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37 positive COVID-19 cases. 12 active. France deploys helicopter carrier

SAINT-MARTIN (MARIGOT) – There are now 12 active COVID-19 patients two of whom are hospitalized in Guadeloupe.  In total, the number of COVID-19 cases is 37 of which 20 are men and 17 are women. 

One patient who was registered on Dutch Sint Maarten but sought medical care at the hospital in Marigot and then had to be airlifted to a hospital in Guadeloupe died there on Thursday.

This death will be registered by the health authorities on Dutch Sint Maarten. 

The French naval amphibious helicopter carrier LHD L9015 Dixmude offloaded equipment and other resources for the health authorities on Saint-Martin.  The operation has been code named “Resilience.”

The Dixmude has been deployed to the French Antilles and French Guiana to assists the Governments in connection with the global COVID-19 pandemic.

France has also deployed another carrier to Reunion Island and Mayotte in the Southern Indian Ocean.

The Dixmude has 750 square meter modern hospital facility consisting of two operating rooms, an x-ray room, a dental office, a scanner, 20 rooms and 69 hospitalization beds, of which seven are fit for intensive care, and 50 more beds can be installed in the helicopter hangar if needed.

France has two of these amphibious helicopter carriers in its naval fleet, the Mistral and Tonnerre, the latter which was deployed during Operation Irma in 2017 to assists the populations and authorities of Saint-Martin and Saint-Barths who were impacted by one of the worse hurricanes in the Western hemisphere. 

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No change in COVID-19 positive case numbers. Each island has two

SABA/SINT EUSTATIUS – According to Saba’s Government Information Service, based on COVID-19 tests that are being carried out, results were received on Sunday about six patients and they were all negative.  Seven test results are still pending while the island remains with two confirmed positive COVID-19 cases.

The Government Information Service from Sint Eustatius reports that four persons have been re-tested, and they are awaiting the results along with two others pending.  The island has two confirmed COVID-19 cases.  

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Saba’s endemic iguana species recognized. Scientists call for protection

SABA— Saba’s black melanistic iguana has been recognized as an endemic species. Although Sabans have a somewhat ambivalent relationship with their local ‘dragon’ which is known to ravage carefully tended veggie gardens, it arguably has been on the island long before humans and thus can claim its indigenous right of peaceful coexistence.

This has been emphasized by a new study published in the ZooKeys journal by Michel Breuil, David Schikorski, Barbara Vuillaume, Ulrike Krauss, Matthew N. Morton, Elizabeth Corry, Nicolas Bech, Mišel Jelić and Frédéric Grandjean, that investigated differences between iguana species. As one of the results, the painted black (Iguana melanoderma), locally known as Saba Black Iguana, is now officially considered a separate species, endemic to Saba and Montserrat.

The recognition of the endemic iguana species will undoubtedly contribute to Saba’s distinction as a nature, eco-tourism destination, but at the same time scientists are warning that the melanistic black iguana is under threat. Threats include unsustainable harvesting, including pet trade, and both competition and hybridization from escaped or released invasive alien iguanas from South and Central America.

The international research group, of which some members visited Saba in 2012 to do DNA sampling, has called for urgent conservation measures in a scientific article titled “A new species of black endemic iguanas in Caribbeans is proposed for urgent conservation,” recently published in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

Three species

So far, there are three species of iguana known in this area of the Caribbean. The Lesser Antillean iguana (Iguana delicatissima), an endemic species found in very few islands, including St. Eustatius, is highly endangered. Two introduced species of iguanas are found on the islands: the common iguana (Iguana iguana iguana) from South America and the green iguana (Iguana rhinolopha) from Central America. Both are threatening the endemic iguana species.

The described species on Saba and Montserrat is characterized with private micro-satellite alleles, unique mitochondrial ND4 haplotypes and a distinctive black spot between the eye and the ear cavity. Juveniles and young adults have a dorsal carpet pattern, the coloration is darkening with aging, except for the anterior part of the snout.

Scientists describe the common melanistic iguanas from Saba and Montserrat as a new taxon and aim to establish its relationships with other green iguanas. That can help conservationists to accurately differentiate this endemic lineage from invasive iguanas and investigate its ecology and biology population on these two small islands that are subject to a range of environmental disturbances including hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Conservation

"Priority actions for the conservation of the species Iguana melanoderma are biosecurity, minimization of hunting, and habitat conservation. The maritime and airport authorities of both islands must be vigilant about the movements of iguanas, or their sub-products, in either direction, even if the animals remain within the same territory. Capacity-building and awareness-raising should strengthen the islands' biosecurity system and could enhance pride in this flagship species," stated lead researcher prof. Frédéric Grandjean of the University of Poitiers, France.

