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Lions Club celebrates Anniversary at Philipsburg Methodist Church

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Members of the Sint Maarten Lions Club recently joined in fellowship at the Philipsburg Methodist Church in thanksgiving for the observance of their 51st Anniversary of service to the community.

Among the members from the Sint Maarten Lions Club attending the Service were Lion Frank Arnell PMJF, who is the only living Charter Member of the Club which was chartered on December 12th, 1970, 1st Vice President Lion John Schaminee, Past District Governor Lion Maxime Larmonie PMJF, Past District Governor Lion Wally Havertong PMJF, District 60B Cabinet Secretary/Treasurer Lion Davey Woods MJF, Zone Chairperson Zone 2B Lion Alphons Gumbs MJF and District 60B Leo President Nichele Smith Abreu.

The Service was conducted by Lay Preacher Brother Dennis Baptiste who challenged the congregation (in his message) to stir “Good Trouble” in carrying out their duty of service to Almighty God and each other. The members of the Philipsburg Boys Brigade added to the message with a well-narrated Presentation highlighting the “The Joy of Sharing” with those around us.

Lion President Linette A. Gibs and members of the Sint Maarten Lions Club, would like to thank the community for their support throughout the years and wish everyone a safe, happy and healthy Christmas Holiday Season.


Vulnerable youths at growing risk of being exploited by criminals – report

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Vulnerable young people are more at risk of being exploited by criminals than authorities realise, according to a survey of around 500 frontline professionals in Rotterdam.

The study by the anti-human trafficking centre CKM said the official figures masked the scale of the problem, according to neighbourhood police officers, youth workers and school attendance monitors.

Nearly half of those interviewed said they had been in contact with at least one person who had been exploited by criminals, and the problem appeared to be growing. Young people with learning difficulties or insecure family situations where most at risk.

‘There is a huge gap between the official figures and what professionals who work with this group of young people see,’ said CKM spokesman Shamir Ceuleers.

He said criminals typically approached their victims on the street, at locations where teenagers congregate, at school or via social media, and ask them to act as couriers or drug runners.

‘They’re asked to do a job in exchange for free dope,’ he said. ‘Once they get tangled up in it, they can’t get out. ‘These young people don’t see themselves as victims. But they know they’re involved in crime, so they don’t go straight to the police.’

The CKM said community workers should be trained to spot the early signals of exploitation. A nationwide study is also planned based on the findings in Rotterdam.



Omicron on verge of becoming dominant variant in Amsterdam

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Nearly half of coronavirus infections in Amsterdam are now caused by the Omicron variant – a twelvefold increase in the last eight days.

A random sample of 95 cases by the local health board (GGD) on December 20 returned 46 positive tests for Omicron. On December 12 Omicron was detected in just 4% of cases in a similar sample.

Omicron is more prevalent in Amsterdam than the rest of the country, where it accounted for an estimated 10% to 15% of infections last week. The public health agency RIVM expects it will become the dominant strain of coronavirus by the end of the year.

The latest daily figures showed coronavirus infections are still declining, but Wednesday’s figure of 13,460 was less than 1% below the number recorded on the same day last week.

Another 179 patients were admitted to hospital in the last 24 hours, while the number of people being treated fell by 94 to 2,275 – the lowest level for a month. There are 601 patients in intensive care, 14 fewer than on Monday.



Minister Lawrence: Invites the Community to ‘Christmas in Philipsburg’ on Thursday and Christmas Eve Friday

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) – The Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport & Telecommunications (Minister of TEATT) Hon. Roger Lawrence, said on Wednesday, after a successful ‘Philipsburg Becomes Maagical’ Marketplace last weekend, members of the public, shoppers, cruise guests, and visitors, are invited to ‘Christmas in Philipsburg,’ on Thursday and Friday December 23 and 24.

“Bring your family and friends, and kick-off the final days leading up to and into Christmas Eve by supporting local creatives, vendors and the Philipsburg stores in your final shopping opportunity to get those gifts and presents in the countdown to Christmas day.

“Cruise guests will also experience that majestic vibe of the ‘Friendly Island.’ Support our business community as you enjoy the ‘Christmas in Philipsburg’ experience.

“The local community and visitors to the ‘Friendly Island will take part in this two-day shopping experience. The holidays are about fellowship and celebration and besides creating a festive atmosphere for all, it adds ambiance to Philipsburg during the peak shopping period as we embrace the holiday season and the spirit of Christmas,” Minister of TEATT Hon. Roger Lawrence said on Wednesday.  

