Authorities on both sides of the island deserve credit for how they are handling the coronavirus in a proactive and cautionary, yet measured manner. Keeping the French-side schools open despite Monday’s closure across France makes sense.
Only one of the visiting parents isolated at Louis Constant Fleming Hospital in Marigot is still positive for COVID-19, while their son in self-isolation in St. Barths has tested negative and is pending the second, mandatory test result. The regional health authority ARS concluded that there is so far no indication of local circulation.
The argument that it is better to keep the youngsters in a controlled environment rather than possibly on the street has merit and the sense of closing school on only one side of the island with open border can indeed be questioned. Moreover, Préfète Déléguée Sylvia Feucher said education had suffered from the protests in December and exams are upcoming.
Most people assumed officials in Marigot would be forced to follow the directive from Paris, but the Ministry of Overseas Territories had indicated there would be room for deviation based on specific circumstances. The decision was made in consultation with representatives of National Education (Rectorate of Guadeloupe), but also the government in Philipsburg and elected officials from both sides of the island.
That is reassuring, because this very much regards one community albeit in two countries that also share Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIA) as their main gateway.
Some have wondered why more far-reaching measures aren’t taken such as the ban on European flights in Curaçao following its first confirmed case, a visiting Dutchman. The situation is a bit different, as they get two flights per day from the Netherlands plus weekly flights from Germany, which St. Maarten has now added to its travel restriction list.
There won’t be that many incoming passengers from Europe anyway, as both Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and French President Emmanuel Macron have advised against travel in general. Tourism has practically come to a complete halt worldwide, comparable to the days and weeks following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the USA.
The outlook is grim, but this too will pass.