PHILIPSBURG–St. Maarten is in dire straits and cannot put a stop to its economy by locking down. Residents instead need to be responsible when it comes to stemming the spread of COVID-19. This was the clear message from Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs during the live Council of Ministers press briefing on Wednesday.
She said the country has racked up debts totalling NAf. 220 million as a result of COVID-19 and the country’s economy is not near where it was prior to the pandemic.
“Last year when we talked about deceased persons, there was no vaccination and we did not know what we were dealing with and so, yes, we had to go to a lockdown. And a lot of people are asking, ‘Oh the cases are so high, why aren’t we locking down?’
“We are not in the same place where we were last year. We have a few advantages. We know what we are dealing with; we know what we have to do to stay safe and it is up to us,” Jacobs said.
“We have seen the harsh realities of what the lockdown can do. Yes, it will stop the movement of the virus, but once you start moving, the virus will start moving again. We cannot live in a perpetual state of lockdown. So, indeed, we have learnt to live with the virus. The virus hasn’t gone anywhere. In fact, it is bright, as local people will say, it knows how to mutate. And the fact that 50 per cent or so of our population remains unvaccinated leaves 50 per cent of the people vulnerable.
“A lot of people are still out there talking about rights and freedoms. I would think the right to live in general should be the highest right of all. And while government continues to stand behind the vaccine as being the best way to ward off serious illness as well as death, we have not mandated it, but we are trusting that the people of St. Maarten will take their lives and their families lives into consideration as well as our livelihood as a country.
“We simply cannot afford to put a stop to our economy. We are in dire straits.”
Jacobs said the country has been surviving due to loans from the Dutch government. “We have accrued up to today 220 million guilders in loans as a result of COVID-19, loans that have sustained this country, and being that we might not have liked all the conditions that came with it, we would not have been able to survive without it. People would have gone hungry and more businesses than have closed would have closed.”
St. Maarten is still not financially where it was prior to COVID-19 in 2019. The St. Maarten Stimulus and Relief Plan (SSRP) , which has been sustaining many businesses to keep their workers, will come to an end in September unless, after assessment, St. Maarten can still come to another agreement.
“We have received the sixth tranche of liquidity support – the NAf. 48 million, but let not anyone think that we are good now. We received the fifth tranche at the end of the second quarter so that money was spent before we received it. Now these funds that have been received are to assist us to get through months July, August and September – the third quarter.”
Bron: Daily Herald