Published On: Mon, Mar 30th, 2020

Jessurun: Important to boost people’s immune system

Claire Elshot & Raymond Jessurun - 20200326 SMAPP-SMCC

PHILIPSBURG – Poor people in St. Maarten run a high risk of contracting severe symptoms of the corona-virus (COVID-19) according to Drs. Raymond Jessurun of the St. Maarten Anti-Poverty Platform and the St. Maarten Consumers Coalition. Jessurun expressed his concerns during a press conference last week Thursday, on March 26.

Jessurun said that 94 percent of the population lives in “poor and needy households” and that the majority of these people are at risk for ailments like high blood pressure and obesity, while others already suffer from cardiovascular diseases or diabetes. “If their immune system is weakened and they are infected they might get severe COVID-19 symptoms.”

To make matters even worse, “especially the poor offer their labor in the informal sector of our economy, like cleaners, bartenders, lottery sales girls and security guards,” Jessurun said. “They are working for sometimes less than a minimum wage often without health insurance. Employees feel pressured to come into work when they’re sick, increasing the risk that they’ll infect coworkers.”

Furthermore, Jessurun pointed out, uninsured residents often wait until their illness is severe before seeking medical care. They mistrust the medical system, sometimes fearing that a visit to a doctor might increase the risk of being deported. “Not everybody has health insurance. Undocumented people might have untreated chronic conditions that could make an infectious disease worse.”

Efforts to limit the spread of the corona-virus are not enough. Jessurun said it is “more important to increase people’s immune system and boost their resistance against daily attacks of viruses and bacteria.” He noted that so far the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and the minister of Public Health have not provided information to the population about ways to boost their immune system.

Jessurun also addressed the rescue package the Netherlands extended to the BES-islands, while Minister Raymond Knops referred to the autonomous status of St. Maarten and to the Kingdom Charter, saying that “the countries can be able to cope as well as possible with the crisis.”

The BES-islands get 80 percent compensation for loss of wages for a period of three months, an emergency allowance for entrepreneurs and liquidity support.

Jessurun referred to the International Covenant of Economic Social and Cultural Rights that “gives everyone in the Kingdom of the Netherlands the right to non-discrimination. We are all entitled to equal rights in the kingdom.”

The covenant addresses issues like the right to work, social security and an adequate standard of living as well as the right to health. Jessurun: “These rights have to be implemented on an equal footing throughout the kingdom. As long as the announced measures do not eliminate the inequality in the realization of human rights the Dutch government continues to discriminate the people in the Caribbean part of the kingdom.”

Jessurun furthermore expressed his dissatisfaction with the President of Parliament, Rolando Brison, who said in a video conference with the president of parliament of Curacao and the chairs of the Kingdom Relation Committees in the three autonomous countries that St. Maarten needs “a comprehensive package that should greatly help reduce the economic and social impact of the corona-virus.”

The Anti Poverty Platform does not agree with the goal put forward by the president of parliament, Jessurun said. “We demand from the Kingdom equal minimum wages and an equal social protection floor to realize all out economic, social and cultural rights.”

Based on the 2015 Transparency International integrity assessment of St. Maarten, the platform concluded that for households not to be in poverty they need a minimum income of 4,000 guilders per month. “We demanded that individual wages and social allowances should be complemented to at least 2,000 guilders per month. This money should be guaranteed by the kingdom government.”

Now, Jesssurun added, the government and the parliament should demand that the kingdom complies with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and with recommendations of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Watch the recording of the press conference online here>>>