The group of scientists were not the first to point out the importance of protecting the Saba iguanas. Initial efforts already started with Robert Powell who authored the book “The Reptiles and Amphibians of the Dutch Caribbean,” together with two other authors, Robert W. Henderson and John S. Parmerlee, Jr. In 2017, the Saba Conservation Foundation (SCF) erected signs around the island to raise awareness about Saba iguanas on the road.

The key stakeholders in conservation efforts for the area are the SCF, Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA), the Montserrat National Trust (MNT) and the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum (UKOTCF), which, the research team hope, could take measures in order to protect the flagship insular iguana species, mainly against alien iguanas.

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TelEm Group Dance-off Challenge to keep Carnival spirit alive

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – TelEm Group is promoting a Carnival Dance-off Challenge for the St. Maarten community for anyone experiencing Carnival withdrawal symptoms.

The company wants its customers to Stay Home and Stay Safe, during the Coronavirus lockdown, but also wants to the general community to remain connected to each other and to keep happy - despite the anxiety and stress caused by the virus.

“For us in the Caribbean, one of the best ways to reduce stress and have fun is through dance. If not for the Coronavirus we would be dancing in the streets this month because Carnival would still be on,” said TelEm Group Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) Mr. Michiel Parent.

He said TelEm Group is one of the main annual sponsors of the island’s premier tourism event, therefore it is fitting that the company should come up with a creative way to keep the spirit of carnival alive through a social media dance-off contest, assisted by former TelCell Breakthrough Urban dance category winner, Bianca Dijkhoffz.

“Bianca is using her wonderful talent to choreograph a carnival dance that anyone at home can follow and submit as a 15 second video entry to their wall on Facebook and/or Instagram, using some of her dance steps and any extra moves contestants might want to add for effect,” said Mr. Parent.

He said the video entry with the most likes will win $250 dollars and the 2nd place winner will receive $100. There will also be give-ways of $50 of Top-up credit given out each day during the entire promotion campaign, which ends on April 21, 2020.

“We understand that people may be sitting at home and missing their Carnival jump-up this year, so we are bringing a little bit of Carnival cheer to them with the Carnival Dance-off Challenge, “continued the CCO, Mr. Parent.

Contestants can Tag TelEm and Bianca in their post:

Facebook: TelcellNV/ Bianca Dijkhoffz

Instagram: @telemnv/ @bb_bad

Use hashtags #TelEmConnectingYou #DanceOffChallenge

The TelEm Group Chief Commercial Officer says anyone still feeling sad at not being in carnival this year should visit TelEm Group’s  www.telemgroup.sx/dance-off right away, to learn all about the competition rules and be a part of TelEm Group’s first virtual carnival event – ever.

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Saba Executive, Island Council urge people to adhere to measures

SABA—The Saba Executive Council and Island Council on Thursday, April 16 issued a joint statement calling on people to adhere to the strict measures to stop the spreading of COVID-19. Gratitude was expressed to the health care professionals for tending to the ill and the quarantined, and to and other frontline workers who ensure that people receive groceries and their medication, and that vital services can continue during the mandatory lock-down.

“We are living in unprecedented times. For months we have watched as the coronavirus has wreaked havoc in countries, communities, and families far from our shores. We watched as borders closed and citizens were asked to stay home to protect not only themselves but also the most defenseless among them. Recently we discovered that the virus was present in our small and vulnerable community and now this too has become our reality. While at this time we are not sure how the virus came to our island, we can only hope that by practicing social distancing among ourselves that we have been able to already limit the spread.”

People on Saba are now asked to do more than just social distancing. “With the fact that the virus is among us, we must do everything in our power to stop COVID-19 in its tracks. In order to do this, we must stop physical contact with our friends, families and our neighbors so that the virus no longer can find a place to live. We know that this is not easy, but if we want to protect our loved ones and our community we must adhere to these latest measures. It is important to note that this virus can impact everyone regardless of age and health status, so everyone must do what they can to also protect themselves.”

Limited medical capacity

People need to be aware that Saba has very limited medical capacity. “We must be aware that our partners within the Dutch Caribbean, where our patients normally go for health care, are also waging a war against this deadly disease. This is another reason why it is important that everyone does everything possible to limit their contacts unless absolutely necessary.”

