Opinion Internationale launches on May 25, the section “Opinion Overseas” devoted to the maritime challenges of France thanks to the Overseas, coordinated by Laurent Mairesse, editorial adviser of Opinion Internationale, with a « Saint-Barth » focus led by Céline Carsalade, lawyer, and soon other contributors in all overseas territories, will enrich this opening of our media to the world, realizing a little more the promise that bears our name.
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Since March, the health emergency has been declared in France and a « lockdown » period was set up from March 16 to May 11, 2020. As soon as the government informed about the lockdown, the president of Saint-Barthélémy, our famous Saint-Barth, Bruno Magras, indicated that the lockdown should not be applied on the island, because there was no coronavirus victims on the island. The government therefore had to issue an order to clarify and confirm that the island must respect this government’s orders.
If today the national lockdown plan wants to be progressive, it is different in Saint-Barthélemy where the virus seems to be no longer active. Indeed, no new sick people has been registered since March 26 and the island has no more active case since April 21, according to official information from the ARS (Regional Health Authority).
However, local doctors have counted 68 suspicious cases, which could not be tested. Doubt exists.
A general test campaign is planned with the acquisition of a screening machine that will shed light on the real situation of the pandemic in Saint Barth.
The President of the Community Bruno Magras wanted a total lockdown in order to return to normal as quickly as possible. This total lockdown was approved by the President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron and the Minister of Overseas Annick Girardin on condition of respecting the barrier gestures. It therefore entered into force on May 11.
Many businesses, bars and restaurants therefore welcomed the public when no prefectural decree had been published. In addition, the barrier gestures and safety measures required were not sufficient according to the prefet of the Northern Islands Sylvie Feucher. It was not until May 12 that the order was signed, effective May 13. This text authorizes the opening of shops, bars and restaurants and prohibits the opening of nightclubs because of their incompatibility with social distancing.
This health crisis in particular recalled or highlighted the division of competences between the french government and the COM of Saint-Barthélemy, by reminding the COM that his president does not have any legal competences in matters of health.
The abrupt end of lockdown was motivated by the desire to relaunch the tourist season, which is vital for the territory. It must be said that the COVID-19 epidemic has brought tourism to a halt, which is the Community’s main activity. As a result, the local economy has been badly affected.
From an economic point of view, the island being exclusively based on tourism, the situation is complicated for merchants, hotels, restaurants, shops. Especially since the island is mainly geared towards American tourism, and the Sint Marteen Airport (Dutch part of Saint Martin), through which American passengers must pass, is currently closed. The COM is therefore trying to negotiate its reopening, but again faces a jurisdictional problem, the airport being located on Dutch territory.
For the time being, the borders remain closed and entry to the island is limited to compelling reasons. The island therefore remains disconnected from the world and especially from its tourists and American residents who support it all year round. Saint-Barth is very popular with Americans and we know that the coronavirus strikes the United States hard. As long as the US authorities do not allow international flights, the situation may remain blocked.
Céline Carsalade and Michel Taube
Lawyer in Saint-Barth for twelve years, Céline Carsalade has opened a Saint-Barth column on the front page of Opinion Internationale in the rubric « Opinion Outre-Mer ».