In its meeting of today, January 26, 2021, the Council of Ministers decided to cancel the planning and execution of both Carnival and Heineken Regatta for 2021 in the interest of the general health of the citizens of Sint Maarten. This decision comes after consultations with various relevant stakeholders, including health care professionals and law enforcement on the presented reduced activities planned for Carnival 2021 and the Heineken Regatta and considering the impact that the events would have on the population. The Sint Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) and Heineken Regatta organizers have been informed of the decision.
According to the health report of January 25th, provided by Collective Prevention Services (CPS), the average active COVID-19 cases remain steadily high, not only as a result of the holiday festivities, but also due to apparent complacency with public health measures among the population, and is expected to increase. As of late, various new strains of the COVID-19 virus have been detected in several countries around the world resulting in a travel ban of linked countries. With these substantial developments, which will further strain the limited manpower within the health care sector and law enforcement, the government was strongly recommended to impose stricter public health measures. As such, correspondences have been sent out via TIMATIC to place a temporary ban on incoming flights from high-risk countries experiencing variant strains of the COVID-19 virus. This would include the withholding of licenses for large events.
In further consultation with law enforcement, the Council of Ministers was informed about their main points of concern which included the safety of the manpower and the challenges associated with the enforcement of social distancing and the established health protocols during Carnival activities. Additionally, there is a serious concern regarding the lack of capacity of law enforcement during the period of the planned event while the vaccination program would be simultaneously rolled out, as law enforcement will be playing a large role in the execution of the vaccination program for at least six months.
While the Council of Ministers allowed the SCDF to move ahead with the planning for Carnival 2021 as indicated in its letter of January 14, the Council of Ministers granted permission “with the understanding that should the situation worsen with COVID-19 and the health services on Sint Maarten are in jeopardy, cancellation of Carnival 2021 can still take place”. As such, the foundation was also informed that the Council of Ministers would continue to monitor the country’s health situation and meet with internal and external stakeholders to assess the feasibility of such and take the necessary decision to safeguard the population should the situation be warranted. The potential economic benefits of Carnival and other festivals do not outweigh the risk to the public health and the ability of the health sector as well as law enforcement to deal with the fallout seeing the increasing cases, and presence of new strains of COVID-19 around the world.
To avoid any further increase in the spread of the virus amongst the community and those that need to enforce and safeguard our country, the Council of Ministers agreed with the recommendations and canceled both Carnival and the Heineken Regatta for 2021. The Council of Ministers urges the general public to take heed of the mandatory guidelines implemented for your own health and safety. We are still in the middle of a pandemic and it is your civic duty to protect yourself and your loved ones; continue to wear your mask, maintain a social distance of 2-meters, practice good hand hygiene and be cautious and vigilant when out in public.