Soualiga Newsday Features

Soualiga Newsday Features (3120)

Rutte warns stricter coronavirus rules will be needed unless current ones are observed

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Prime minister Mark Rutte has warned that new lockdown rules will be necessary before the start of December unless people stick to the social distancing rules.

The government reintroduced the 1.5 metre rule as well as the mask mandate in shops and other indoor spaces 10 days ago in response to a surge in infections. Cafes, bars, and public events were ordered to shut their doors at 8pm and fans were banned from sports matches.

But with infections rising by more than 50% in the last week and more than 2,400 patients in hospital, the cabinet has come under pressure not to wait until next Friday’s press conference to bring in stricter measures.

On Monday 23,066 new coronavirus cases were reported in the previous 24 hours, only just below the all-time record set last Thursday, while 22% of all tests were positive.

Some MPs and health experts have said lockdown rules such as closing bars and restaurants will have to be implemented this winter to prevent the health service being overburdened.

Parliament is divided on whether to introduce the 2G system, which would restrict access to indoor spaces to people who have been vaccinated or who have recovered from coronavirus.

Some parties want to extend the CovidCheck pass to workplaces and non-essential shops, while others, such as the ChristenUnie, argue that universal testing – the so-called 1G system – would be fairer.

OMT advice

Rutte said on Monday that it was up to everyone to pay attention to the guidelines, which also include working from home where possible and not having more than four guests at home, though those measures are not formalised as rules.

‘The Outbreak Management Team have told us that the basic rules are still not being observed properly,’ he said. ‘If we want to be able to make a decision on December 3, and not sooner, it’s essential that we see a dramatic change in the observation of the rules.’ He said the government’s advisors would be closely monitoring the effectiveness of the current rules and the situation in the hospitals.

‘If one of those two things gets worse, we will have to make a statement earlier. We hope it won’t be necessary, but we can all do our bit if we abide by the rules.’



Dutch prime minister condemns ‘idiot’ rioters involved in pure violence

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – After three nights of trouble in towns and cities across the Netherlands, prime minister Mark Rutte has condemned the rioting as ‘pure violence’, which has nothing to do with demonstrating.

Speaking ahead of a meeting with ministers to discuss the latest coronavirus figures, Rutte said that he recognised there are mounting tensions in society because everyone is fed up with coronavirus.

‘But I shall never accept idiots using violence against people who are out there every day, keeping this country safe for you and me,’ he said. ‘And they do this under the pretext of “we’re not happy”.

This is nothing but pure violence.’ Police and justice ministry officials will do everything in their power to track down the perpetrators, he said. They will do this, he said, ‘to make sure that the right to demonstrate remains for all the decent people who object to the [coronavirus] policy.’

The rioting kicked off in Rotterdam on Friday evening, when 49 people were arrested after a demonstration against the coronavirus rules degenerated into a riot. Police cars were set on fire and emergency service workers were pelted with fireworks.

Police fired warning shots and on two instances fired at the crowd. On Saturday there were dozens of arrests in copycat riots in The Hague, Roermond, on the Protestant Island of Urk and in the Limburg town of Stein.

On Sunday night it was the turn of Groningen, Enschede, Leeuwarden, Tilburg and Roosendaal. The rioting is being carried out not by socially cohesive groups, but by multiple groups getting together, ranging from football hooligans to frustrated youngsters and ‘defenders’, says anthropologist Danny de Vries from the University of Amsterdam.

‘What they have in common is the goal to sabotage the government, and they see the police as representing this government,’ he said. ‘So, they target police, which seems to be a relatively new development.’

Ministers are meeting this week to discuss the next steps, as the number of coronavirus cases reported on a daily basis tops 20,000. A formal lockdown is among the measures being suggested by some health experts.



Border police to stop using ethnic profiling ahead of talks with MPs

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Dutch border police have decided not to use ethnic profiling when carrying out their duties, the organisation said in a statement ahead of next week’s round table talks on the issue with MPs.

This summer, a court ruled that selecting people for extra identity checks on the basis of their ethnicity did not amount to discrimination. The case centres on checks carried out by the border police (KMar) on air and train passengers, and road users from within the EU.

Formal border controls have been phased out within the EU but spot checks are sanctioned in order to combat illegal immigration.

