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Lions Club donates food baskets to the seniors in Belvedere for Thanksgiving

SINT MAARTEN (BELVEDERE) - This past Sunday, at the beginning of the Thanksgiving Week the Sint Maarten Lions Club distributed twenty (20) grocery bags food supplies to the senior members of the St. Maarten Red Cross Homes in Belvedere. The bags contained water, juices, flour, peas, pasta, and other consumable items for the seniors to prepare for their daily meals. Thanksgiving Day is celebrated this year on Thursday November 26th.

“The Sint Maarten Lions Club is committed to helping our community in various ways. This year our Lions Club celebrates 50 years since it was established in St. Maarten and we are pleased to be able to assist our community to solve some very critical issues.” Stated the Committee Chairperson Lion N’kesi Cramer.

The seniors were very receptive of the grocery bags and expressed their gratitude to the members of the Club. “The Sint Maarten Lions Club is helping us to keep the faith, because they are out here sharing whatever they have with people in the community, this gives us hope and faith we need to make it through our week. I really appreciate the bags and I can see that the Lions are doing a wonderful job. ” - stated a resident who is affectionately called “Chef” who worked for many years as the Head Chef at the Holland House Beach Hotel in Philipsburg.

The companies which contributed to this food donation drive are Prime Distributors, Divico and Kangaroos Wholesale dba Dresstanbul N.V.

This project is part of the Sint Maarten Lions Club’s 50th Anniversary celebration for 2020-2021 under the "50 Years of Dedicated Service and Commitment to our Community". The Sint Maarten Lions Club will celebrate 50 years of existence on Saturday December 12th as it was chartered on that very same day back in 1970.

If you are interested in contributing to upcoming Sint Maarten Lions Club projects, you can donate via https://sxmlionsclub.org/makeadonation or make a direct deposit or wire transfer to the Lions Club of Sint Maarten WIB account USD 62710106 or NAF 62710104.

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GAC explores the possibilities of rapid testing

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The General Audit Chamber (GAC) submitted its report entitled “Mini audit on the possibilities of rapid testing on St. Maarten” to Parliament today, the GAC said in a press statement on Wednesday. The report presents findings, analysis, and focal points related to the possibilities of rapid COVID-19 testing.

Since the start of the pandemic, the Government has expressed the need and desire to engage in broad coronavirus testing. The total amount of tests conducted represents about 14% of the population (excluding arriving passengers). Until recently, the gold standard PCR-test has been exclusively used. These tests are very accurate, but also very technically complex, expensive and require persons to wait days for results.

In the interim, the Netherlands has evaluated several rapid tests and found them to be sufficiently reliable. Rapid tests are cheaper and can be administered more quickly on a large scale. Whether a person tests positive for the virus can be known within 15 minutes. The General Audit Chamber’s report presents the difference between the PCR-test and rapid tests, analyzes the costs, and explains the accuracy of each test and the possibilities of expanding the test capacity.

As the pandemic will likely last for some time, the Government faces an enormously difficult task of maintaining the balance between the well-being (health) and the welfare (economy of the country. The government’s focus is currently on testing travelers, patients, or potentially infected persons as part of contact tracing. The General Audit Chamber suggests increasing testing capacity and supporting economic activity using reliable rapid tests.

The report is published in both English and Dutch and is available on the website of the General Audit Chamber (www.arsxm.org) and via links on our social media platforms Facebook and LinkedIn.

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NEW - Updated COVID-19 travel entry requirements to Sint Maarten

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The Government of Sint Maarten has updated its entry requirements to ensure continued safety of travelers and residents as of November 25th, 2020.

Due to the COVID-19 epidemic, Sint Maarten has established a mandatory health authorization application through an Electronic Health Authorization System (EHAS) available on www.stmaartenentry.com, for every visitor whether arriving by air, boat or in transit. This includes Sint Maarten and Sint Martin residents.

Travelers residing on St. Maarten or traveling from low-risk countries are exempted from having the mandatory RT-PCR test. However, must test upon arrival at their own expense.Children below the age of 10 are exempted from the mandatory RT-PCR test. Crew members not in possession of a valid negative RT-PCR test, must self-quarantine until their departure flight.

