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Appeal court says curfew is justified, state can refer to ‘extraordinary circumstances’

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Appeal court judges in The Hague said on Friday that the government had introduced the curfew in mid-January on valid legal grounds, tearing up last week’s lower court verdict.

The lower court had ruled that the curfew had been based on legislation designed to cover emergencies such as a dyke breach, and said that there was no question of similar urgency in the case of coronavirus.

However, the appeal court said that the current circumstances can be considered ‘extraordinary’ and this made the introduction of the curfew an option. ‘The coronavirus pandemic is sufficient cause,’ the court said.

‘The court is also of the opinion that introducing a curfew is proportional, given other measures are not available,’ the judges said in their ruling.

‘The (temporary and limited) infringement of various fundamental rights, such as the right to freedom of movement, is therefore justified.’ Last week’s legal wrangling led the government to bring in emergency legislation to anchor the curfew in law, which has now been passed by both houses of parliament.

Friday’s ruling means that the 33,000 fines handed out to people for breaking the curfew, which runs from 9pm to 4.30am, remain in place. Campaign group Viruswaarheid, which brought the case against the curfew, said they will appeal to the Supreme Court and, possibly, bring a new case against the new legislation.

(DutchNews)

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Scholarship agreement with Lipscomb University renewed

SABA (THE BOTTOM) - The Public Entity Saba and Lipscomb University from Nashville, Tennessee have extended their collaboration with the signing of a four-year scholarship agreement. This agreement succeeds the first one of May 2017.

The scholarships agreement, signed by Saba Commissioner of Education Bruce Zagers and Lipscomb University Vice President for Enrollment Management Byron Lewis earlier this month, supports Saban students who are approved for their study grant at the Dutch Education Execution Department DUO and who enroll at Lipscomb University.

The scholarship agreement is valid for four successive academic years, from 2021 up to an including 2025. Under the agreement, Lipscomb University will match the study grant that Saban students receive from DUO. Saban students who enroll at the university receive a one-time gift from the Public Entity Saba in the form of a laptop.

The university provides assistance to the Saban students, including securing adequate living facilities during their period of study and transportation to and from the airport at the beginning and conclusion of each semester.

Saba and Lipscomb University have a long-standing relationship that goes back to the friendship with the Thomas family from Tennessee. Students of the university have been visiting Saba at least twice a year for more than 10 years. The annual summer camp with plenty activities, organized by the Lipscomb University, is very popular among Saban children.

Lauren Risley (25) is a former Lipscomb University student who came to Saba since 2014 when she was a freshman in college studying exercise science, and now works on the island as project leader public health and sports at the Public Health Department. She knows from first-hand experience how deeply the friendship between Saba and Lipscomb is rooted having come to the island more than 10 times as a student, all the way up to her master’s.

“The children are always asking me when the Lipscomb students are coming. Many friendships have been sealed through the visits of the Lipscomb students. The Lipscomb students keep returning, year after year, and that consistency is important. The children look forward to their visit every time.”

While on Saba, the university students they do special activities with the children like hiking, a basketball night, dodgeball games, an ice cream social gathering and on the last night there is a grand finale with a show on stage and a potluck dinner.

Asked about the importance of this deep-rooted relationship, Risley said: “Lots of children on Saba grew up with the Lipscomb students. So, when these children go to study in the United States, it is nice that they can go to a familiar place where they feel comfortable.”

Lipscomb University is a private Christian liberal arts institution that had a total enrollment of close to 4,900 students in the fall 2020. Several Saban students go to Nashville every year to enroll in this university which has more than 175 undergraduate majors and minors and offers a 60 master’s degree program.

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International students harder hit by corona restrictions, survey shows

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The majority of foreign students who have come to the Netherlands to study have been struggling emotionally because of coronavirus measures, a survey by Dutch international education bureau Nuffic has shown.

Over half experienced anxiety, loneliness and boredom during the first half of the academic year when most universities and colleges were closed, while four in 10 experienced feelings of depression.

Students from outside the EU were more likely to struggle emotionally than EU students.

Students who were able to physically attend some classes felt more cheerful, the survey showed, and were more inclined to rate their university or hbo and social life.