At this moment it is unbclear how many people have the coronavirus on Saba since it is assumed that the virus has been on the island for some time. That is why it is important to support the Public Health Department and give them the chance to do their work, such as testing, isolating and tracing close contacts of those who are or may become ill.

Full cooperation

“Your full cooperation and honesty are absolutely necessary to aid these workers who are working tirelessly to help all of us. If people continue to move around unnecessarily, this will only increase the amount of work they have to do to protect us and ultimately eliminate the virus from the island.

As your elected officials from both the Island and Executive Council, we know that many of you have concerns about how things will move forward in the near future. We have heard these concerns and we want to assure you that we are working to address them with each other and also with our partners in the region as well as the Netherlands. We would also like to impress upon you that at this point we should all be focused on one goal: eliminating COVID-19 from Saba.”

According to the Executive Council and Island Council, now is not the time for politicking. “There is no need to inject politics into our new realities caused by this virus. We applaud our Island Governor and the Outbreak Management Team for their continued efforts. It is of utmost importance that we follow the directions of our Island Governor as he is the chairman of the team tasked with the tedious mission to rid Saba of this deadly virus.”

Gratitude

The Executive Council and Island Council expressed gratitude to the frontline workers who are putting their own safety at risk to ensure that the sick persons are tended to, grocery orders are processed and delivered and that vital functions continue, be it in a limited capacity. “Thank you for your dedication during these challenging times.”

The elected bodies were positive that Saba will overcome this. “The Saban identity has been forged by the very fire of adversity and to overcome this challenge will require the fortitude that is the legacy of our ancestors. Saba has been through tough times before and if we all stand together and do what is required of us during these troubling times, we can rest assured that we will see our friends and family when the dawn of this terrible night is over.” (SGIS)

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COCI President Ortega: Calls on Community and Business Sector to Stand Together

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – On Tuesday, April 14 President of the Supervisory Board of the St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce & Industry (COCI) Benjamin Ortega, called on the general public and the business community to stand together during this time of distress due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

“The world is upside down. Even more than ever. people are overwhelmed with their individual realities. Some of us face the fact that a love one has been infected with the virus. Some of us face the reality of being affected, directly or indirectly by the virus hitting our shores.

“Many weeks we looked ahead of the world stories giving us updates of the developments in their respective countries. Who would have thought that we too one day would be the center of any world news even if this was from our own media. A reality check hit many of us hard, when the rest of the world began to shut down and we too were affected forced to take the same measures in order to stop the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.

“Our government, various departments, and various stakeholders have been working around the clock it seems to stare our country as much as possible away from what frequently seems to be the inevitable.

“A total closure of our country and restricting our movement was the only way at present to curb us from further disaster. Whether some would say late or not, this was the best thing to give each of us a fighting chance especially those most vulnerable, the frail and those with underlying health conditions.

“During the last few weeks, we have learned of many reports and deliberations on what our needs would be to survive this pandemic virus. Keeping in mind that the entire world is under attack and that some hard war-like decisions are being made to keep every citizen of each individual country safe and sound.

“This is no difference for us in our oh sweet St. Maarten Land. Unfortunately, our reality check, although not unique, we face the fact that our government and country are not as financially stable enough to carry the weight and financial burden that comes with the world economic crisis we face.

“We remain to point out and refer to the world, as every piece of this planet faces pretty much the same situation. Because of our status in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, we are entwined to seek assistance and approval within the Kingdom for our financial moves geared to save every last bit that we have. Again, mentioning the many deliberations, reports and analysis being made to reach what we consider the best option for us all.

“Note yet again a reality check that we need assistance, in every form to assist us out of this crisis. Physical, medical and more so ever financial. The core responsibility of our country and just like many others stated in the constitution, is to take care and provide and safeguard the wellbeing of every citizen within our country. This is the foundation that we govern from.

“During each disaster we face, everyone, every stakeholder group and every representative will fight for as much as possible what he or she represents within their nation. Whether you are considered a business fighting to keep your doors open, or you are a mother or father fighting to feed your family and yourself in that matter.

“Capitalism has no place in a true crisis. It is not about the survivability of an individual business sector or company. It's about the survivability of the economy at large. It is not about how many persons your sector represents; it’s about how many employees are you able to retain. Nor is it how much injection we or government can provide to stabilize this crisis economy. It's about what we can afford and what measures we need to take to ensure we have a future. A future that we can rebuild from and onward.

