The St. Maarten government has put a halt on flights from the United States with a decision to push back the first arrival for two weeks. Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport & Telecommunication (TEATT) Ludmilla de Weever who made the announcement said the decision was indeed a hard one in light of the country’s dying economy.
The Minister however noted that when looking at the health and safety of everyone on the island and the surge in positive COVID-19 cases in the United States, it was quite an easy decision.
Princess Juliana Airport opened on July 1 to flights from Europe, and several Caribbean Islands, while the government is examining which other countries’ nationals could visit St. Maarten during the recovery.
The French side of the island is part of the European Union which has placed a ban on all US flights, and had threatened to close its border. To that effect, Minister de Weever said that discussions are ongoing with the French to arrive at an amicable solution.
de Weever made it clear that the French do not decide for the Dutch and that the decision to delay the arrival of US visitors was not a Franco-Dutch fallout. She added that notifying passengers that were scheduled to visit St. Maarten that they would not be able to cross the border onto the French side would have been almost impossible on such short notice.
The Minister explained that the safety of the St. Maarten residents is high priority and called on them to continue maintaining social distance, wearing face masks and adopt hygiene measures when in public.
de Weever said St. Maarten cannot keep its borders closed to US citizens and residents forever since the economy will be further impacted.
The Minister said that the Government is also looking at ways to get its residents that are stuck in US territories repatriated back to the island.