All arriving passengers MUST:

  1. Complete the online Health Authorization Declaration available on www.stmaartenentry.com , and print a copy to present at the Health Authorization checkpoint upon arrival.
  1. Have a RT-PCRtest for the SARS-COV-2 virus obtained from a Naso-Pharyngeal swab only and performed within 120 hours (5 days) prior to departure to Sint Maarten (last leg in case of connecting flights);

Alternatively, passengers can have a Antigen Test for the SARS-COV-2 virus obtained from a Naso-Pharyngeal swab only and performed within 48 hours from the date of swab to departure.

The only antigen tests accepted are:

a). Abbott – CGIA (Panbio COVID-19 Ag rapid test

b). Becton Dickinson (BD) –CGIA BD Veritor COVID test

c). Roche/ SD biosensor F test.

  1. Upload the original result of your test as soon as possible, as part of the Health Authorization application procedure, in order to be processed. Processing take can up to 12 hours. The test result should clearly specify the name of the laboratory, test subject name, test date, type of test administered and how the test sample was obtained. Typed, written or e-mail statements from doctors or non-laboratories will not be accepted.
  1. For travelers originating from a high-risk country, 14 consecutive days of self-monitoring of body temperature and possible flu like symptoms is mandatory. For travelers from a moderate riskcountry the mandatory self-monitoring period is 8 days.

Please be informed that receiving pre-approval does not mean that you are cleared to enter St. Maarten. Upon arrival you must still pass through the additional medical screening measures at the Airport Health Checkpoint. All incoming passengers are subject to temperature checks and other screening protocols and may be subject to mandatory testing at their own expense. If re-tested upon arrival you will be expected to self-isolate or self-quarantine at your place of lodging/residence until the test results are known. Failure to adhere to screening upon arrival will result in you not being able to enter St. Maarten and being sent back to the country from which your flight originated.

Upon Arrival:

  1. All travelers are subject to thermal screening and temperature checks upon arrival. If traveler(s) have a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or higher and/or symptoms of coughing, runny nose or difficulty breathing, they will be treated as probable COVID-19 cases and will be subject to further health assessment by a Public Health Worker at the airport.

Based on the information provided in the health assessment, the medical professionals on the airport will determine whether the traveler will need to be tested at the Airport Healthcare Center. In addition, the outcome of that health assessment will determine whether the traveler(s) can go to their place of lodging or to a designated quarantine hotel to be placed in quarantine until their RT-PCR test results return within maximum 24 -48hrs of being tested.

Costs for having to re-test upon arrival is $125. The timeframe to receive results are dependent on lab testing capacity and the number of local transmissions.

  1. If the RT-PCR/Rapid Antigen Test result is negative, the traveler(s) is taken off self-quarantine and are advised to self-monitor.
  2. If the RT-PCR/ Rapid Antigen Test result is positive, person(s) will be treated as a confirmed COVID-19 case and shall follow the national isolation protocols as advised by Collective Prevention Services (CPS).
  1. All travelers above the age of 10 must have a mask in their possession for use upon disembarkation, which must be worn in all public areas throughout the duration of their stay in Sint Maarten.
  1. Have a printed copy of Health Authorization form to show upon arrival.

There were some discrepancies in the previous protocols which have been adjusted, this is the most up to date protocol and is subject to changes as time progresses to ensure that the experience on Sint Maarten is positive and the risks remain at a minimum.

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CPS: Celebrating Thanksgiving in a Safe Manner

GREAT BAY, Sint Maarten (DCOMM) – This week Thursday, November 26 is the traditional ‘thanksgiving’ celebration celebrated by millions of Americans across the globe.

Sint Maarten is no different, and thanksgiving celebrations will also be taking place by visitors and others in the community. Everyone can make thanksgiving safer by adhering to some simple measures such as wearing a mask, social distancing and washing your hands frequently with water and soap or using hand sanitizer.

Anytime you get together with people who do not live in your household, even if you go by the person’s home, the risk of getting COVID-19 increases for everyone in attendance.

Mask should be worn over your nose and mouth and should be properly secured under your chin. The wearing of mask is extremely important as people without COVID-19 symptoms may be able to spread it to you if you are not protected.

