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PERIDOT FOUNDATION STATES: GOOD CORPORATE CITIZENSHIP, ENSURES LIGHTS AT THE CHURCHILL-ROUNDABIUT ARE ON FOR THE HOLIDAYS

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Peridot Foundation Founder Gracita Arrindell expresses immense gratitude towards Sol Antilles and its local General Manager Robert-Jan James for making a critical contribution towards Peridot Foundation in their yearly endeavor to decorate the Church-Hill roundabout in Cay-Hill.

“The Foundation’s symbol, the statue of a woman protecting a child is anchored at the center of the roundabout. The yearly decorations are not only meant to be decorative. They are more-so a reminder to keep attention on the issue of awareness of Elimination of violence against Women and Children also during the Holiday festivities,” Arrindell said on Monday in a press statement.

Arrindell states: “It goes without saying, continued support of businesses and their firm commitment to act consciously as good corporate citizens and give back to its community is most welcome. It is not a luxury to donate to community causes. Sol Antilles and management stepped forward, thereby made it possible for Peridot Foundation placing the festive decorations “Happy Holidays 2021- Happy New Year 2022” at the Church-Hill roundabout possible again.

“Most of this past year 2021 has seen a continuation of the challenges facing our nation in general and individual citizens in particular in the ongoing battle against the negative social effects including an increase of violence against women and girls caused in the aftermath of the Covid-19 Pandemic. These challenges have not gone unnoticed by the United Nations Secretary General in his yearly observance of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against women and children November 25th. Quote: ‘The ‘Shadow Pandemic: Violence against Women during Covid- 19 features prominently at the forefront of the UN Women Organization research agenda,” Arrindell said on Monday

Gracita states: “We must continue to keep the lights on with the support of our business community and government. Much appreciation goes out to the Ministry of ‘VROMI’ public works-department and the Ministry of Justice for granting permission each year to place the end of the year Holiday decorations at the roundabout in Cay-Hill.

“Safe and Happy Holidays 2021 wishes goes out to our citizens and businesses as we close off the old year and welcome the New Year 2022 with renewed Hope for more Peace no Violence and more compassion towards each other,” said Arrindell.

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Gordon-Carty: Being black is not an impediment for employment

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Companies should make qualifications, skills and experience the basis for their job recruitment, placement, training, and advancement of their staff at all levels and not discriminate via race. So says leader of the United St. Maarten (US) party Pamela Gordon-Carty in reaction to a vacancy ad that circulated on social media on Monday seeking a waitress who “must be white.”

The US leader, who is also a former Minister of VSA who established the Pamela Policy, called on the current Minister of VSA to look into this matter. “The Pamela Policy was introduced mainly to try to eradicate this type of behavior on the labor market which is hidden yet existing on country St. Maarten. If black people are not good to work and feed their family then they are not good to buy your service either I would believe. Business owners have to stop with this nonsense before this get out of hand,” Gordon-Carty said.

The specific job vacancy post on Facebook has since been rectified. Nonetheless, Gordon-Carty said a job requirement that implies racial discrimination should not be taken lightly and should be dealt with immediately and not permitted it to live a life of its own so others think they can openly be posting these things on a country where its population is predominantly black descendants. “No ad should be stating color or preference of race, period.

She continued: “Does this mean that black people can’t visit those particular premises? Or will blacks be treated with scorn in their own country. Then it will be written on doors that black people can’t enter or are not allowed. What’s next? It’s going to have a row for black a row for whites in establishments? Good food for whites and left overs for black? No well-paying jobs for blacks but only for whites? Better education for whites and lesser education blacks? Absolutely unacceptable”

She pointed out that the definition of discrimination according to the ILO (International Labour Organization) is “when a person is treated less favorably than others because of characteristics that are not related to the person’s competencies or the inherent requirements of the job.”

“Needless to say that all workers and job seekers have the right to be treated equally, regardless of any attributes other than their ability to do the job. Discrimination before hiring, on the job or upon leaving is against the international law which country Sint Maarten falls under,” Gordon-Carty said, adding that there are numerous international labor standards addressing discrimination including: The 1998 ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, the Discrimination (in Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111) and the Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100) .

“We already have a hidden sense of unfair treatment going on different other areas like application for certain managerial positions or in certain districts who can or can’t live in there. Slavery is something from the past and will remain there, in the past! Business owners be reminded that you are running business on country Sint Maarten and the entire Dutch Kingdom, Sint Maarten and including those conducting business hereon falls under the international law that condemns racial discrimination in all forms. No precedent will be set here with this post for others to follow. The population already is being victimized by the system when it comes to labor laws and now this! A total disrespect towards the people of St Maarten and its laws,” Gordon-Carty concluded.

