SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The number of COVID-19 active cases has risen to 36 as St. Maarten has reached a new record of 114 confirmed cases since the fight against the Corona Virus started several months ago.
Minister of Health, the honorable Richard Panneflek, confirmed the increase on Sunday and said the spike in cases over the past five days is a significant cause for concern. "On Sunday at 12:00 midday I received the latest update from CPS which shows that we are now at 36 active cases. As a result, we will be re-implementing strict social measures to prevent the further spread of COVID-19," said Minister Panneflek.
One measure is reinforcing and policing the use of facemasks in public places as it is proven to help prevent respiratory droplets from spreading from one person to another. Minister Panneflek has also indicated that his Ministry is finalizing a law that will make it mandatory for persons to wear masks in public places or face stiff penalties. The law which will take effect within short will also include social distancing guidelines.
"The use of facemasks is especially essential in settings where social distancing is not possible," Minister Panneflek said, "It is important that we continue to practice social distancing, even when wearing a mask. However, wearing a mask is not a replacement for other preventative practices such as social distancing, hand hygiene and avoiding large gatherings."
The Minister said present numbers would likely increase as the Collective Prevention Services CPS has ramped up testing and Contact Tracing investigations to "get ahead of the recent spike in COVID-19 cases." The Minister addressed residents Sunday afternoon and made yet another plea to the community to "do your part, wear your masks, wash your hands and avoid large crowds."
He said of the 36 active cases one (1) individual is in an isolation facility, and one (1) remains hospitalized at the St. Maarten Medical Centre (SMMC) while the remaining 34 cases are under strict and monitored home isolation. "Since the first attack by the Corona Virus known as COVID-19 a few months ago, 63 people have recovered while 15 people have died. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health and the medical professionals on the island have learnt much more about combating the virus, and we are making use of the most updated information in our testing, monitoring, and contact tracing efforts," said Minister Panneflek.
Since the reopening of the airport and the staggered return of primarily repatriation flights almost one month ago, CPS has tested 145 people at the Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA). Another 634 people were tested within the community. To date, 173 people who have been in contact with confirmed cases are presently under quarantine and are being monitored. "The quarantine is a necessary part of the contact tracing work that is being done by the CPS to ensure that persons who may have been in contact with COVID-19 positive cases have not caught the virus," explained Minister Panneflek.
CPS is closely monitoring the spike of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past five days. "It is crucial that those persons who were told to quarantine or isolate at home, remain inside their homes and limit all contact with other persons, including friends and family. We must do our part to protect St. Maarten," said Minister Panneflek.
The Ministry of Health is encouraging persons with flu-like symptoms to remain at home and contact your family doctor. For additional questions or concerns, residents can call CPS at 914.
The Ministry of Health will continue to provide accurately, and updated details as the fight against COVID-19 continues.