photo: Government of Sint Maarten

PHILIPSBURG – Like Aruba and Curaçao, Sint Maarten has been dealing with an increase in the number of corona infections for several weeks. This causes an increase in the number of corona patients in hospital. The island is doing a lot to keep the infections as low as possible, such as the introduction of a new curfew. At the same time, there is concern about a relatively low vaccination coverage among the population.

Minister of Health, Social Development and Labour Omar Ottley says in an interview with the Caribbean Network that he considers the worst-case scenario. At the same time, he hopes for a positive change. “I welcome any person who chooses to be vaccinated.”

Door Oscar van Dam

Many illegal immigrants
According to the government of Sint Maarten, there are 62,323 people on the island who can be vaccinated, both adults and young people between 12 and 17 years old. The number is remarkable because, according to figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics, around 40,000 people officially live on the island.
The government thus recognizes in the corona statistics that there are many people living on the island who are not registered and are therefore illegal. But every resident counts, which is why Ottley says he’s happy with every new vaccination.

‘Vaccination pop-ups’
With regard to the low vaccination coverage, Ottley explains: “We have always had a relatively low number of infections during the first three corona waves and it was always possible to cope with it in the hospital. Perhaps this has made people a bit easier and they are less likely to choose to be vaccinated.” Ottley calls that “understandable” but not good.
He does a lot to get people to take a shot anyway. For example, the government organized various ‘vaccination pop-ups’, including in the Festival Center in Philipsburg. The aim is to offer people the opportunity to have themselves vaccinated in places other than the vaccination centres.

This is necessary because of the more than 62,000 residents aged twelve and older, only 25,043 people had been vaccinated at least once on Friday, August 20. At the same time, there were 315 active infections. Until this month, the island had always remained below 300 active infections.

Of the more than 62,000 residents aged twelve and older on Sint Maarten only 25,043 people have been vaccinated at least once.

Ottley: “We are in a new situation. People have to get used to that.” Recently there has been a curfew again, which means that the nightlife has come to a standstill. Ottley explained the curfew in a meeting with representatives of the island’s nightlife. It has also been agreed that they will come up with a control system that should prevent infections in discotheques, nightclubs and bars.

Additional help

At the same time, there is consultation within the Kingdom about extra aid. Ottley has asked the Netherlands to allow the financing of additional medical personnel to continue for longer. There are currently fifteen corona patients in the St. Maarten Medical Center, which seems to have reached the limit for the care of corona patients.
Ottley: “Nobody expected this wave. No one had seen a Delta variant coming. But now that we are confronted with it, we have to take it as seriously as possible.” Ottley daily calls on the population to adhere to the corona measures and also to be vaccinated.

To anyone who chooses not to get vaccinated, I say: ‘Take care of yourself’. – Omar Ottley, Minister of Health, Social Development and Labor in Sint Maarten

“It’s up to each person to make that choice. But to anyone who chooses not to get vaccinated, I say: ‘Take care of yourself’. Wear a mouth cap, keep your distance, avoid crowds and make sure you stay healthy. Only in this way can we keep out a worst case scenario.”