Published On: Tue, Apr 14th, 2020

Prime Minister Jacobs: “Shops will reopen on Thursday”

Minister Silveria JacobsPHILIPSBURG — As of Thursday April 16th, Government will allow more residents to access grocery stores and supermarkets within their neighborhoods. Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs (NA) announced the easing measure on Easter Monday during a live broadcast. “A complete explanation of the conditions will be given on Tuesday and Wednesday.”

Headache from feeling hungry. Children crying for food. Diabetics who cannot maintain their blood sugar levels. After nine days of total lockdown, many people from St. Maarten are distraught. “First the government advises us not to hoard, because there is enough food for everyone, and then, with little warning, closes all supermarkets,” a mother complained on Facebook.

Regardless of who is right in the ongoing public debate about whether or not enough time was allowed to prepare for the total lockdown on April 5, it is a fact that a significant proportion of the population of St. Maarten is currently starving. The pandemic highlights once again the divide between the rich and the poor.

Prime Minister Jacobs asks the population to be patient for two more days. “I know that the people of St. Maarten feel seriously the consequences of some of the measures that have been implemented, but I would like to remind each and every one that the measures have not been implemented as a means of punishment, but as a means of protecting. And it is not meant to hurt and therefore we are doing everything in our power to make sure that everyone in St. Maarten can eat, and will eat.”

The Prime Minister says about the coordination by the government: “This ship has battered many storms.” Jacobs explains that part of the plan of the government became very disorganized, “due to the fact that decisions made had not been carried out as executed due to lack of compliance among some of our stakeholders.” The premier emphasizes that she expects that when an agreement is made that something will be executed in a particular time and way.

From early on supermarkets have tried to bring the problems they are facing to the attention of the government. Kam’s FoodWorld for instance posted almost a week ago on Facebook: “Today when we went to deliver the groceries to customers, to our utter dismay, in certain areas we couldn’t locate the street name signs. This is a major hindrance for supermarkets to perform efficiently. It’s been noted that many neighborhoods do not have street signs perhaps since Irma. I do believe the situation we are in, will prompt continuous delivery services, and I request the government to please update the street signs, as it’s a necessity and added benefit for those old and new to find their way around the island.”

The supermarkets were also not prepared for the large number of orders for groceries for delivery: many applicants are still waiting for delivery of the groceries three, four or even five days after placing the order. The prime minister calls on the population to not place orders at three or four supermarkets at the same time, “because this will slow down the entire process.”

As of Thursday limited movement within neighborhoods will be set in motion. Jacobs: “This will allow more residents to access groceries stores and supermarkets within their neighborhoods on a special schedule only for essential items. This is to keep movement within the neighborhoods as much as possible. The aim is for residents to get in and out of the supermarket as quickly as possible and back home in the shortest possible time.”

The prime minister warns that all shoppers must wear face masks to shop. “The country will remain on under a state of emergency (lock down), but with the allowance of grocery shopping in a staggered and orderly manner.”

Looking ahead, Jacobs says, “In my vision, I see us reopening up St. Maarten in June. That gives us time between now and the end of May to reach our peak and go back down. That gives us time to slowly but surely open up essential services. If after this week we are able to see the cases start to go down, the quicker we are able to open up more essential services.”


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