The case was brought by Amnesty International and other human rights organisations, as well as two citizens, including Mpanzu Bamenga, a former Eindhoven city councillor.

He was singled out for special questioning at passport control at Eindhoven airport after returning from Rome where he had attended a conference. Dressed in a suit, he was walking fast, other indicators, it later transpired, for resembling a ‘Nigerian money smuggler’.

In the statement, first obtained by the Volkskrant, the border police said from the perspective of both legitimacy and trust, it had decided ‘not to let ethnicity be an indicator in profiles or selection decisions’.

In addition, the organisation said, it would continue to work towards improving the way it carried out its duties.



Rotterdam riot arrest total reaches 51, police confirm two were hit by bullets

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The number of people arrested during and after Friday night’s riots in Rotterdam has risen to 51, police said on Saturday afternoon. Police also confirmed two people had been shot.

Both have been hospitalised, and police are now checking to confirm if they were hit by police bullets. Police have said they shot at the crowd on ‘several occasions’.

As yet, the circumstances of the shootings are still unclear, and a formal investigation is now underway.

Around half the rioters who have been arrested are minors and they came from all over the country, police said.

Jan Struijs, of police union Nederlandse Politiebond said there appeared to have been two instances in which police fired at the crowd. In one, police were driven into a corner by a large group of rioters,’ he told broadcaster NOS.

‘In the other, it was about protecting fire officers, who were being attacked so they could not put out a fire. Police then shot at people’s legs.’ More arrests are not being ruled out.

Rotterdam city centre is well equipped with surveillance cameras which will be used to identify the rioters, mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb said earlier. The mayor described the riots as an ‘orgy of violence’.


People arrested in the wake of the riots will be tried via the fast-track court system, justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus said in a reaction to the trouble. Grapperhaus spoke of his ‘deep respect’ for the police, fire brigade and other emergency service workers who were caught up in the violence.

‘The right to demonstrate is an important one in our society, but what we saw yesterday was simply criminal behaviour,’ he said. ‘It had nothing to do with demonstrating.

‘It is important that we keep talking to each other, and where necessary, have a tough debate. But intimidation and violence should not be part of this.’ Police union ACP accused politicians of shedding crocodile tears. ‘If there was more police capacity, we would have been able to nip this in the bud,’ a union spokesman told broadcaster NOS.



One suspect arrested after high-speed border chase by French Police onto Union Road

SINT MAARTEN (COLE BAY) - In the early hours of November 18, 2021, at approximately 03:20 Central Dispatch was notified by the French Police that they were in pursuit of two vehicles which were suspected of being stolen.

The French Police furthermore indicated that they were in the process of crossing the Bellevue border in the direction of Union Road. Multiple patrols were directed towards the Union Road border in order to intercept these vehicles.

Upon arrival at lot number 47, the patrols encountered a patrol car of the French police at the location.

The patrols saw two other vehicles, being a black Kia Soul and a white Daihatsu Terios, on Union Road which were both damaged.

Due to good cooperation between the two police organizations at the scene, they succeeded in arresting one of the suspects who was in one of the allegedly stolen vehicles. However, the other suspect(s) had managed to escape.

The suspect that was apprehended was taken to the Philipsburg police station where he is being held for questioning.

During the course of the pursuit, the suspect(s) damaged the fencing of four properties and destroyed several GEBE water supply lines on Union Road.

The two cars involved in the chase were impounded in connection with further investigation. This investigation is still ongoing together with the French counterparts. (KPSM)

police chase ins1




Prime Minister Jacobs commends Ashley Furniture Homestore on grand opening

SINT MAARTEN (COLE BAY) - On November 17, Prime Minister Silveria E. Jacobs together with Managing Directors Sami Elyousef and Yousef Elyousef, cut the ribbon declaring the grand opening of Ashley Furniture Homestore in Cole Bay following a short ceremony attended by several dignitaries and members of the business community.

Ashley Furniture Homestore officially opened its doors to the public today, November 18. The store has a wide collection of authentic and high-quality Ashley home furniture pieces.

“Despite the challenges of Hurricane’s Irma and the COVID-19 pandemic, I commend the management of Ashley Furniture Homestore for not only choosing St. Maarten as a location for one of the largest Ashley Furniture Store in the Caribbean but for also donating to the K1 Britania Foundation and the Mental Health Foundation.

