Authorities in St. Maarten have issued a suspension of all flights to and from the US to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), lasting until July 14. The suspension was issued, according to the head of tourism on the island, as a result of the significant increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the US in recent weeks.
St. Maarten began allowing flights from Europe and Canada on Wednesday, July 1, as well flights from Caribbean destinations such as Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Saba, St. Eustatius, Anguilla, St. Barths, Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and the British Virgin Islands.
Regardless of their origin, visitors to the island must produce a negative COVID-19 test result with 72 hours of travel, receive a temperature screening upon arrival, and wear a mask at all times in the airport terminal building.
Sint Maarten, which has not reported any new COVID-19 cases since May 15, has recorded 77 cases of the virus, with 15 associated deaths. Further international spread of the virus is expected in the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the general risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue - throw tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.
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