SAINT-MARTIN (MARIGOT) – The Collectivite Government issued the following statement in French which has been translated.
The statement reads as follows: While since 1 August 2020, traffic between Saint-Martin and Sint Maarten has been restricted in order to combat the spread of Coronavirus on the French side, the extension of this restriction beyond 1er September 2020 has created significant difficulties for families and businesses in both parts of the island.
Following the meeting with the territorial executive on Tuesday September 1, the Prefecture heard the appeal of the Collectivite and families and pledged to take into account the situation of students living in Sint Maarten requesting access to the school in Saint-Martin. Indeed, even though children were deprived of a conventional school curriculum during the containment period from March to June, it is imperative today to allow them to resume classes within their school and not in telework, regardless of where they live.
In the same vein, the Collectivite of St. Martin considers it a priority to restore the free movement of goods and people throughout the island, in the spirit of the Concordia Treaty. If this restriction may have been justified in August by an argument for health preservation, it no longer appears relevant today. All indicators show that border controls have not stopped the circulation of the virus. Their effectiveness is illusory, not least because many pedestrians bypass the checkpoints.
In any event, it is now appropriate that the prefecture of Saint-Martin/Saint-Barthélemy, which has jurisdiction over public health, should restart discussions with the government of Sint Maarten to establish a joint health plan on an island-wide scale that allows Saint-Martinois to move freely between the North and the South while respecting strict health rules. We are convinced that this joint plan would bring back the serenity necessary for the economic and social reconstruction of the territory.
This plan, which the Collectivite calls for, is the sole competence of the State and the constructive dialogue to be established between health agencies in the two territories.
As a reminder, the Collectivite has spared no effort to contribute to prevention actions. It has played its full part in crisis management by multiplying the means of action, including the purchase of equipment (machines and test kits) made available to the ARS (hospital) and private laboratories. The territorial institution has spent 2.4 million euros on Covid emergencies with the support of the ESF. All measures are also taken within the community to protect staff and the public.
The Collectivite's role is also to alert the State to the underlying social crisis caused by border restrictions. While we are all unanimous on the need to root out Covid cases in the territory, we believe that border control is not a timely response in the current context. In view of this unsuitable situation, President Daniel Gibbs has requested an emergency meeting of the Q4 cell (France - Holland - Saint-Martin Sint Maarten), so that stakeholders can work together and find solutions other than closing borders. The real answer lies in the dialogue and implementation of a joint health plan for both parts of the island. We are currently awaiting the ministry's response and the implementation of this plan, which is the only way to act effectively to protect the health of the islanders as a whole and to allow for a gradual economic recovery.
In order to promote economic recovery, the Executive Council voted in favour on Wednesday 9 September 2020 to debate the current health situation and the prospects for opening up the territory to leisure and business visits from 1 November 2020. This deliberation will be presented in a vote of the Territorial Council on 24 September, in preparation for the next tourist season and to discuss the possibility of requesting a waiver from France. The economic aspect cannot be minimized, but it must be at the centre of all our attention.
In order to resolve this alarming situation as soon as possible following the introduction of border controls by France, President Daniel Gibbs alerted the Minister of Overseas Affairs Sébastien Lecornu on 7 September. He reiterated to the Minister the need to lifter border controls and strengthen health resources and protocols in the territory of Saint-Martin. It would now be inappropriate to ignore the socio-economic issues inherent in these controls and to extend them beyond 15 September.
The Collectivite reiterates that the urgency today is to work hand in hand with Sint Maarten by jointly fighting against the spread of Covid19 and by creating together the conditions for economic recovery.
The Collectivite of Saint-Martin reiterates to the State the lifting of traffic restrictions between Saint-Martin and Sint Maarten as of Tuesday, September 15, 2020, the end of the extension period.