Government’s plan is to lift the current state of emergency the country is under as of Sunday, May 17, when the one-week extension expires, and to gradually reopen businesses in a phased manner with the necessary safety protocols in place, Prime Minister and Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Chairperson Silveria Jacobs said on Wednesday.
She was at the time updating Members of Parliament (MPs) on the coronavirus COVID-19 situation in the country.
St. Maarten was first placed under a state of emergency on April 5 and went on a 24-hour lockdown for two weeks. This was extended by three weeks, which went into effect on Sunday, April 19, and will end on Sunday, May 10. An additional one-week extension will go into effect as of May 10 and continue until Sunday, May 17, when government is hoping to end the state of emergency.
Jacobs made clear that although the intention is to reopen as of May 17, the details of what will be allowed and what will not be allowed are still being finalised. Not all businesses will reopen once the state of emergency has been lifted. The intention is to inform the public on what will happen over the next four to six weeks, so that businesses and persons can plan ahead.
Once the state of emergency has been lifted, the intention is to also maintain a night-time curfew. Similar to how measures were gradually up-scaled in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus, the intention is to gradually de-escalate the measures in a phased manner. More information should be provided by this Friday.
Jacobs said a number of businesses have sent in letters indicating that they are ready to reopen, including some fast-food outlets.
Jacobs received a proposal on Tuesday evening from the necessary Emergency Support Functions (ESFs) tasked with coming up with a plan for the gradual reopening of the country. The plan will be discussed with the country’s counterparts in French St. Martin in an effort for the two sides to synchronise their efforts as much as possible as it relates to reopening.
While French St. Martin has already announced some reopening measures, some of the decisions were taken because the French side is part of France, but the island has the option of tailoring its reopening to its current situation.
The proposals from the ESFs are expected to be presented in the EOC for decision-making this Friday and decisions taken will be released via a press conference to be held that same day.
Jacobs made clear that businesses will only be given the green light to reopen once they have submitted their plans to be vetted and only when these have been approved. In these plans, businesses will have to show the measures they have in place for the health and safety of their staffers and persons visiting their locations in terms of sanitisation, maintaining social distancing, etc.
She explained that even if, for example, restaurants are allowed to reopen for deliveries, those not vetted by the inspectorate and those whose plans were not validated will not be allowed to reopen.
The eventual reopening of schools is also part of the discussions being held in terms of what will be allowed and what will not be allowed. Schools together with the Minister of Education will come up with a proposal. No definitive decisions have been taken in this regard. Also part of discussions is the reopening of government services.
Princess Juliana International Airport and Port St. Maarten are also actively planning for their eventual reopening. Their plans will also have to go through a screening process to ensure that everyone is protected.
The Daily Herald.