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COVID-19 Self-tests kits arrive for Saba schools

SABA (THE BOTTOM) —Two pallets with self-test kits for the schools on Saba arrived on Wednesday, January 19.

The COVID-19 self-tests, 10,800 in total, were financed by the Ministry of Public Health, Wellbeing and Sport (VWS) and transported on Royal Dutch Airlines KLM from Amsterdam to St. Maarten on Tuesday, January 18, and taken to Saba with a charter flight of SXM Airways the following day.

The self-tests are for the Saba Comprehensive School (SCS) and the Sacred Heart School (SHS) so students can regularly do a self-test to help safeguard the schools against the spreading of COVID-19. The self-tests are for students age 6 and up. Island Governor Jonathan Johnson dropped off the packages with the self-test kits at the schools on Wednesday.

Schools on Saba re-opened on Monday, January 17, one week later than originally scheduled after the Christmas holidays due to a surge of COVID-19 cases on the island.

Self tests handed over at SHSIsland Governor Jonathan Johnson hands over a box with self-tests to Sacred Heart School Principal Hortence Promes.

Self tests arrive on Saba 02The arrival of the self-tests at the airport on Saba on Wednesday, January 19.


NV GEBE Reopens Simpson Bay Branch Office on Thursday. Back to Normal Business Hours at Branches

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - NV GEBE stated in a Wednesday press release that its Branch Office in Simpson Bay will be reopen to the public on Thursday, January 20, 2022, while also going back to its regular business hours of 7:45AM to 3:00PM at both branches. 

With Covid cases rising in the last couple of weeks, fueled by the highly contagious Omicron variant, NV GEBE’s Management made decision to scale back its operating hours at the Main Office and also to close the Branch Office in Simpson Bay.

Temporary Manager of NV GEBE, Merrill Temmer stated that due to the rise in cases across the island, NV GEBE had to revert back to its policies introduced amid the height of the pandemic in 2020.  He added that NV GEBE will continue to ensure the safety of its staff and customers who chooses to conduct on premise transactions. 

All customers  will be required to observe COVID-19 protocols such as wearing a face masks, practice social distancing, use hand sanitizer and undergo temperature screening. 

NV GEBE understands that frustrations may arise, as we continue to adjust to the unprecedented changes brought on by the COVID-19 Pandemic. However, our Company remains committed to ensuring that all avenues are explored as we continually seek new measures that can increase the safety of our staff and customers while  we continue to fight the effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic together. 

NV GEBE regrets any inconvenience caused by the above mentioned measures, and will continue to inform the public about future changes when they arise.


Dutch roll out child vaccination programme, many parents have doubts

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Parents will be invited to have their children aged five to 11 vaccinated against coronavirus from Tuesday, as the Dutch vaccination programme enters its next stage.

Parents are being sent a letter asking them to make a first appointment at a regional health council vaccination centre. Children will be given two doses of the Biontech/Pfizer vaccine eight weeks apart.

According to research by public health institute RIVM, 47% of parents say they will allow their offspring to be vaccinated but the rest either won’t or have doubts. The older the child, the more likely parents are to approve of vaccination.

In particular, the parents of young children are concerned about unknown, long-term side effects, the RIVM said. The vaccine has been approved for use in children by the European Medicines Agency.

The Dutch health council approved the vaccination of children in early December, saying this will reduce the spread of the virus in schools, sports clubs and society in general, so allowing some restrictions to be eased.

The council also stressed the importance of providing clear information for parents and children and said that all forms of coercion should be avoided. ‘The decision whether to or not to take advantage of vaccination must not lead to children being kept off school or other social exclusion,’ the council said at the time.


Most children do not suffer from serious illness if they catch coronavirus, although a very small minority have had a complication called multisystem inflammatory syndrome which has left some with longer term problems.

Read the John Hopkins medicine article on the pros and cons of vaccinating children. In addition, vaccinating children will help slow the spread of coronavirus because children may have no symptoms but can transmit it to parents, grandparents and teachers, who may be more susceptible to a more severe infection, experts say.

The take-up rate in the regular childhood vaccination programme is over 90%.



Coronavirus cases up by 21% but hospital admissions still falling

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Coronavirus infections in school-age children more than doubled in the week after schools reopened following the Christmas holidays.

The total number of infections was up by 21% in the second week of January, far lower than the previous week’s 77% increase, but the trend was much stronger in younger age groups.

There were 131% more positive tests in primary school-age children and 78% more among teenagers, according to the latest weekly bulletin by the RIVM. Cases also went up faster in people aged between 30 and 45, but there were fewer infections among people in their twenties.

In total 242,961 people tested positive in the seven days to January 18, the highest weekly total ever recorded, while 36% of all tests were positive, also a record.

The figures mean that in the last week one person out of every 72 in the Netherlands was diagnosed with coronavirus. The infection rate in the 15-19 age group was one in 33, compared to one in 526 among the over-75 population.

