PHILIPSBURG–Employers have the option to request periodic testing of employees as a preventive screening measure.
The Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labor VSA, and the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Traffic and Telecommunication (TEATT) recently published additional COVID-19 measures by ministerial regulation. These additional measures allow employers to request testing of their employees, whether they are vaccinated or not.
“Presently, the number of active COVID-19 infections on St. Maarten is alarmingly high, and St. Maarten Medical Center SMMC has reached its maximum capacity,” the Ministry of VSA said in a press release on Monday. “In view of the highly contagious Delta variant, a drastic decrease in cases is not yet foreseeable. The situation on St. Maarten is so alarming that immediate intervention with additional measures is necessary.”
According to the release, the government is actively working to stabilise the rapid number of infections in order to protect public health and to avoid a second “lockdown” being declared for St. Maarten. In an attempt to curb the rise in cases, the government announced a curtailment of nightlife hours on August 9.
On the same date, the government extended the ban on large gatherings.
The World Health Organisation, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, and the United States (US) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognise that timely and accurate polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or antigen testing is an essential tool for preventing and controlling the spread of COVID-19.
When implementing testing policies, different strategies can be applied, for example, testing of persons who have been in contact with someone who is suspected of having COVID-19, or confirmed positive for COVID-19, or persons who are showing symptoms related to COVID-19. This testing strategy will allow persons to detect infections or identify clusters sooner, and further prevent the spread of the virus within their institution/establishment.
Testing can also be used as a preventive measure; by testing persons who show no symptoms or do not know that they have been in contact with someone with COVID-19. This form of testing is also known as “screening”.
“The objective of carrying out screening tests is to allow asymptomatic persons to undergo testing, even if they have no knowledge of exposure to COVID-19. Screening helps to identify unknown cases in order for measures to be taken early, to prevent further spread of the virus,” said the release.
It is now common practice to take a test as a screening measure for travel purposes. Travellers must submit a negative COVID-19 test before their trip.
Given the nature and scale of the ongoing pandemic and the serious threat it poses to public health, the ongoing disruptions in the economy and the associated negative effects on the socio-economic stability of the country, the government has decided that screening on St. Maarten should be used more widely as a preventive measure.
In accordance with the jurisprudence, the employer is legally obligated to protect the individual interests of his employees by assuring a safe and healthy working environment. “This implies that the employer should do whatever he or she can and what is within their power during the pandemic, to avoid employees becoming infected in the workplace,” said the release.
According to the release, a recent court verdict concluded that although specific COVID-19 measures can be a violation of the right to inviolability of the body, the judge ruled that the interest of protecting employees and customers from COVID-19 overrides the fundamental law.
Article seven of the ministerial regulation offers the possibility for employers to request periodic testing of employees as a preventive screening measure. Employers are able to make periodic testing a part of their safety plan, as stipulated in Article seven of the ministerial regulation.
“After all, the employer has the legal obligation to protect his employees and third parties in the workplace against COVID-19 contamination. However, note must be taken of the cost associated with periodic testing as this is to be borne by the employer,” said the release.
All other hygiene measures remain unaffected.
Bron: Daily Herald