Maintaining a safe distance of two meters (six feet) from others especially persons who are at a higher risk of getting very sick; wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 per cent alcohol content; cover coughs and sneezes, and wash or clean your hands after every episode.  

With community transmission of COVID-19, those who come together to celebrate thanksgiving must adhere to the public health measures that have been advised/recommended by Collective Prevention Services (CPS) a department within the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour (Ministry VSA).

Restaurants that are offering thanksgiving dinners, must strictly adhere to their Public Health Safety Plans that have been approved and which they currently operate under.

Measures for a thanksgiving gathering: limit the number of guests; preference would be to have the meal outdoors on the porch or in the garden where it is well ventilated; if the meal is taking place indoors, open windows and doors; do not share food, drinks, plates, cups or utensils; if sharing food, have one person serve the food and use single-use plastic utensils; store your mask while eating and drinking; avoid going into the kitchen where food is being prepared or handled and limit the number of people in the food preparation area; clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and items between use.

Everything is up to you to make this thanksgiving celebration a safe one. Everyone must act responsibly in order to keep love ones, family and friends safe this thanksgiving.

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Grisha calls for urgent action to stop the rapid rise in food prices

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Faction Leader in Parliament for the United People's UP Party the honorable Grisha Heyliger-Marten is calling for an urgent Public Meeting of Parliament to discuss the alarming rise in food cost on St Maarten and seek ways through legislation to stop what could potentially result in a food crisis.

Her concern comes from the outcry of many within the community and a three-year-old study, which somehow was never brought to the public. The study commissioned in May 2017 by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs shows St. Maarten’s food price rose by 53 percent between 2012 and 2017. That rise is double the increase in food price of both Curacao and Aruba who were subjects of the study.

Heyliger-Marten said on Sunday her goal is to submit some proposals to Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications TEATT and to bring a motion to Parliament that instructs the Minister to find ways to reduce food costs so low income earners can feed themselves and their children.

Matters at home and abroad are of importance to me as a Member of Parliament and what should be asked is why this report, which speaks about the alarmingly high cost of food and its negative affect on the people of St. Maarten, was not addressed before.

One way to provide some relief to residents according to MP Heyliger-Marten is Heyliger-Marten is urgently reinforce School-based food programs, especially now with the return of face-to-face learning, as part of her recommendations to address the rapid rise in food price on St. Maarten. “We must put our people's needs above everything else and do something to stop their suffering."

"It is difficult for families to put food on their tables today. We must realise that food insecurity creates significant health and educational challenges as children cannot get the nourishment they need to live and learn. "We must put our people's needs above everything else and do something to stop their suffering." "It is difficult for families to put food on their tables today. We must realise that food insecurity creates significant health and educational challenges as children cannot get the nourishment they need to live and learn. 

MP Heyliger-Marten calls the details of a May 2017 study on the rapid rise in food prices in St. Maarten is "alarming." She warns that if nothing is done to reduce food price, this will plunge St. Maarten into a food crisis. When compared to the other Dutch Caribbean Islands, the Report, called the "Ecorys Report," shows food price increase by more than twice the amount in St. Maarten compared to Aruba and Curacao. The Report recommends promoting fair competition, strengthening consumers' position and reviewing the permit systems for supermarkets as a means of breaking the "strong concentration of power around a few market players." 

The Report also states that contrary to popular belief, the transportation/shipping costs play a small role in the overall retail price on St. Maarten. The Supply Chain on St. Maarten, according to the Report, leaves a lot to be desired. 

MP Heyliger-Marten said Sunday the high food prices must be addressed quickly mainly when faced with the reality of a significant economic decline and health crisis. "We cannot wait until the price of food rises to such a level that we create a food crisis, and we must do something because already too many of our citizens are living below the poverty line and this does not help. Minimum wage is still meagre, and single parents are struggling, even more, today at the supermarkets because of the rapid increase in food price."

She said, "Since the extreme poverty line is determined by the cost of the basic food basket, people living below this line do not have sufficient income to cover basic food costs. As food prices increase, the most vulnerable are faced with new and growing concerns. This means that the downturn in the economy will have an impact on the food security of the people.