‘International students are being hard hit by the coronavirus crisis,’ Nuffic director Freddy Weima said. ‘These students don’t have as big a social network in the Netherlands as their Dutch peers and that makes them vulnerable.

We know universities and hbo colleges are aware of the problem and trying to remedy it. This survey underlines how necessary this is.’ Recent research showed that among the wider population of students some 30,000 to 35,000 students are not coping well because of the restrictions.

At Tuesday’s press conference no further relaxations of the physical attendance rules were announced for students at unversities and hbo colleges. They can, however, take advantage of the greater possibilities to play sports outside via clubs, prime minister Mark Rutte said.

The concerns that international students have in many cases overlap those of Dutch students. Many do not have a quiet place to study, for example. Last year, the number of students from outside the EU dropped by 4%.

However, more European students signed up for a Dutch university course, taking the total increase in foreign student numbers to 13%, university association VNSU said.

(DutchNews)

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WYCCF to continue as a location for administering the COVID-19 vaccine

SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – So far, more than 4000 persons have registered to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The administering of the vaccine started this week on Monday, February 22, and has been going very well. A surge in interest in getting the vaccine has been noticeable with the increase in registration.

The procedure at the White and Yellow Cross Care Foundation (WYCCF) went very smoothly and effectively for the last three days. And because the WYCCF offered to continue as vaccination location for cluster 2 (which consists of all registered persons who are 60 years or older), the Vaccine Management Team (VMT) has decided to continue the vaccination at the WYCCF along with CPS.

All registered persons who are 60 years or older will receive an invitation via WhatsApp or email clearly stating the location, date, and time of their vaccination appointment. At present, this will be at the WYCCF or CPS.

The WYCCF is located at St. John’s Estate Road #6, and the Collective Prevention Services (CPS) at the Vineyard Office Park Building, on the W.G. Buncamper Road #33 in Philipsburg.

The Sint Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) has also offered to provide vaccination services for registered persons of the 60+ priority group. Whether they will continue to be a vaccination location has not been decided yet.

The VMT will decide and communicate about vaccination opportunities at SMMC and other vaccination locations, based on ongoing assessment in the beginning and the number of people in the 60+ category registering for the vaccine.

Registering for the vaccine can be done (also if you are under 60 years) by either visiting the online link: https://forms.sintmaartengov.org/form.aspx?v=OGtn05kNmb (which will soon be made available in different languages) or via the paper-based “COVID Vaccine Registration Form” which can be picked up at several locations, including CPS at the Vineyard Office Park Building, the Division of Labor Affairs at the Simpson Bay Public Service Center in Simpson Bay, Doctors’ offices, the Government Administration Building, and select pharmacies. Completed forms with an attached copy of your ID can be dropped off at the CPS office.

People who have questions about underlying conditions regarding the vaccine are advised to consult their family physician.

Other questions about vaccination can be emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call CPS at 914.

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Reopen cafe terraces, MPs and Amsterdam’s mayor urge ministers

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A majority of MPs have called on the caretaker government to look into the option of allowing cafe terraces to reopen under strict conditions.

During Wednesday’s debate on the latest coronavirus developments – including the decision to allow secondary schools to reopen and to extend the curfew – MPs urged ministers to take more steps to help the hospitality industry.

Pieter Heerma, who chairs the CDA parliamentary party, said that last weekend – when the spring sunshine hit – takeaway outlets had to cope with long queues of people ordering drinks and snacks. ‘Would it not be safer and easier to regulate if terraces can open again?’ he said.

MPs have now agreed that ministers should look at the options ahead of the next press conference on March 8. Amsterdam’s mayor Femke Halsema has also called on the government to relax the rules for cafes.

‘I would call on the cabinet to look at opening the terraces in March, so we can better regulate public spaces,’ she told the Parool newspaper. ‘Or think about outside spaces which people move through, like the zoo.

People want to see others, and the safest place to do it is outdoors.’ Prime minister Mark Rutte told MPs later in the debate that opening cafe terraces is ‘not going to happen’. It would not be sensible at this stage in the pandemic, Rutte said.