Minister Lawrence added that the final two-days of shopping before Christmas day is an opportunity for increased economic activity for vendors, merchants, restauranteurs, and other entrepreneurs.

The occasion brings out traditional cuisine and a display of Caribbean cultural flare, an added value for a Caribbean Christmas holiday season – a sense of cheer and normalcy for all after two years of pandemic.

Let us be mindful and remain vigilant and continue to follow the COVID-19 public health precautionary measures as has been promoted by the Collective Prevention Service (CPS) during the holiday season.


Opposition criticises ‘late’ policy that led to lockdown

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Opposition MPs have criticised the government for doing too little to prevent the latest lockdown, in an emergency parliamentary debate on the severe restrictions which came into force on Sunday.

Maarten Hijink, for the SP, was blisteringly critical: ‘Other countries are taking less extensive measures because they don’t have their backs against the wall like this government,’ he said.

‘There’s no space in healthcare, the booster campaign is too late, measures were taken too late and this is why we have our backs against this wall.’ Meanwhile Nilüfer Gündoğan, MP for Volt, pointed out the lack of a long-term strategy.

‘I’ve handed in motion after motion calling for a long-term strategy that could have been employed when infections were low,’ she said. ‘If we had done this, we wouldn’t be in the trouble we’re in now.’

Aujke de Vries, MP for the VVD, defended the government’s actions – particularly a loosening of restrictions and distancing rules in September. She said: ‘You can choose to have rules for a very long time, but I think that is hard to explain to win people’s support, for their wellbeing and for businesses, when at that moment hospital and intensive care occupancy did not indicate doing this.

She added that once urgent matters are dealt with, the government does need to change its strategy. ‘We do need to look at long-term policy….for this winter, for the next winters and for the next pandemic,’ she said.

A Dutch coalition deal was agreed last week, 271 days after the general election and 11 months since the government resigned over the childcare benefits scandal. Prime minister Mark Rutte will put together a new and extended cabinet during the current winter break.



Van Dissel: Omicron responsible for up to 15% of infections and rising fast

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Coronavirus infections and hospital admissions are continuing to decline, but the rapid spread of the Omicron variant poses a serious risk, health chiefs said on Tuesday.

Jaap van Dissel, director of the centre for disease control at the public health agency RIVM, said the new variant was currently responsible for between 10 and 15% of infections, but cases were doubling every two and a half days.

He said pressure on the healthcare system would increase in the next few weeks, even with the lockdown that came into force on Sunday. ‘Even with a rapid lockdown we can expect 100 to 150 intensive care admissions per day, assuming Omicron leads to the same number of hospital admissions as the Delta variant,’ Van Dissel told a technical briefing in parliament.

He added that there was no evidence so far to show that Omicron was less likely to cause severe illness than previous strains of coronavirus. The latest weekly bulletin from the RIVM showed total infections were down by 18.6% in the last seven days, with another 94,864 cases reported.

The positivity rate increased by 0.5% to 23.9%. Hospital admissions declined by 32.8% to 1,335, the lowest weekly figure for six weeks, while 248 people were admitted to intensive care, 26.6% fewer than in the previous week.

The number of reported deaths was also down by 27.6% to 322.

Cases fell fastest in school-age children and people over 70, with the number of positive tests down by up to 40% in the over-85s. The infection rate was 544 per 100,000 people, ranging from 440 in Groningen to 649 in Zuid-Holland-Zuid.

The RIVM said it expected Omicron to become the dominant strain of coronavirus before the end of the year. The total number of positive coronavirus tests since the start of the pandemic passed the three million mark on Tuesday, with another 9,450 confirmed cases recorded by the RIVM in the past 24 hours.



Schiphol staff angry at decision to keep non-essential airport shops open

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Shop staff at Schiphol airport are reported to be angry and distressed at being exempted from the lockdown rules that came into force on Sunday morning.

All stores in the departures area beyond security have been allowed to stay open even though other non-essential shops have been ordered to close until January 14.

NH Nieuws quoted one anonymous retail worker who said staff were worried about the risk of infection but unable to report their concerns to their employers because they feared reprisals.

‘Our employer says we should be glad we still have our jobs,’ the source said. ‘There is a culture of anxiety here. If they learn that we have contacted the media in our despair, we risk being fired.’

The Animal Rights Party (PvdD) has called for all non-essential shops at the airport to be closed, in line with the rest of the country. MP Christine Teunissen said: ‘There are two different sets of rules being applied, and I don’t understand it.

‘Schiphol clearly believes making money is more important than showing solidarity with the rest of the Netherlands. I think it is indefensible. The cabinet needs to make the situation clear.’

