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COCI: St. Maarten business community: Now is the time to prepare for COVID-19

COCI Offices Philipsburg, Sint Maarten. COCI Offices Philipsburg, Sint Maarten.

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – The Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is widely spreading to other countries around the world and has been declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). At this point in time, Dutch St. Maarten remains free of COVID-19.

President of the COCI Board Benjamin Ortega on behalf of the board is calling on the business community to prepare for the arrival of COVID-19 by preparing contingency plans and to look at the economic/financial impact on their business operation for the next second and third quarter year periods of 2020. COCI stresses that the business community needs to get their business operation ready for a COVID-19 case in the country.

The Chamber request the business community to send an email to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. where businesses can indicate to COCI their issues in connection with the implications of COVID-19 in order for the Chamber to have an overview of business sector concerns that can be presented to the relevant authorities.

Businesses should develop a business continuity plan in the event there is an outbreak. The plan should address how to keep your business running even if a significant number of employees, contractors, and suppliers cannot come to your place of business because they are ill.

COCI also advises, any economic sectors that might be affected by a decline in visitors, import or export restrictions or merchandising availability, should already consider alternative options and sources in order to ensure business continuity.

COCI is available to assist the business community with sourcing other sources and countries to do business with and should email the chamber for further enquiries to the aforementioned email address.

“The idea is to protect customers, employees and contractors. The way of doing business has changed in the first quarter of 2020. We have to be prepared for COVID-19, because it’s just a matter of time before we have to deal with cases in the country. Every week more and more countries are getting cases, and therefore we need to be prepared and know what actions and steps need to be taken. Now is the time to prepare for COVID-19, because simple precautions and planning can make a big difference over the short to long-term,” President of the COCI Board Benjamin Ortega said on Thursday.

According to the WHO, when someone who has COVID-19 coughs or exhales they release droplets of infected fluid. “Most of these droplets fall on nearby surfaces and objects - such as desks, tables or telephones. People could catch COVID-19 by touching contaminated surfaces or objects – and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.

“If they are standing within one meter of a person with COVID-19 they can catch it by breathing in droplets coughed out or exhaled by them. In other words, COVID-19 spreads in a similar way to flu. Most persons infected with COVID-19 experience mild symptoms and recover. However, some go on to experience more serious illness and may require hospital care.

“Risk of serious illness rises with age: people over 40 seem to be more vulnerable than those under 40. People with weakened immune systems and people with conditions such as diabetes, heart and lung disease are also more vulnerable to serious illness.”

The WHO recommends some low-cost measures that would help to prevent the spread of infections in the workplace, such as colds, flu, and stomach bugs. These actions should be implemented today rather than waiting for COVID-19 to arrive in your community.

The WHO recommends making sure workplaces are clean and hygienic: Surfaces (e.g. desks and tables) and objects (e.g. telephones, keyboards) need to be wiped with disinfectant regularly; Why? Because contamination on surfaces touched by employees and customers is one of the main ways that COVID-19 spreads.

Promote regular and thorough handwashing by employees, contractors and customers: Put sanitizing hand rub dispensers in prominent places around the workplace. Make sure these dispensers are regularly refilled; Display posters promoting hand-washing – ask your local public health authority for these or look on www.WHO.int; Combine this with other communication measures such as offering guidance from occupational health and safety officers, briefings at meetings and information on the intranet to promote hand-washing; Make sure that staff, contractors and customers have access to places where they can wash their hands with soap and water; Why? Because washing kills the virus on your hands and prevents the spread of COVID19.

Promote good respiratory hygiene in the workplace: Display posters promoting respiratory hygiene. Combine this with other communication measures such as offering guidance from occupational health and safety officers, briefing at meetings and information on the intranet etc.; Ensure that face masks and / or paper tissues are available at your workplaces, for those who develop a runny nose or cough at work, along with closed bins for hygienically disposing of them; Why? Because good respiratory hygiene prevents the spread of COVID-19.

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