Government help

The cabinet has also agreed to increase the maximum amount which companies can claim in help for paying regular bills to €550,000 for medium and small firms, and to €600,000 for large companies.

Shopkeepers can also claim more help with paying unsold and stockpiled products which cannot be sold because of the lockdown.

(DutchNews)

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R4CR wrapping up info sessions Quick Win Round 2. Call for proposals March 1 to April 2

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - The Resources 4 Community Resilience (R4CR) program recently held four information sessions for the “Quick Win” Round 2 call for proposals. These information sessions were held in-person to allow CSO’s (Civil Society Organizations) to get acquainted with the local R4CR staff but also to pose their questions in person and receive direct feedback.

The information sessions were staggered to give interested persons the choice between an early session (starting at 18:00) or later session (starting at 19:30). Due to COVID-19 restrictions each in-person session was limited to a maximum of 10 attendees.

“We were very happy with the turnout which averaged approximately 9 persons per session but moreover, elated to meet the people behind the CSO’s in person” said Rolf Hunink, R4CR Team Leader.

The R4CR program includes a grant scheme as funding mechanism for community and social rehabilitation initiatives on Sint Maarten and focuses on improving the capacity of local CSO’s in reconstruction and resilience activities post hurricane Irma.

The R4CR program is financed by the Government of the Netherlands via the Sint Maarten Trust Fund. The latter is administered by the World Bank and implemented by the NRPB (National Recovery Program Bureau).

The grant scheme will be active for four years and will provide grants to local CSO’s (formerly known as NGO’s) to execute projects focused on reconstruction, resilience, and improved service provision. Project activities by registered CSO’s can cover subject categories such as neighborhood initiatives, sports/recreation, nature/environment, culture, poverty relief, day care centers/after school programs, youth employment, skills development, psycho-social support and gender-based violence.

“The Quick Win Rounds are designed for projects that can be completed within 6 months on a moderate budget” explained Chi Hing Roger, R4CR Financial expert, during one of the information sessions.

Quick Win Round 1 started in September 2020. Twelve projects were selected with a total budget of $452,481. Those projects are currently being implemented. The second (and final) Quick Win Round will have a total budget of $750,000 with a maximum of $60,000 per project.

“Our official call for proposals will start on March 1, 2021 and the deadline to submit a project proposal will be April 2, 2021. We will evaluate the incoming proposals on a rolling basis, so it is important to submit projects proposals in a timely manner not to miss out on the chance for funding” concluded Chi Hing Roger

The final information session for Quick Win Round 2 will be held online via Zoom on Saturday February 27 from 11:00am to 11:45 am.

Interested persons or organizations can register for the information session by sending an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . For more information about the R4CR program or an overview of all current projects please visit www.r4cr.org or the Facebook page (R4CRSXM).

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No indications that vaccines are causing deaths, says side effects agency

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Medical side effects monitor Lareb said on Tuesday that it has not yet seen any indications that side effects from the various coronavirus vaccinations in use in the Netherlands are causing deaths.

So far, over one million vaccinations have been given in the Netherlands and 5,068 reports of side effects have been made to the Lareb lab. Most of the complaints are expected side effects such as muscle pain, headaches, feeling unwell and reactions at the injection site, Lareb said.

There have been 65 reports of deaths following vaccination with corona vaccines to date, all of which concern elderly people with serious underlying health problems. All but 10 were over the age of 80.

‘For the majority, the underlying health problems are the most obvious explanation for their deaths,’ Lareb said. In total, 26 people have also reported serious allergic reactions. The pattern of reactions to the vaccines is unchanged since Lareb began publishing weekly updates in January, the agency said.

(DutchNews)

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Coronavirus cases increased by 19% in last week, vaccines starting to work

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The number of positive coronavirus tests was 19% higher in the third week of February, partly as a result of increased testing, the public health agency RIVM said in its latest weekly report.

The decline in hospital admissions slowed markedly, while intensive care admissions increased by nearly 25%. The RIVM said infection control measures, such as the night-time curfew and the restriction on home visits, had cut the rise in infections by around 10%.

The latest calculation of the reproductive number R, dated February 5, was 0.99, a slight increase on the previous week and suggesting that infections stopped declining two weeks ago.

