survey, unfortunately, echoes our concern that the prolonged effect of this pandemic, will force businesses to close and staff to be laid off. Most businesses have been struggling to rebuild both physically and their reserves since the passing of Hurricane Irma; and frankly do not have the necessary resources, to weather prolonged closure. The business landscape will likely be very different this time next year, and perhaps we will no longer be known as the Culinary Capital of the Caribbean.

The results of the survey, worryingly indicate, that within 3 to 6 months 45% (under the best-case scenario) of the labor force of private sector will be laid off. If this data reflects the reality, extrapolation to all active businesses, would mean the total number of unemployed could grow to well over 9,000, not including new graduates entering the labor force. That means that we should also anticipate a retraction in the total number of businesses able to survive post-pandemic. Like Irma, this is a non-discriminatory event, unlike Irma, it is world-wide; so, our normally strong tourist base of visitors will also be severely impacted. It is imperative that all parties find a solution for reducing the effects of this formidable challenge Sint Maarten is facing. It does not just impact the private sector, the value of tax revenues collected will also dwindle with reduced private sector jobs; in fact turnover and room tax are already nearly at 0% with only a few businesses remaining open and generating Turnover or Room Tax.

In 72 hours, over 580 companies responded. SHTA thanks the involved associations, as well as many independent entrepreneurs and NGOs for supporting the enquiry and sharing vital information. With the vast number of participants in the survey, across all business sectors, it is safe to say that no one will be left unharmed. Continued lack of financial assistance or a clear indication of what to expect would result in layoffs happening even sooner.

Again, the SHTA advocates that maintaining job and income certainty for the St Maarten private sector employees is key to maintaining our households as well as our businesses. Though the amount might seem high, SHTA points out that other countries, including Holland have already announced comparable subsidies to save their economies and businesses.   Thus far, no comprehensive plan addressing the acute crisis has addressed the various fallouts as the suggestion outlined above; and many people still believe that all we have to do is open our borders again for the tourists to return. 

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Routine foot patrol leads to arrest of two suspects after break-in at boardwalk minimarket

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The police arrested two men breaking into a minimarket on the boardwalk early Monday morning March 30th, 2020 about 01.00 am, police said in a statement on Monday. During a routine foot patrol on the board walk the officers heard movement in one of the stores.

While checking the entrance to the business, the officers noticed that unknown persons had cut the padlock and made their way into the store.

The police officers decided to go into the business themselves and saw two men hiding in the darkness.

By closer control the officers noticed that the men had several bags of food and other items placed on the ground ready to be taken away. The two suspects with the initials U.D.T and L.P were immediately arrested and taken to the police station where they are being held for questioning. This investigation is still ongoing. (KPSM)

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Governor’s Youth Awards for Excellence postponed

SINT MAARTEN (HARBOUR VIEW) – As a result of the impact of the COVID-19 on everyday life and work it has been decided to postpone the Governor’s Youth Awards for Excellence 2020 until later in the year. This depending on the further developments in regard to COVID-19.

Based on this decision a new deadline for nominations will be communicated along with a new schedule date for the awards ceremony. Any eligible nominations submitted prior to the yet to be established deadline will honored. 

We thank you for your interests and shall inform you of the new date as soon as the situation permits.

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