The Prime Minister Hon. Silveria Jacobs on Sunday morning activated the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in connection with two confirmed cases of the coronavirus COVID-19 on French Saint Martin. These persons are currently in isolation at the Hospital on the French side and will remain there for 14-days according to the Prefecture.
The EOC chaired by the Prime Minister has been activated to continue with the preparedness, response and mitigation measures that need to be taken in connection with the coronavirus COVID-19 and will continue to function on a heightened level of awareness. There are zero cases of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 on Dutch Sint Maarten at this time. Our screening processes at our ports of entry have been stepped up in cooperation with the airlines who are also following their own screening protocols based on World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations.
There is no reason to panic; stay calm and take preventative hygiene measures at home, on the job, in school that have been promoted by the French Saint Martin Ministry of Public Health for the past several weeks via the Government’s Department of Communication. School boards have been requested to increase hygienic measures at schools and to maintain these at a high level; front line staff of businesses across the business community – customer service reps – as well as all other staff members are also requested to follow preventative measures on a daily basis.
The Dutch side has been working closely with French-side counterparts prior to the confirmed cases and will continue to work together in the coming days, weeks and months ahead.
The public health of the people and visitors to French Saint Martin is a top priority of the Government and the latter remains fully engaged on the issue of infection prevention and control of COVID-19 to ensure the health and safety of the people of Sint Maarten.
The various Government ministries of French Saint Martin, such as the Ministry of Justice, Public Health, and Tourism along with key stakeholders such as the ports of entry have protocols in place to deal with any probable cases of COVID-19.
The Princess Juliana International Airport implemented its infectious disease protocols with respect to the two French nationals who were isolated and examined at the airport prior to being transported to the French side hospital for further medical examination.
Protocols and Guidelines:
The Government of Sint Maarten and its respective ministries, especially Public Health, is working closely with the Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) who will be the key organization to handle any testing requirements should they come up regarding a suspected case.
The Netherlands has a number of cases of COVID-19, and the Government of Sint Maarten understands what measures are being taken by its Kingdom partner to contain the virus. All Kingdom partners are working under the same international guidelines as provided by the WHO.
The St. Maarten Medical Center has a capacity to handle four COVID-19 cases, and should there be more than that, the Government of Sint Maarten has already reached out to its international and Kingdom partners for capacity and resource assistance should that be necessary.
The Government of French Saint Martin is in contact with the United Nations (UN) Disaster Assistance & Coordination organization as well as with other UN associated disaster agencies in preparing its stepped-up approach and response to protect the public health of Sint Maarteners and visitors.
Ministry VSA continues to make national and response preparations that are in line with International Health Regulations (IHR) and local health sector regulations (Public Health Ordinance of Sint Maarten).
As part of CPSs increased surveillance activities (Infection prevention and Control, public health stakeholders and other entities, have been trained in the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when they have to deal with a suspected case of COVID-19.
The Ministry of Public Health continues to follow guidance from its regional and international partners concerning COVID-19 such as the Pan American Health Organization and the World Health Organization.
Protocols at ports of entry entails that based on health information provided of passengers, if necessary, the person or persons will be isolated, and these protocols will continue to be followed by ports of entry. Airlines and cruise line companies for example have their own screening protocols to follow as a first line of screening whether a passenger would allowed to board a flight or cruise ship; the Sint Maarten Immigration and Border Control also has its own screening protocol at ports of entry and in collaboration with Public Health, have already been active. Local officials can request additional information of passengers such as travel history in order to determine if they have traveled to countries or regions where COVID-19 clusters exist.
Public Preventative Measures:
The Collective Prevention Services (CPS), reminds the general population that they should step-up handwashing and cough/sneeze etiquettes in order to prevent getting the coronavirus COVID-19.
CPSs influenza-prevention guidance is to practice daily proper handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or using alcohol-based hand rub; and cough/sneeze etiquettes (cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing); and throw away your tissues in the garbage bin; avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
The virus spreads from an infected person to others through the air by droplets (secretion) as a result of coughing and/or sneezing, or by direct contact with the virus on hard surfaces or people’s hands that have the viruses on them then touching the mouth, nose or eyes.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Avoid sharing cups and eating utensils with others who have flu-like symptoms and stay at home when your sick.
It is very important for parents with children to teach them proper hand hygiene, cough and sneeze etiquette; persons with compromising health conditions as well as the elderly need to follow the aforementioned recommendations as well.
Persons with flu-like symptoms (e.g. cough, fever, tiredness) should call their family physician or the ambulance service and explain what symptoms they have and follow the instructions of the family physician/ambulance staff you will advise you on what steps you should take.
For more information, you can call the following emergency numbers of the Collective Prevention Service: 520-4523, 520-1348 or 520-5283.
Listen to the Government Radio station – 107.9FM – for official information, statements and news updates or visit the Government website: www.sintmaartengov.org/coronavirus or and Facebook Page: Facebook.com/SXMGOV