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Coronavirus cases level off at 21,700, more patients in ICU

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Another 21,053 positive coronavirus tests were reported by the Dutch public health institute RIVM on Monday, leaving the weekly average figure almost unchanged.

In the last seven days the number of confirmed cases has dropped by 2.2% to an average of 21,700. However, the test positivity rate has gone up in recent days from 20.2% to 20.7%.

The number of patients in hospital has stabilised at around the 2,700 mark. There are currently 2,754 people being treated for Covid-19, 62 more than on Sunday but 0.7% fewer than a week ago.

The number of patients in intensive care rose to 611, 8.5% more than last week. The RIVM also confirmed another 34 deaths on Monday, compared to a weekly average of 50. A week ago, the average figure was 51.

(DutchNews)

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Dutch delay shift to 2G, citing Omicron uncertainties and lack of support

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch government has decided to delay plans to exclude people who have not been vaccinated against coronavirus from cafes, bars and concerts because of a lack of political support.

In addition, the plan to extend use of the coronavirus pass to more sectors has also been put on the back burner, health minister Hugo de Jonge has told MPs in a briefing.

The current epidemiological situation and the uncertainties surrounding the Omicron variant are having an impact on political support for the measures, De Jonge said.

‘Nevertheless, the cabinet is committed to including 2G… because without it, high risk sectors such as (parts of) the hospitality industry, culture and events, will have to remain closed for longer than necessary,’ he said.

MPs were supposed to debate extending the use of 3G coronavirus passes to some work situations and to the education sector this week, as well as moving to a 2G system for bars, concerts, and festivals.

The 2G system involves restricting entry to people who have either been fully vaccinated or have recently recovered from coronavirus. But with only the VVD and D66 in favour, the plans were likely to face defeat in parliament, prompting ministers to delay the move.

Critics argue that a shift to 2G would further exacerbate divisions between people who have been vaccinated and the 1.5 million who have not.

Infections

The government’s own health advisors, however, say the 2G system could halve the number of infections and reduce new hospital admissions by 80%, broadcaster NOS reported.

Some 23,000 new cases a day are being reported at present. Ministers now hope to process the draft legislation in the week after the Christmas recess. Meanwhile, ministers will decide on December 14 what measures should be in place in the Netherlands from December 19, De Jonge said.

(DutchNews)

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COP26 has finished, so what does it mean for Dutch climate policy?

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – It’s been a few weeks since the end of the climate conference in Glasgow, where delegates from nearly 200 countries signed a new agreement to stop temperatures rising above 1.5 degrees.

But, what does that mean for Dutch climate policy? Marjan Minnesma, the director of climate organisation Urgenda, is optimistic about the outcomes. ‘I could be pessimistic, and that will lead you to a dark place,’ she says, ‘but some good and necessary steps were made.’

Minnesma and Urgenda hit the headlines when they brought a case against the Dutch government in 2013 – winning it two years later in court. It was the first case in Europe that recognised the government’s duty of care towards its citizens in regard to climate change.

Since then, the Supreme Court has upheld the lower court ruling that the government must do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and campaigners in other countries have opted to take a similar approach.

Minnesma highlights the positive results of Cop26, such as counties agreeing to phase down the use of fossil fuels and China and the US recognising we are in a climate crisis.

‘The wording is really important because it refers to a general consensus that we are in a crisis. This is helpful for the climate cases being brought against governments elsewhere. It has a snowball effect,’ she says.

Policy shift

The summit showed that the political tide is also turning, highlighted by the Dutch u-turn on public financing for fossil fuel projects abroad.

The initial refusal was a central theme in a 40,000 strong demonstration in Amsterdam on the first weekend of the conference – the biggest climate march that the Dutch capital had ever seen.

‘The two right-wing parties in government seem to act more on public opinion than on science. So, it’s important that we keep pushing and that people keep taking too the streets,’ she says.

The Netherlands was also in the news from the summit when it proposed an initiative to phase out the use of diesel trucks and buses by 2040. This is part of a plan to tackle transport pollution, which is responsible for a third of carbon emissions worldwide.

These policies nod to a shift in approach to climate policy – but are they enough?