The MP expressed is the question of comparing prices on French St. Martin with that of the Supermarkets on Dutch St. Maarten. She said there must be a multilateral cooperation effort put in place immediately to prevent St. Maarten from entering into a food crisis. According to the Ecorys Report entitled: Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten- Study on price developments and logistics in the Region, "All the islands in the Kingdom faced severe price increases from the period 2012 -2017. The Cost Analysis for St. Maarten, in essence, showed that even though transport costs tend to be lower (because of the closer proximity to Miami and Rotterdam), taxes slightly higher, the wholesaler’s profits are larger, and prices are higher.

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Travel entry requirements updated to allow rapid antigen tests

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – The Ministers of TEATT Ludmila de Weever and VSA Richard Panneflek have updated the entry requirements to include antigen testing with effective date of November 25th.

Travelers to St. Maarten are required to complete a mandatory health authorization application via the Electronic Health Authorization System (EHAS) available on www.stmaartenentry.com and upload their negative RT-PCR test within 5 days or their negative antigen test result within 48 hours.

Currently, the following antigen tests have been approved: Abbott (CGIA Panbio COVID-19 Ag rapid test), Becton Dickinson (CGIA BD Veritor COVID-19 test) and Roche (SD Biosensor F test). The list of acceptable tests is constantly being reviewed as government continues to seek the most accurate alternatives to the PCR test.

“I’m happy with the addition of another test as this will assist in easing travel to St. Maarten since these specific antigen tests are readily available in our main tourist markets. In fact, one of our major airlines, Air France, is already using this test for travel between Paris and Guadeloupe, within the 48-hour window. Our island’s economy needs to return to pre-pandemic levels as safely and quickly as possible and this decision allows us to make the necessary adjustments to help improve load factors, thereby increasing the number of visitors and with it economic activity,” said Minister of TEATT Ludmila de Weever.

The Minister of Public Health, Richard Panneflek, stated, “I am diligently working at the possibility of using antigen tests for the local population. This will allow us to further synchronize the protocols that CPS and ARS have been working on. Due to the improved accuracy of antigen tests, the realization of mass testing will be possible for St. Maarten in the near future, allowing for a more realistic depiction of our COVID-19 situation. However, PCR test will remain St. Maarten’s gold standard testing method.”

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Rotary Sunset Donates Tablets to After School Programs

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On October 28th, 2020, members of the Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset gathered at the Rupert Maynard Community Center in St. Peters and the Senior Citizen Recreational Center in Hope Estate to present tablets to two after school programs.

The Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset launched its tablet / computer donation drive in August with hopes to provide the much-needed computer devices to students who were unable to attend online classes. The club was able to donate over 60 tablets to students at the various public schools thus far. There continues to be an outpour of support from Rotarians and supporters both here and abroad and the club is happy to present a second batch of tablets. With students gradually returning to the physical classroom setting, after school programs are faced with lack of devices to continue the learning process during the afternoon hours. With this community assessment, the club has decided to shift its approach of donating the tablets to the schools to donating the tablets to such after school programs.

The club was thrilled to present 4 tablets to the Young Achiever After School Program currently located at the Senior Citizen Recreational Center in Hope Estate and 6 tablets to the Star After School Program currently located at the Rupert Maynard Community Center in St. Peters. Both receiving after school programs conveyed their sincere appreciation to the Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset and its membership. The club will continue its initiative of providing devices to the vulnerable for as long as there is a need in education.

In addition to Rotary Sunset’s contribution, the club would also like to extend its heartfelt gratitude to the general population of St. Martin, supporters, and Rotarians from across the globe for their kind contributions toward this initiative thus far. A special thank you is extended to international contributors such as the Rotary Club of Nassau Sunrise in the Bahamas and our local contributors such as Tamisha Morris-Arrindell, Cadet Frenel Lambasador Car Rental, Rene Laurent of Sarl Hurricane Transport, Roger Lawrence and Lisa Barrot for ensuring this donation to the two after school programs was possible.

Persons who are still interested in contributing towards the club’s device initiative can do so by making a deposit of $100 or more to the club’s WIB USD Account number-82173909 or WIB NAF Account number-82173806.

The Rotary Club of St. Martin Sunset meets every second and fourth Monday of the month at Carl N Sons Unique Inn and Conference Facilities in Colebay at 7:30pm. Due to Covid19, the club currently meets via Zoom. The club can be contacted via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or via the official Facebook page at facebook.com/rotarysxmsunset.

