photo: Tim van Dijk

PHILIPSBURG – For the first time since Sunday April 5th, the supermarkets were open for Sint Maarteners on Thursday and Friday. And that meant long lines.

A lot of people bought fresh fruits and vegetables, but also water, rice, eggs, and other essential goods. Some individuals purchased enough for two weeks, other as much as they could afford. “Hopefully enough for a few days”, says a man who’s standing in line for the supermarket.

The temporary opening of the supermarkets is the first step in the ‘de-escalation’ of the lockdown. People are allowed to visit the supermarkets and gas stations for two days without a special permit. The banks will also be open for a few hours, so that people can cash their pay- or pension cheques.
On all other days only individuals with valid disaster pass or a permit from the chief of police or ministers are allowed on the roads.

Since last week it has been possible to get the groceries delivered to your house, but the system had its flaws. It could take days between placing an order and when it would be delivered, and a lot of people ordered alcohol and luxury items. That’s why alcohol was banned for a while.

But on Thursday the stores were allowed to sell alcohol again. Some individuals stocked up, but most seemed not to care about alcohol. “I don’t drink, so I don’t care”, says a woman who’s shopping.

1500 food packages delivered
The government handed out 1500 food packages to individuals who can’t afford to get groceries themselves. They are still working on the next batch of 1500 packages. The prime minister announced that these will most likely be delivered starting on Monday.

More than 9000 individuals have registered themselves for additional aid through the Social Impact Assessment form. Individuals can use this form to tell the government if they need food assistance, or financial, medical, or legal support.

Islands divided into zones
The lockdown will be extended for three weeks starting on Monday April 20th. The plan for the extension is still in development, the details will be announced later today.

During the press conference last Tuesday prime minister Silveria Jacobs said that she was considering splitting the island up into two zones: east and west. Each zone would be allowed on the streets for three days to do groceries. Colebay would most likely be the central point. The police could use this checkpoint to check who can travel from one zone to another.

Tests in neighborhoods
Collective Prevention Services – the municipal health service for Sint Maarten – has tested individuals in different neighborhoods over the past few days to map the spread of the virus. Testing on a broader scale was supposed to start last week, but the required materials were delayed. In the upcoming weeks, testing will continue in the neighborhoods on days when individuals need to stay home.

Jacobs: “We want to evaluate the actual number of cases to prevent the spread so that we can return to normal as soon as possible.”