Acceleration

‘We need to scale up climate action enormously for these goals to be met,’ Minnesma says. ‘We need to accelerate the fight against climate change.’ Last week, a draft plan for the next coalition was leaked to the Volkskrant, including climate policies.

The proposed measures included reducing Dutch carbon emissions by 55% by 2030. These targets, says Minnesma, are not enough. ‘If we want to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees, emissions need to be halved.

That’s 65% fewer emissions than in 1990, and that’s the baseline. The Netherlands needs to take a crisis approach to climate change as we do to Covid-19, not a normal Dutch approach.’

Accountability

Urgenda has no problems holding the Dutch government to account or heading back to court if not enough progress is being made. ‘I spoke to the prime minister [Mark Rutte] twice in March,’ she says.

‘I offered him an affordable plan of how the Netherlands can use 100% sustainable energy by 2030. I told him that if he doesn’t follow this plan, I might have to bring another climate case against the government in ten years.’

The Netherlands, she says, already has the means to put this in place. ‘We have all the technical solutions, the fertilisers, and the resources at hand,’ Minnesma says. Rutte, she says, was ‘enthusiastic about the plan, so I’m curious to see what the new coalition will come up with.’

Walk

Minnesma is one of thousands of people who walked to Glasgow to attend the conference, a statement which she also made for the climate talks in Paris in 2015.

Many people she met while walking to Paris didn’t not know about the climate conference, but that was not the case this year. ‘Even taxi drivers in the middle of Scotland would ask ‘Are you going to Cop26?’ and offered to give us a lift. A lot has changed, even in five years.’

(DutchNews)

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Airport Omicron cases revised up to 18, passengers are still testing postive

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – In total 18 of the passengers on two flights from South Africa which arrived in the Netherlands last Friday were carrying the Omicron variant of coronavirus, public health institute RIVM said on Saturday.

In total, 61 out of 624 people on the two flights were found to have coronavirus during a mass testing at the airport. The RIVM said earlier that 14 people had the Omicron version, but that has now been revised upwards.

All those passengers who no longer have symptoms will be allowed to leave quarantine on Sunday.

Arrival test

Passengers from southern Africa have been offered a coronavirus test on arrival at Schiphol since travel conditions were tightened up at the end of last month.

And according to the regional health board, 9% of people having a voluntary test have been found to have coronavirus, even though they had to have a negative test to travel. Most passengers are also probably fully vaccinated, the health board said.

‘This shows that the virus is spreading easily and that is worrying,’ regional health board chief Bert van de Velden said in a press statement. The health board carried out 459 tests on passengers between Sunday and Thursday and found 41 positive cases.

The testing centre will remain open until next week Saturday at least, Van de Velden said.

R total

In the Netherlands itself, the R total, or reproduction rate, has now fallen to 0.99, meaning each 100 infected people are passing the virus on to 99 others. It is the first time the R rate has fallen below 1 in well over two months.

The lower R rate means that the spread of the virus is now slowing down. The RIVM received 22,723 reports of new coronavirus cases in the 24 hours to Saturday morning.

The average number of new reports over the past seven days is now 21,666, which is a drop of 3% on the previous week, another indication that the infection rate may be declining.

Fewer people are also being treated in hospital. There are now 2,670 coronavirus patients in hospital, of whom 597 are in an intensive care ward.

(DutchNews)

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Health council backs jabs for younger children with health problems

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Dutch health council Gezondheidsraad is recommending that children aged five to 11 who are at risk of becoming seriously ill with coronavirus should be vaccinated with the Pfizer/Biontech vaccine. 
 
The first child doses are expected to arrive in the Netherlands at the end of the month, and priority should be given to children with chronic health problems, the council said. 
The recommendation covers children with lung disease, heart defects and Down syndrome because they are more likely to end up in hospital and have a higher risk of developing serious inflammation of their organs, the health council said. 
 
Paediatricians should recommend exactly who should be vaccinated because ‘children with these conditions are almost always treated by a specialist in children’s medicine.’
The health council said it will publish recommendations on vaccinating children who do not have chronic health conditions shortly. The cabinet asked the health council about its views on the vaccination of children at the end of October.
On November 25, the European Medicines Agency cleared the use of the Pfizer/Biontech vaccine for five to 11-year-olds. The vaccinate is 90% effective for children, the EU agency said. The American Food and Drug Administration cleared the vaccine for use in children at the end of October.
(DutchNews)
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Emergence of new COVID-19 strain Omicron variant is a wake-up call

SINT MAARTEN (COMMENTARY - By Roddy Heyliger) - The next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic is now underway. The administering of booster vaccines has started as of December 1 at the Collective Prevention Service (CPS) in Philipsburg for 18+. The booster makes your immune response stronger.