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Minister of VSA and ECYS support PJIAE with Pavilion for arrival terminal expansion

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - On Friday November 13th, Minister of VSA, Richard Panneflek and Minister of ECYS drs. Rodolphe Samuel signed a “use agreement” regarding the use of a mobile pavilion owned by Country, St. Maarten, to be used and operated by the Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIAE) for the upcoming season.

With the damages caused by Irma, PJIAE has been operating with limited space. As the peak tourism season is approaching, St. Maarten can expect approximately 3,500 inbound passengers on peak days during the week, and this number is expected to rise in the month of January onward. In addition, the new health screening measures at the Airport requires additional space that will be accommodated in the Pavilion to create a smoother throughput and travel experience for all travelers.

“As Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor, it is with great pleasure we are able to assist PJIAE, and we thank them for their collaborative efforts to ensure the new health checkpoint at PJIAE is able to operate efficiently in order to protect our population and incoming visitors,” stated Minister Panneflek.

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Negotiations on the 3rd tranche of liquidity support started on Friday

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - The discussion on the third tranche of liquidity support commenced this morning, Friday, November 13, 2020, after the Kingdom Council of Ministers (RMR) meeting, wherein Dutch State Secretary (SS) Raymond Knops expressed willingness of the Netherlands to engage in discussions with St. Maarten on the third tranche for liquidity support. St. Maarten has been given the green light to commence discussions on the third tranche of liquidity support.

Following a constructive conclusion of the negotiations with the College Financieel Toezicht (CFT) for which a positive advice was rendered to the Chair of the Kingdom Council of Ministers (RMR), Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs secured a meeting with State Secretary Raymond Knops together with their support teams on November 11, 2020.

During the meeting, SS Knops confirmed that St. Maarten had sufficiently complied with the requirements regarding the second tranche of liquidity support and could now begin the long-awaited discussions with the Netherlands for the third tranche of liquidity support.

Prime Minister Jacobs reconfirmed St. Maarten’s willingness for dialogue on the Dutch proposal of the Caribbean Reform Entity (CHE) as presented on July 10, taking into consideration the changes to the Caribisch Hervorminings en Ontwikkelingsorgan (COHO) which has been sent to the Kingdom Council of State.

Jacobs highlighted the motion of Parliament which mandates the Government of St. Maarten to continue to negotiate with the Dutch government in the best interest of the people of St. Maarten. These negotiations would be aimed at the arrival to a consensus on the conditions for the much-needed third tranche of liquidity support.

She stressed that it was important for parties to make strides to meet each other with understanding for the current liquidity position. “It is important that St. Maarten is given enough negotiating room, just as the other Caribbean countries have, in order to develop a package that could be brought to parliament,” Prime Minister Jacobs expressed during the meeting.

Prime Minister Jacobs also looks forward to solutions for the maturing loan of NAf 50 million and expects to have this finalized ahead of the November 18th deadline. This is one of Government’s top priorities for dialogue with the Netherlands. SS Knops expressed willingness to have an open discussion on this point as well and arrangements were made related to the composition of the technical teams on both sides.

The technical discussions that begun today will focus on St. Maarten’s concerns related to the Caribbean Reform Entity as well as St. Maarten’s stance on the country packages. St. Maarten is happy to finally have the opportunity to engage in an open dialogue on the proposed Kingdom Law.

“The Government of St. Maarten looks forward to receiving much-needed clarity on the nuances of the law, its effect and influence on the governing processes, the financial consequences, and the manner in which the country packages can be envisioned in execution. As such, I pledged to continue in keeping Parliament updated throughout the process,” stated Prime Minister Jacobs.

 

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Prime Minister Jacobs Congratulates President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) - “On behalf of the Government of Sint Maarten, I hereby congratulate Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on their election victory as the next President and Vice-President of the United States of America.

This election is particularly important given that the outcome has resulted in not only the first female Vice-President but also the first person of Caribbean and Asian descent, and the first woman of color to hold this office.

St. Maarten remains committed to working with this new administration underscoring our strong historic, economic and social ties with the United States,” stated Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs.

joe biden 2

President-elect Joe Biden

vp elect harris

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris

 

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