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Council of Ministers cancels both Carnival and Regatta

PHILIPSBURG--The Council of Ministers on Tuesday decided to cancel the planning and execution of both Carnival and Heineken Regatta for 2021 “in the interest of the general health of the citizens of St. Maarten.”

“This decision comes after consultations with various relevant stakeholders, including health care professionals and law enforcement, on the presented reduced activities planned for Carnival 2021 and the Heineken Regatta and considering the impact that the events would have on the population,” stated Government in a press release issued late on Tuesday. “The St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) and Heineken Regatta organisers have been informed of the decision.”

According to the health report of January 25 provided by Collective Prevention Services (CPS), the average number of active COVID-19 cases remains steadily high, not only as a result of the holiday festivities, but also due to apparent complacency about public health measures among the population, and is expected to increase.

“As of late, various new strains of the COVID-19 virus have been detected in several countries around the world resulting in a travel ban of linked countries. With these substantial developments, which will further strain the limited manpower within the health care sector and law enforcement, the government was strongly recommended to impose stricter public health measures,” it was explained in the release.

“As such, correspondences have been sent out via TIMATIC [Travel Information Manual Automatic, a database containing documentation requirements for passengers traveling internationally via air – Ed. ] to place a temporary ban on incoming flights from high-risk countries experiencing variant strains of the COVID-19 virus. This would include the withholding of licences for large events.”

In further consultation with law enforcement, the Council of Ministers was informed about their main points of concern, which included the safety of the manpower and the challenges associated with the enforcement of social distancing and the established health protocols during Carnival activities.

Additionally, there is serious concern regarding the law enforcement’s lack of capacity during the period of the planned event while the vaccination programme would be simultaneously rolled out, as law enforcement will be playing a large role in the execution of the vaccination programme for at least six months.

While the Council of Ministers allowed SCDF to move ahead with the planning for Carnival 2021 as indicated in its letter of January 14, the council granted permission “with the understanding that should the situation worsen with COVID-19 and the health services in St. Maarten are in jeopardy, cancellation of Carnival 2021 can still take place.”

As such, the foundation was also informed that the Council of Ministers would continue to monitor the country’s health situation and meet with internal and external stakeholders to assess the feasibility of such and take the necessary decision to safeguard the population should the situation be warranted.

“The potential economic benefits of Carnival and other festivals do not outweigh the risk to the public health and the ability of the health sector as well as law enforcement to deal with the fallout, seeing the increasing cases and presence of new strains of COVID-19 around the world,” the Council of Ministers’ release stated.

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