(Daily Herald) PHILIPSBURG–The number of active COVID-19 cases has risen to 36 as St. Maarten has reached a new record of 114 confirmed cases since the fight against the coronavirus started several months ago.
Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour Richard Panneflek confirmed the increase on Sunday and said the spike in cases over the past five days is a significant cause for concern.
“On Sunday at 12:00 midday I received the latest update from the Collective Prevention Services (CPS) which shows that we are now at 36 active cases. As a result, we will be re-implementing strict social measures to prevent the further spread of COVID-19,” said Panneflek.
One of the measures to be implemented is reinforcing and policing the use of face masks in public places, as it is proven to help prevent respiratory droplets from spreading from one person to another.
Panneflek has also indicated that his ministry is finalising a law that will make it mandatory for persons to wear masks in public places or face stiff penalties. The law, which will take effect soon, will also include social-distancing guidelines.
“The use of face masks is especially essential in settings where social distancing is not possible,” said Panneflek. “It is important that we continue to practise social distancing, even when wearing a mask. However, wearing a mask is not a replacement for other preventative practices such as social distancing, hand hygiene and avoiding large gatherings.”
He said present numbers probably would increase, as CPS has ramped up testing and contact-tracing investigations to “get ahead of the recent spike in COVID-19 cases.”
Panneflek addressed residents on Sunday afternoon and made yet another plea to the community to “do your part, wear your masks, wash your hands and avoid large crowds.”
He said one of the 36 active cases is in an isolation facility and one remains hospitalised at St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC), while the remaining 34 cases are under strict and monitored home isolation.
“Since the first attack by the coronavirus known as COVID-19 a few months ago, 63 people have recovered while 15 people have died. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health and the medical professionals on the island have learnt much more about combating the virus, and we are making use of the most updated information in our testing, monitoring, and contact-tracing efforts,” said Panneflek.
CPS has tested 145 people at Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) since the reopening of the airport and the staggered return of primarily repatriation flights almost one month ago. Another 634 people were tested within the community.
To date, 173 people who have been in contact with confirmed cases are presently under quarantine and are being monitored. “The quarantine is a necessary part of the contact-tracing work that is being done by the CPS to ensure that persons who may have been in contact with COVID-19 positive cases have not caught the virus,” explained Panneflek.
CPS is closely monitoring the spike of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past five days. “It is crucial that those persons who were told to quarantine or isolate at home remain inside their homes and limit all contact with other persons, including friends and family. We must do our part to protect St. Maarten,” he added.
The Ministry of Health encourages persons with flu-like symptoms to remain at home and contact their family doctor. For additional questions or concerns, residents can call CPS at 914.
The Ministry of Health will continue to provide accurate and updated details as the fight against COVID-19 continues.