IC admissions down Hospital admissions continued to decline strongly despite the high infection rate, with 647 people admitted to hospital in the last week compared to 940 the week before.

Intensive care admissions were down by 36% at 94, while the number of recorded deaths fell from 116 to 63, an average of nine a day.

The RIVM said around half of all adults and 90% of people over the age of 60 had now had a booster vaccine but warned that the number of infections could rise faster now some of the lockdown restrictions have been lifted.

‘What effect the most recent relaxations will have on the number of people who test positive for coronavirus and the number of hospital admissions that follow from that will become clear in the next few weeks,’ said a spokesman.



The Voice of Holland dropped by RTL after #metoo allegations

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Broadcaster RTL has dropped its flagship talent show The Voice of Holland, which has become embroiled in a major scandal about sexual abuse and the abuse of power.

Main sponsor T-Mobile has also pulled out of its deal with the programme, following claims that at least one key member of team was involved in putting sexual pressure on women in the show.

The scandal was broken by YouTube programme Boos (angry), which is run by public broadcasting company BNNVARA. It says that several women claim they have been the victims of sexual misconduct during their time with the show.

‘In spring 2021, the Boos editorial team were told about apparent inappropriate sexual behaviour on the set of The Voice of Holland,’ BNNVARA said in a statement. ‘Presenter Tim Hofman then appealed for people who had unacceptable experiences on talent shows.

We received many reactions from people who said they were victims of, or had witnessed sexually unacceptable behaviour on The Voice. They concern Jeroen Rietbergen and several others involved in the programme.’

Rietbergen, the show’s band leader, has now publicly admitted he had ‘sexual contact’ with women who were involved in the show several years ago. Rietbergen is the partner of television presenter Linda de Mol, whose brother is John de Mol, owner of television company Talpa which devised The Voice and used to produce it.

Rietbergen also admitted having been warned about his behaviour several years ago. He has now stepped down. Rapper and show talent coach Ali B has also been accused of sexually inappropriate behaviour and, it emerged, one woman has made a formal police complaint against him.

It is not yet clear if he will face any charges. B said on Instagram: ‘this is an accusation about something which is supposed to have happened years ago, but it is not true. There is nothing concrete. I cannot defend myself but the damage has already been done.’


RTL and current production company ITV have brought in a team of outside experts to investigate the claims. Show presenter Martijn Krabbé, who was with the programme since the first season in 2010, said he had no idea about the allegations and that he was in shock.

Chantal Janzen, who now presents the show, called for no stone to be left unturned in an effort to get to truth. And on Sunday evening, rock singer Anouk quit as one of the show’s talent coaches.

‘I do not want to work in a place where men can abuse their position and where they have been deliberately chosen to keep things quiet and look the other way,’ Anouk said in a video statement.

The Boos programme will be broadcast on YouTube on Thursday. Hofman told the Telegraaf that RTL had decided to pull The Voice following Rietbergen’s confession and before the programme making the claims could be broadcast.



More than 42,000 coronavirus cases, lowest hospital admissions for 10 weeks

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – More than 42,000 people tested positive for coronavirus in the last 24 hours, setting a new record for the third time in four days.

Monday’s total of 42,472 was more than 6,000 higher than Sunday’s figure and 51% more than the number of positive tests a week ago. The percentage of positive tests in the last seven days reached 36%, a level not seen since the first weeks of the pandemic when limited tests were available.

The number of patients in hospital with coronavirus increased by 22 to 1,240, including 317 people who are being treated in intensive care. On a weekly basis the number of patients is down by 19% while IC occupancy has fallen by nearly 22%.

In the last week an average of 122 patients a day have been admitted to hospital with Covid-19 while 19 people have been taken into intensive care. Both figures are at their lowest level since October 28.

The RIVM also reported an average of 10 deaths a day from Covid-19 in the last week, compared to 17 a week earlier.



Thousands demonstrate in Amsterdam against Covid rules, vaccinations

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Thousands of people gathered in Amsterdam on Sunday to protest against the coronavirus rules, but by 4.30pm, there had been no repeats of the problems of two weeks ago, when thousand defied a city council ban and turned up to protest anyway.

The police have not yet given an official estimate of the size of the crowd, but the organisers claim 25,000 people were taking part. Some 30 farmers with tractors also joined Sunday’s demonstration and some had driven from Groningen and Friesland, broadcaster NOS reported.

The demonstration was given the green light by the police and mayor Femke Halsema, who nevertheless designated several parts of the city as high-risk areas, giving police the right to stop and search people for weapons.

Demonstrators gathered in Westerpark, the Stadionplein area and in Oosterpark before converging on the Museumplein and then going on a march through the city centre.

Campaign group Nederland in Verzet organized the demo in to ‘commemorate’ the riots last January, in which 240 people were arrested nationwide. A group of anti-fascist campaigners, who were protesting about the presence of far-right groups at the demo, were removed to the nearby Max Euweplein by police.



