CPS & the VMT warn for a real possibility of a third wave of infections of the more contagious British Covid-19 variant and urges everyone to register for the vaccine

Even though the current numbers of active cases are now relatively low on St. Maarten, CPS has concluded, based on genotyping results, that the British variant of Covid-19 is now circulating on St. Maarten. At least 24 people have been detected with the British variant. While some of these cases can be linked to travel from Aruba and Curacao, most were residents without a travel history. This indicates that that there is already local transmission of the British variant among the community of St. Maarten.

Curacao, Aruba, and Bonaire are experiencing an explosive rise in Covid-19 infections. In a matter of weeks, the number of active cases in Curacao went from just a handful to more than five thousand due to this more contagious British variant. The result is that Curacao now has code black, with an overfull hospital and one of the highest infection rate rates in the world. It is not unlikely that a similar scenario could happen on St. Maarten within the near future since the British variant is now circulating on our island. Our current vaccination numbers (which are similar to those of Bonaire) are not yet sufficient to prevent a third wave.

It is very important for people to stay vigilant. Please keep your social distance, wear your mask and wash your hands. These three measures are the cornerstone of public health prevention. Please continue to adhere to and comply with the rules.

It is extremely important that if you experience symptoms or you have been in contact with a known case, stay home and please call 914 or your GP. You can get tested free of charge and without an appointment at Point Blanche between 08:30 am – 11:00 am, Monday to Friday starting tomorrow. Free testing is also available on the weekends, but you will need to make an appointment via 914. We would like to remind the public that CPS does not provide pre-travel testing.

In anticipation of the news of the British variant, the VMT decided to immediately scale up the vaccination rate, to make sure that as many persons as possible are protected against this third wave. On Monday, April 12th, the Belair Community Center will scale up from 6 to 8 vaccination lines, which should make it possible to vaccinate a total number of 1000 persons every day collectively between the two vaccination locations.

The situation on the ABC islands has already increased the daily registration numbers on St. Maarten. Where the average daily registrations since the start of the campaign have been around 250 per day, these numbers went up last week with an average of 350-400 persons registering daily. The VMT links this increase directly to the current situation on our sister islands as many people have friends and family living here. More and more people now realize how serious the situation is, and that a similar situation could also happen here. And even though this increased registration rate is a good start, the VMT would like to warn that we still have a long way to go. Currently, we have about 13.000 registrations, while 34.000 fully vaccinated persons (70% of the population) are needed to create herd immunity.

The Pfizer vaccine is effective against the UK variant, but to really have an impact on national transmission, more people need to be vaccinated. To put this in context, we have vaccinated 19% of the population. Bonaire has vaccinated 18% – and yet Bonaire is in the midst of a major outbreak, which indicates that our vaccine coverage is still too low to prevent an outbreak of the UK variant.

Vaccination is now open to all those 18yrs and over, so please register to get your vaccine. Registration is free and vaccination is free. An outbreak, as seen on the ABC islands usually starts slow, but once it’s increasing it is very difficult to stop. Therefore, immediate action is required now, while we still have a grip on the situation.
Registration can be done online via the online registration form which is available in English, Spanish, and Creole, and can be found
via this link: https://forms.sintmaartengov.org/form.aspx?v=OGtn05kNmb.

Paper-based “COVID Vaccine Registration Forms” can be picked up at several locations, including Collective Prevention Services (CPS) at the Vineyard Office Park Building, the Division of Labor Affairs at the Simpson Bay Public Service Center in Simpson Bay, doctors’ offices, the Government Administration Building, and select pharmacies.

Both Cole Bay & Dutch Quarter Community Helpdesk’s are currently equipped to provide information and can assist in registration on the spot. They are open from 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM on Monday to Friday and don’t forget to bring a form of identification. Organizations who wish to inform their staff about the Covid-19 vaccine and vaccination program via an information session can send an email to bv********@wh**************.org.

Lastly, if you have a friend, parent, neighbour, or relative that may need assistance with registration, transportation, or emotional support, please support them. If you need help with the registration process, your appointment, or wish for more information about the vaccination campaign, you can also call CPS at 914 or
email: va*********@si************.org