“To me, the willingness to give is what makes this new chapter so meaningful. This endeavor highlights confidence in St. Maarten’s economic development, provided jobs during construction as well as now that the store has officially opened. Congratulations and much success to the management and staff.” stated Prime Minister Jacobs.


Man gets 15 years for manslaughter

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Court of Appeal has sentenced a man, R.I.L.V., to fifteen years in prison for manslaughter. The crime occurred near Marina Bar in Dutch Quarter on October 12, 2019. The victim “Nicio” was shot in the head.

The Court of First Instance had sentenced R.I.L.V. to 18 years imprisonment for murder. However, the Court of Appeal changed the conviction to manslaughter and adjusted the sentence to match that conviction.

There is still no clear motive for this crime that was committed in plain view of the public. 


WINAIR wins regional Airline Award for Best Caribbean Airline 2021

SINT MAARTEN (SIMPSON BAY-AIRPORT) – Windward Islands Airways (WINAIR) is proud to have been selected “Best Caribbean Airline 2021” by the readers of the Caribbean Journal, the airline said in a media statement on Tuesday.

Some 53,000 votes were cast by readers of the Caribbean Journal declaring their respective favorites in the Caribbean, WINAIR said on Tuesday.

“WINAIR has overcome Hurricane Irma, Covid-19 pandemic and continues our efforts to serve the region, its people and visiting tourists. As we rebuild our network and company we must thank our entire staff, who have endured many challenges and sacrifices,” stated M. Cleaver, President & Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of WINAIR.

WINAIR will continue to provide and increase its services from the hub PJIAE in St. Maarten Post Covid-19 pandemic, the media statement concludes.


Government allocates €1.3bn for businesses and venues hit by corona rules

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Businesses hit by the reintroduction of coronavirus restrictions will again be able to claim compensation from the government to cover their running costs.

The government has set aside €1.3 billion to support companies, event organisers, cultural institutions and sports clubs affected by the rules that came into force on Saturday.

Companies whose turnover drops by at least 30% can apply for a TVL payment to cover their overheads, while organisers of events that have had to be cancelled can claim a 100% subsidy.

Events can only go ahead if they finish by 6pm, with capacity limited to a maximum of 1,250 people who must have an allocated seat. The rules will apply until at least December 4.

Cultural venues can claim up to 55% of lost ticket revenue via the Fonds Podiumkunsten and can also apply for TVL funding if they are facing significant losses.

Another €36 million is being made available for professional sports clubs who are having to hold matches behind closed doors, while the amateur sports sector will receive up to €5 million.



Record 110,000 coronavirus infections in a week, biggest rise in children

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – More than 110,000 people tested positive for coronavirus in the last seven days, equivalent to nearly six out of every 1,000 people living in the Netherlands.

The latest weekly bulletin from the public health agency RIVM also showed 19.6% of all tests taken in the last week gave a positive result, up from 17.2% a week ago. The virus is spreading fastest among school-age children, with 85% more infections in the five-to-nine age group and 76% more among 10 to 14-year-olds.

By contrast, positive tests in nearly all over-55s groups have grown by between 20% and 30% from last week.

On Tuesday more than 20,000 cases were confirmed in a 24-hour period for the first time, with 20,252 people testing positive.

Nearly 70% of infections where the source was identified were traced to the home, including family members and visitors, with schools and nurseries accounting for another 15%. However, only 22.4% of cases recorded last week had a known setting.

Around 60% of people who tested positive in the first two weeks of November were unvaccinated, the RIVM said, although in 45% of cases the vaccination status was unknown.

People under 50 who had not been vaccinated were three times more likely to test positive. Hospital admissions increased by 12% to 1,390, while 217 patients were admitted to intensive care, six more than last week.

On Tuesday there were 2,071 coronavirus patients in hospital altogether, an increase of 26% since last week.

The RIVM also confirmed 173 deaths from Covid-19, 11 more than a week ago. Around the 25 local health service (GGD) regions the number of positive tests per 100,000 people ranged from 390 in Groningen to 828 in Zuid-Limburg.

The national rate was 628, up from 438 a week ago.


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