“Desperate Measures for Desperate Times. At the end of the day when there is no time to waste and the country is in a financial dependency, grants, loans or commerce is needed.

“There is only one nonrefundable reality check, how are we going to ensure that every person, woman, man, child will be fed, and safeguarded from this world pandemic and crisis that is bigger than us all.

“I would like to thank all of the organizations that have partaken in the various deliberations, that have provided feedback and insight, that have executed stakeholder strategies, that have aided the less fortunate and that continue to contribute to the wellbeing of us all.

“This crisis has shown us that we need to find more ways to conduct our daily lives, business and our country. Being resilient as we are, we need to ensure that digitalization, data technology and diversity is at our foreground. Our door to the Chamber of Commerce & Industry may be closed, but we remain working as much as possible on improving and providing our services. Email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for assistance until we are able to reopen our doors to the public.

“Stand together and assist where you can and how you can regardless to what you think you deserve. Failure is not an option. Standing still and doing nothing is one reality check we can’t afford to cash in anytime soon,” Ortega said on Tuesday in his message.

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Police show solidarity with colleagues from S.M.M.C.

SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) - In the fight against the Covid-19 virus, members of Emergency Support Function 5 (ESF-5) Police, held a small motorcade on Monday morning 13 April 2020 in front of the main entrance of the St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) in an effort to show appreciation to all the frontline workers.

The goal of the parade was to show our solidarity, with the frontline workers, who are taking care of patients affected with the Corona virus, being at risk contracting the virus themselves, the police explained on Tuesday in their statement.

The message from the police to our colleagues in the medical field is:” We are together in this fight we will and get out of this together”.

“The Sint Maarten Police Force would like to thank all the judicial services that participated in the motorcade yesterday morning. We would also like to thank the Minister of Justice, honorable Anna Richardson, for appearing with us at the Sint Maarten Medical Center and her inspirational words,” the police statement concludes. (KPSM)

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30-Member Medical Team from Virginia to Assist Country in Fight against COVID-19

SINT MAARTEN/VIRGINIA USA - A 30-member medical team from Virginia-based AMI Expeditionary Healthcare is en route to the Caribbean island of St. Maarten to assist coronavirus victims at the urgent request of the Dutch government.

AMI is airlifting 6 ICU physicians, 6 nurses, 6 certified nursing assistants, 2 respiratory therapists, 3 paramedics, 3 case workers and 2 project managers.

AMI’s effort will staff a mobile ICU and medical equipment arriving from the Netherlands including ICU beds, ventilators, test kits and pharmaceutical drugs.

In addition to St. Maarten, the intention is to possibly provide medical assistance to sister Dutch Caribbean islands. “We are honored that the Kingdom of the Netherlands has trusted us with this mercy mission, and we look forward to providing this life saving capacity to the island.” said Dr Andrew Walker, Executive Chairman of AMI Expeditionary Healthcare.

Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs thanked the Netherlands and AMI for the outpouring of assistance. “We wish each and every citizen of the kingdom and the world much strength as we band together to beat back this monster,” she said.

AMI Expeditionary Healthcare LLC. (formerly Aspen Medical International) physician owned and physician led, has provided medical personnel and services for 14+ years to some of the most remote and challenging environments in the world.

Since their inception, they have delivered over 5,000 medical personnel and countless healthcare solutions to over 70 clinical and hospital settings on four continents. Providing medical services to international aid organizations, humanitarian concerns, the private sector and government agencies in a wide range of remote and challenging environments, is what we do.

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Two tourist offices inspiring and bringing positivity about the destination

SINT MAARTEN/SAINT-MARTIN - The St. Maarten Tourism Bureau together with the St. Martin Tourism Office jointly launched a Digital Postcard Social Media campaign to bring positive awareness to the destination by showcasing inspiring photos of the island together with thoughtful messages, while encouraging persons to stay at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many are immobile and dependent on digital means to stay connected. Therefore, the Digital Postcard Social Media Campaign encourages everyone to reconnect with places and people by reminiscing on sunnier moments on the island, and by sharing those photos with the dedicated hashtag #MySXMPostcardMoment.

Both tourism offices continue to echo the important message to Stay Home, but also want to remind and inspire persons of the endless beauty of the island during these unprecedented times where travel and personal encounters has been restricted.

By launching the Digital Postcard Social Media campaign, both tourism offices aim to stimulate sharing of memorable moments by locals and past visitors alike by the use of the dedicated hashtag #MySXMPostcardMoment.