Overall, 29,977 new cases were recorded in the seven days to Tuesday, compared to 25,229 the week before. The percentage of positive tests fell from 11.5% to 9.8% as testing levels returned to normal following the snowstorm two weeks ago, which forced testing centres to close.

The total number of tests taken was up by 38%.

In total 1,140 people were admitted to hospital with Covid-19, including 240 who were transferred to intensive care. Another 418 deaths were reported in the last seven days, five fewer than the previous week.

The latest daily figures show 1,917 people are currently being treated in hospital for coronavirus, of whom 538 are in intensive care.

More children infected

The increase in infections was concentrated in the young, with infections increasing by nearly 40% in the under-15 age group. The RIVM said reopening primary schools and creche facilities could explain the increase, as well as stricter rules for testing children.

The number of under-12s who were tested was 74% higher in the last week, with 8.6% of them testing positive for the virus.

By contrast, infections rose by just 0.3% among the over-75s, indicating that the vaccination programme is bearing fruit. Nursing home residents began being immunised on January 18, followed a week later by people aged over 90 living at home. Since February 1 everyone over 85 has been eligible for a first dose.

The spread of the virus is also declining in nursing homes, with 459 homes reporting an infection in the last two weeks, down from more than 850 in mid-January.

RIVM member Aura Timen said: ‘All the signs are that the vaccine is having a modest effect. That effect should become more pronounced once everyone has received two doses.’

Around the 25 health board regions the number of confirmed cases ranged from 99.9 per 100,000 in Gelderland-Midden to 292.1 in Noord-Holland-Noord. The percentage of positive tests ranged from 7.0% in Flevoland to 11.4% in Rotterdam-Rijnmond.

(DutchNews)

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AstraZeneca delays new vaccine shipment, again hitting Dutch roll-out

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Vaccine maker AstraZeneca will supply fewer doses of its coronavirus vaccine to the Netherlands and the rest of the EU than agreed over the next two weeks, causing a further delay in the mass vaccination programme.

In total, 217,000 doses will arrive in the Netherlands later than expected, and this means that from next Monday no extra vaccines can be delivered to regional health board mass vaccination centres, family doctors and homes for the mentally disabled, public health institute RIVM said.

Vaccinations planned up to March 14 will go ahead but no new appointments are being made, apart from for people due a second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, the RIVM said.

The pharmaceuticals company has not given a reason for the delay, health ministry said on Monday. Deliveries are set to resume on March 7. It is the second time that AstraZeneca has failed to meet delivery agreements with the EU.

Last year, it was forced to backpedal on promises to deliver 80 million doses to the EU in the first quarter. Health minister Hugo de Jonge said he was ‘very disappointed’ that the delivery has been delayed.

The speed at which the Netherlands can vaccination its population is totally dependent on the timing of the deliveries, he said. So far, one million doses of vaccine have been given in the Netherlands, which started its vaccination programme later than any other EU country.

(DutchNews)

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Coronavirus infections increasing again, average back over 4,000

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Another 4,217 coronavirus infections were reported by the public health agency RIVM on Monday, taking the seven-day average figure above 4,000 for the first time since February 2.

In the last seven days the number of positive tests has increased by 23.8%, but the proportion of tests that detect an infection has dropped below 10% for the first time since September.

Testing numbers were reduced in the last two weeks because of the severe winter weather, which led to facilities being closed and people deciding to stay home rather than report for a test.

The backlog has now been cleared and testing levels are back to normal, the network of local health boards told nu.nl.

Another 4,217 coronavirus cases were reported by the public health agency RIVM on Monday, taking the seven-day average figure above 4,000 for the first time since February 2.

The number of people in hospital with coronavirus rose from 1849 to 1908 on Monday, while 561 people are currently being treated in intensive care, a rise of 27. The number of new hospital admissions increased from 126 on Sunday to 135.

Another 32 deaths from coronavirus were recorded, while the weekly average was 59. The figure has levelled off around the 60 mark for the last two weeks.

Infections in nursing homes are still declining, with 461 institutions reporting a case in the last two weeks compared to 494 a week ago.

(DutchNews)

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