A new variant of concern has been designated by the World Health Organization (WHO) Omicron which is causing global concern at the moment because not much is known about the new variant which was recently discovered in southern Africa.

Studies are currently underway to better understand Omicron; whether it is more transmissible compared to other variants such as Delta; and if Omicron causes more severe disease; what is the potential impact of this variant on vaccines; what is the effectiveness of current PCR tests, and existing treatments. Answers to these questions from medical scientists are expected within the next two weeks. Currently there is no information to suggest that Omicron causes different COVID-19 symptoms.

The WHO has stated that preliminary evidence indicates that people who have previously had COVID-19 could become reinfected more easily with Omicron when compared to other variants of concern.

To date, 75 persons in the country have lost their lives to COVID-19. The deadliest months have been August where 17 persons died, September 15 and October nine, or a total of 41 persons within three months, while between March 2020 and July 2021 – a period of 17-months – 34 persons had died from COVID-19.

The jump in the number of persons succumbing to COVID-19 was due to the Delta variant of the disease which is the dominant infection in our community today.

The likelihood of the potential further spread of Omicron at the global level by the WHO has been described as ‘very high.’

The emergence of the new variant is a reminder that COVID-19 is still around, and it further reinforces the message of getting vaccinated for those who remain unvaccinated and for the vaccinated to get their booster, and the latter offers the single best defense against Omicron.

Roddy Heyliger

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Over-60s will get booster before the year end, minister says

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Health minister Hugo de Jonge has pledged that everyone over the age of 60 will be offered a booster coronavirus vaccine before the end of this year – as long as their second dose was before the end of June.

The Dutch booster programme, currently by far the slowest in the EU, will now pick up steam, De Jonge said.

This week, 200,000 people over the age of 60 will get a booster dose, and next week 350,000, the minister told MPs during a long debate on the government’s coronavirus strategy on Wednesday evening.

MPs from across the political spectrum have slammed the slow speed of the booster roll-out, describing it as ‘too little too late’. ‘Once again the cabinet has been caught by surprise, once again we are last,’ SP parliamentarian Maarten Hijink said.

In particular, MPs say the rise in deaths at nursing homes is attributable to the slow start. Prime minister Mark Rutte told MPs that he too was sorry about the Dutch performance.

‘But we have to act according to the science,’ he said. It was not until November 2, that the Dutch health council recommended boosters, Rutte said. During the debate ministers refused to budge on their decision to stop all sports in the evening, particularly those for children.

The decision had been taken to reduce travel and contacts between people, the prime minister said.

(DutchNews)

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Earlier boosters would have stopped some hospital admissions: RIVM chief

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – If the Netherlands had started giving booster vaccinations earlier, fewer people who have been vaccinated would have ended up in hospital, Jaap van Dissel, head of public health institute RIVM, told MPs on Wednesday.

‘Yes, I think we could have prevented some of them,’ Van Dissel said in answer to MPs questions. The high infection rate is also partly due to slight decline in effectiveness of vaccines in ‘relatively many’ of the frail elderly, he said.

‘We have to raise this with boosters.’ The Netherlands has been very slow to start its booster campaign, and so far, only 82,000 people have been given a third jab. However, it is important not to give a booster shot too quickly because its impact is greatest six months after full vaccination, Van Dissel told MPs.

Hospital chief Ernst Kuipers also highlighted the importance of the booster jabs in his appearance before MPs. ‘The quicker we can boost the over-60s and people with prior health problems, the quicker their hospitalisation rate will go down,’ he said.

Kuipers also said he expects hospitalisations to peak at around 3,200 within two weeks. Currently, some 2,800 people are being treated for coronavirus in hospital.

Capacity

Meanwhile, RIVM experts have told news website Nu.nl that stabilisation in the number of new infections in the Netherlands is unconnected to capacity problems at some testing centres, as has been suggested.

Both the percentage of tests proving positive, and the reproduction rate have gone down slightly, which shows there is movement, experts said. In addition, testing centres are not yet at maximum capacity, even though it can be hard to make an appointment at peak periods, a spokesman for the regional health board association told Nu.nl.

Everyone who wants to be tested can be, although some people may have to opt for a different time or location, the spokesman said.

(DutchNews)

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