A custom-made Facebook frame was also created for this campaign for those that would like to highlight their memorable postcard moment as their Facebook profile picture. This campaign will be carried out on both tourism offices official destination Facebook and Instagram pages under the usernames @DiscoverSaintMartin and @VacationStMaarten.

Anyone can participate in this campaign and share their postcard worthy moments experienced on the island. In order to do so, one should first choose a desired photo that highlights a special moment, then upload the photo to Facebook and or Instagram using the dedicated #MySXMPostcardMoment hashtag.

A selection of chosen photos will be highlighted on both tourism offices official destination Facebook and Instagram pages which are ‘Discover Saint Martin’ and ‘Vacation St. Maarten’.

“Across the globe, people are at home and as a result are on social media more than ever. People are actively seeking positive stories, and opportunities to share them. As a fun and interactive method of communicating, we are sharing ‘digital postcards’, from our dual-nation destination to encourage people to share the best places and moments they have experienced on the island.

“While we cannot physically visit these wonderful places, we can highlight beloved spots and activities to inspire visitors and locals alike. In times like this where we are called upon to stay home and reflect, we can post, and share ‘digital postcards’ with our best photos and moments by adding #MySXMPostcardMoment to your post," said Aida Weinum, Director of Tourism, St Martin Tourist Office.

"We want to take people back to happier moments that were experienced on the island and encourage them to share these moments on social media. Right now, we are all immobilized. Therefore, if we cannot go to our favorite local spots, we want to bring this to you at home by means of the ‘digital postcards’.

“This way we can spread positivity and reconnect people to the island, while also spreading the important message to stay home and stay safe. We want to remind our visitors that the destination and it’s untouched beauty will be waiting to welcome them again, and to keep us in mind for future travel plans.” added May Ling Chun, Director of Tourism, St Maarten Tourism Bureau.

Both tourism offices will continue to collaborate on several projects to jointly achieve common goals. The Digital Postcard Social Media campaign will be one of many campaigns that will be launched together to ensure that the destination remain in the minds of travelers. Industry experts are predicting that people will certainly travel again due to the pent-up demand accumulated by being immobile.

Both tourism offices will continue to work together to ensure that marketing campaigns are ready to be launched to attract visitors to our shores once it has been deemed safe to travel again. For now, the tourism offices are encouraging everyone to stay home, stay safe and most importantly to keep the island at heart.

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Dutch Amphibious Ship Zr.Ms Karel Doorman heads to Dutch Caribbean

SINT MAARTEN/CURACAO - Zr.Ms. Karel Doorman leaves for the Caribbean on Monday. The Dutch Ministry of Defense will send the naval vessel to support civilian authorities in fighting the corona crisis if the situation calls for it. The support and supply vessel is initially deployed for three months in the Caribbean Region.

As soon as the Karel Doorman is located in the Caribbean waters, islands can fall back on a versatile and quickly deployable capacity. For example, this concerns transport support so that the islanders receive food. In addition, the navy ship supports the coastguard with maritime border surveillance if desired. The vessel can also serve as a base. For example, landing personnel and equipment quickly to support the local authorities in maintaining public order. The Karel Doorman also has medical facilities to support the local health care in non-COVID-related emergency care.

Helicopters and Marines

Two Cougar transport helicopters of the Defense Helicopter Command will also be on-board the Zr.Ms. Karel Doorman. The helicopters are available in the Caribbean for medical transport and medical evacuations.

The ship has medical teams: 1 with surgical capacity, the other for basic shore care. Drones from the army and navy may provide image building in the area. Marine units are also equipped with vehicles and landing craft on board, so that there is transport capacity in the area. If necessary, an additional marine unit can be flown in. The ship even has a hurricane emergency kit with it.

The local authorities of the Caribbean part of the Kingdom have submitted various requests for assistance in recent weeks. In it, the Ministry of Defense was asked to help fight the COVID-19 virus.

The Dutch Ministry of Defense currently already supports local units with maritime units, such as maritime border surveillance and maintaining public order. With the proximity of Zr.Ms. Karel Doorman in the Caribbean Region, this ensures that extra support on site when requested can be quickly provided. The station ship Zr.Ms. Zeeland is already in the Dutch Caribbean. This ship is also helping the islands.

France and the United Kingdom also each have a naval vessel in the area. A coordination cell has been set up with these countries in Martinique to cooperate where necessary. For example, the Karel Doorman can supply these ships with fuel.

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Archive photo: Cougar transport helicopters.

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