A spokesman for the airport said keeping the shops open had no impact on the spread of the virus because passengers’ main reason for being in the airport was to travel.

‘It is not the case that the shops beyond security at Schiphol make any difference to the number of people present or limits the movement of people, which is the main focus of the cabinet’s coronavirus policies.’



Decline in coronavirus cases slowing down as Omicron takes hold

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The decline in coronavirus infections continued to slow down on Monday as another 12,220 cases were confirmed by the RIVM. On average just over 14,000 cases a day were reported in the last week, 19% fewer than in the previous seven days.

The percentage of positive tests has risen slightly to 24.1%. The public health agency expects the more infections Omicron variant to become the dominant strain in the week after Christmas, leading to an upturn in infections and hospitalisations.

The RIVM said 149 people had been admitted to hospital in the last 24 hours, while the total number of patients rose by 88 to 2,430 after several days of decline. Another 29 people were taken into intensive care.

The public health agency expects the more infections Omicron variant to become the dominant strain in the week after Christmas, leading to an upturn in infections and hospitalisations.

There are currently 615 Dutch coronavirus patients in intensive care, including 19 in Germany. The number of deaths reported to the RIVM has also gone down in the last week from 63 per day to 52.



Drop 15 minute wait-time to speed up booster process, experts say

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Dutch government health advisors want to drop the compulsory 15-minute wait after a coronavirus vaccination, saying many more people could be given a booster if the waiting time was set aside.

The pause was introduced as a precaution to spot people who might have an allergic reaction to the vaccine. Family doctors have also said the 15-minute wait should go because then they too could vaccinate people in their surgeries.

‘If we did not have it, we could vaccinate five times as many people,’ Amsterdam doctor Bart Meijman told broadcaster NOS. The Netherlands is trailing the rest of the EU in terms of booster vaccinations but aims to have given everyone a top up dose by mid-January.

Currently the over 60s, many of whom were given the AstraZeneca vaccine, have priority in booking a booster jab but many have not yet been able to, or are being sent to different towns for their dose.

In addition, some 280,000 over 60s have not been able to make an appointment until January, according to regional health board figures.

The regional health board association GGD GHOR said on Saturday that when extra capacity has been created, the over 60s will be alerted by text message to bring forward their appointment.

The booster system will be opened up to everyone to make an appointment from next week.



The Netherlands shuts down to buy time ahead of Omicron surge

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Netherlands is going back into lockdown from Sunday morning in an effort to buy time to head off the impact of the Omicron version of coronavirus.

The lockdown, involving the closure of schools and higher education, all non-essential shops, schools and colleges, and cultural institutions, will come into effect from 5am on Sunday morning.

The aim, health minister Hugo de Jonge said, is to win time to give as many people as possible time to get a booster injection and to find out how sick people can become with the Omicron variant so hospitals can prepare.

Prime minister Mark Rutte said the new lockdown is unavoidable given the wave of infections which will hit the Netherlands in the coming weeks. ‘We have to take measures now as a precaution,’ he said.

‘We have to keep ahead of the wave that is coming our way’. The new rules include an ‘urgent recommendation’ that households welcome no more than two guests over the age of 13 within a 24-hour period, apart from on the three days of the Christmas holiday and on New Year’s Day.

Schools, colleges and universities, and after school clubs, will all close immediately, and should prepare for remote learning in the first week after the holidays officially end. All indoor sports will also stop.

Outdoor sports can continue up to 5pm, while professional sports matches will continue, without spectators.

Jaap van Dissel, chairman of the government’s Outbreak Management Team, said he expected the Omicron variant to spread quickly throughout Netherlands and to account for the majority of infections at some point between Christmas and New Year.

Omicron, he said, is more resistant to the immunity which previous infections and vaccinations provide that the previous variants. It is too different from the variant of coronavirus the vaccine was developed for, he said.

‘I hope everyone will make use of the booster,’ he stressed. ‘As a country we are best protected if as many people as possible get a booster vaccination.’


Health minister Hugo de Jonge said that at the moment, people can continue to go on holiday. ‘But keep to the rules of the country where you are going, including those of the Netherlands,’ he said.

‘You may have to deal with extra rules in that country or when you come back to the Netherlands.’ The Netherlands is currently involved in talks on tightening up requirements for people from outside the Schengen area, he said.

That many include compulsory quarantine for everyone returning to the Netherlands from a non-EU country who has not been fully vaccinated. Those talks will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday next week.

The measures will run until January 14 at least but will be reviewed before that date.


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