** New variants of the COVID-19 virus **
The Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour (VSA), Richard Panneflek would hereby like to inform the public of the new variants of the COVID-19 virus circulating around the world. Three of these new variants have shown to be more infectious than the original COVID-19 strains and have originated from South Africa, Brazil, and the United Kingdom. If left uncontrolled, these new variants can lead to an exponential rise in hospital admissions and deaths within a few weeks. If they are introduced to St. Maarten, it will have a severe impact on our health services and resources.
The Collective Prevention Services (CPS) is closely monitoring the presence of the new COVID-19 variants on St. Maarten. They are collaborating with St Maarten Laboratory Services (SLS) to send weekly samples to RIVM in the Netherlands for genotyping. This way the specific strain of the COVID-19 virus can be determined. Among the first batch of 10 samples from COVID-19 patients from St. Maarten that were sent last week, none of the new variants were detected.
Minister Panneflek urges everyone to take heed of the mandatory guidelines implemented for your safety. It is your civic duty to protect yourself and your family, as we are still amid the COVID-19 pandemic.