Coronavirus infections top 36,000, but fewer people are in hospital

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Public health institute RIVM recorded a new record number of positive coronavirus tests in the 24 hours to Sunday morning, but the number of people being treated in hospital continues to decline.

In total, 36,308 new cases were registered with the RIVM, the highest ever figure. The increase takes the average over the past week to 32,305, 27% up on the previous seven-day period.

The number of positive cases may be rising but the number of people being treated in hospital continues to go down, falling to 1,218 by Sunday morning. Of them, 312 people are in an IC ward.

In total, 105 new patients were admitted to hospital, of whom 90 are being treated in an ordinary ward.

Ministers warned on Friday that relaxing some of the coronavirus rules – by reopening all shops, fitness centres and colleges – could send the number of daily infections as high as 80,000.



New coronavirus rules could boost infections to 80,000 a day, says PM

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Reopening shops, higher education institutes and fitness centres will lead to a sharp rise in coronavirus cases, possibly up to 80,000 a day, prime minister Mark Rutte told reporters on Friday evening.

Nevertheless, taking such a step is responsible, Rutte said, because of the impact of the current measures on society. ‘We are taking a risk because we have to do sport to stay healthy, because two in three youngsters are feeling lonely, and the lockdown is damaging our health as well,’ he said.

The prime minister said he understood that the decision not to reopen cafes, restaurants and the cultural sector feels ‘extremely unfair’. However, the risks of spreading the virus during the longer and more intensive contact between people in cafes, for example, are so high that ‘we cannot do everything at the same time.’

New measures

As expected, colleges and universities can reopen, with a 75-student limit in lecture theatres. Students should also wear masks all the time while at university. The options for taking part in indoor and outdoor sports and fitness are being expanded.

Gyms can reopen and indoor sports can again take place. However, spectators are still banned, and a coronavirus pass will be required for indoor sports for the over-17s. People are asked to wear a mask, when not actually exercising.

Non-essential shops can reopen but must close at 5pm, but the cabinet has decided not to introduce an appointment system, which had been recommended by the Outbreak Management Team.

Masks are compulsory in shops and there are limits on numbers. Hairdressers, nail stylists and other contact professions can also start working again, as long as they shut up shop at 5pm.

The maximum recommended size for groups outdoors is going up from two to four. At home, the advice is for people to have up to four adult guests per 24 hours.

The quarantine rules are also being relaxed and people who have had a booster shot more than a week before or have recently recovered from coronavirus will not have to go into quarantine if they come into close contact with someone who tests positive for the disease.

People are encouraged to wear a medical face mask if possible, and avoid cloth masks – a marked contrast with government scepticism a year ago about the value of mask wearing.

Live with the virus

New health minister Ernst Kuipers said that we will have to learn to live with coronavirus in the long term. ‘It is not just up to the care sector, education, politicians to come up with solutions,’ he said.

‘We will all together have to find the best way of coming to terms with it,’ he said. In the Netherlands, where there are some 200,000 infections a week, youngsters account for the bulk of cases, he said.

The measures which are now being taken mean the number of infections will go up sharply and this in turn will disrupt society. ‘Cafes won’t be able to open because they won’t have the personnel because they will be sick,’ he said.

Asked what he thought about the way some local officials are ignoring cafes which are opening in protest, Rutte said it is up to local officials. ‘There is no policy of turning a blind eye,’ he said.

‘It is up to the mayors to decide if they open for a couple of hours, if this can be seen as a demonstration.’ He claimed that local mayors agree that there can be no systematic reopening, or policy of ‘tolerance’ for bars and restaurants breaking the rules long term.

The cabinet will reassess the situation on January 27, in the hope that cafes, events and the cultural sector will be able to reopen, Rutte said.



Fewer than 1,000 Covid patients on an ordinary hospital ward

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The number of new coronavirus cases in the Netherlands reached a record 35,521 on on Friday, but the figure was distorted by computer failures on Thursday, which meant not all positive tests were registered.

Nevertheless, the Friday total takes the average number of cases per day over the past week to 31,206 – a rise of 45% on the week earlier period. The new record in infections comes as the government prepares to announce what measures it will relax from this weekend.

The government imposed the semi lockdown in the week before Christmas to allow the booster campaign to get up to speed and head off the risk of a surge in hospitalisations.

Now, however, ministers accept the Omicron variant of coronavirus does not make people as sick as earlier versions, even though it is more infectious, paving the way for a relaxation of the rules.


The number of hospital patients continues to decline. In total, 108 people were admitted to hospital overnight, taking the total to 1,289, a reduction of 74 on Thursday’s figure.

Of them, 335 are being treated in an IC ward, down from 361 on Thursday. Just one IC patient remains in a German hospital. The number of Covid patients on an ordinary ward has now dipped below 1,000 for the first time since November last year.


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