Nassau, Bahamas, September 26, 2016 – Excitement builds as hundreds of Bahamians begin orientation to prepare for positions when Sandals Royal Bahamian re-opens next month following a multi-million-dollar restoration. Letters are still going out to prospective employees as the company seeks to fill 600 jobs at the historic property on Cable Beach. As Construction continues at an expedited pace to open in time for the confirmed bookings, with jack hammers and back hoes in the distance, hundreds piled into a former ballroom at Sandals Royal Bahamian last week to begin orientation, preparing for new jobs as the iconic hotel is being prepped for a grand re-opening following a multi-million-dollar makeover.
“We are on target for a mid-October soft opening,” said Jeremy Jones, Director Corporate Services, SRI, which operates 14 Sandals resorts in the Caribbean including three in The Bahamas. “When you are doing extensive repairs in an historic property like the Royal Bahamian you learn to expect the unexpected. Despite extra work that had to be undertaken, construction crews and sub-contractors have brought their best game and have hit schedules remarkably well and we really thank them for that.”
Hardly a square foot of the property has escaped repair. Boilers and chillers were being replaced, two large pool decks completely removed and replaced, ballrooms renovated, guest rooms re-done, several villas gutted and rebuilt, pathways and common areas reworked, original wooden floors sanded and refinished, air conditioning replaced, a new dining option created, and more.
More than a dozen Bahamian companies were engaged to work on repairs that were so extensive the hotel had no option but to close, according to an engineer’s report. Hotel sources were caught somewhat off-guard, knowing repairs were imminent, but not fully aware the hotel would have to close to make way for the work. The closure came in August as the Cable Beach luxury-included all-inclusive was enjoying nearly 100% occupancy and was facing a nearly fully-booked property for the next several months.
That closure resulted in the forced termination of some 600 staff members who received severance packages, with some senior members walking away with more than $34,000. Sixty employees were transferred to Sandals Emerald Bay in Exuma to help accommodate the extra bookings from transferring guests who had reservations for Nassau. Those guests were also treated to extra complementary days and the company covered the cost of airfare to the new destination.
At the same time, Sandals said there would be no overall job loss, pledging that the fully refurbished Sandals Royal Bahamian would employ the same number of people that it had on staff prior to the closing. And days after the closure, it took steps to fulfill that promise, hosting a four-day job fair with the first two days reserved for former employees. “Only about two-thirds of those employed before turned out for the job fair though everyone was invited,” said Jones. “While we were a bit disappointed in the numbers, we were not totally surprised. The severance packages made it possible for people who had been working hard to take some time off. Others may have chosen to go back to school or develop skills for a different position or career. For many, the unexpected closure and immediate pay-out opened up opportunities.”
As of September 25, nearly 180 of those former staff members who applied have begun orientation and there are still more positions to be filled. “We continue to aim for a mid-October soft opening and we want to make sure all posts are filled with a six-month training cycle so there is little time to spare,” said Jones. “Fortunately, everyone is showing tremendous enthusiasm and there is a real spirit of rejuvenation, a pride in being part of something historic and something new all at once.”
Education Minister announces Platinum Partnerships for internet and tablet program amidst COVID surge
By Shaniek Smith
#TurksandCaicos, January 15, 2022 – Schools did not resume in person learning in the Turks and Caicos on January 4, instead it was back to virtual classes for 7,400 children in the British overseas territory due to an omicron-driven surge in Covid-19 infections.
It was announced on the New Year’s Day holiday for TCI, January 3 in a press conference hosted by Rachel Taylor, the Minister of Education, and attended by Jamell Robinson, Minister of Health and supported by Premier Washington Misick, who was also at the live event.
In a promised update, parents got the not-so-good-news, virtual classes would resume at least until the end of January due to the surge and staff shortages being experienced. Turks and Caicos, up to Thursday January 14 had over 800 active cases, five new deaths and a 600 per cent increase in hospitalisations. The Minister said the decision was in the interest of safety.
The Minister also promised to get devices and internet to students in order for them to participate in learning during this virtual-only season. The press conference on January 13, welcomed partners Flow, Digicel and the Pine Cay Project.
In her address, chair of the Pine Cay Project, Marie Landel, said that an urgent call from Dr. Carlton Mills, a member of their board of trustees revealed that about 750 students would be without internet connection and devices.
The Pine Cay Project responded to that information and has agreed to pay for internet for 30 days students, with its partner in the initiative, DigicelTCI. It is an $18,000 investment in education continuity for hundreds of children.
“We had strong discussions on what we should do with the money that we collect every year, so yesterday we agreed to the funding in emergency situation of 300 internet connections and devices that are going to help the students in need, and we’re very proud to be able to act quickly,” Landel expressed.
Additionally, the Marketing Manager at Digicel TCI, Mr Drexler Smith, said Digicel has partnered with the Ministry of Education to provide about 1,000 tablets for public schools. Smith added that 75 MiFi devices valued at 7,000 dollars were provided; they come with free data services for up to three months for students in need.
Digicel has also created a special education plan for e-learning with specific zero-rated sites and applications. The company partnered with Pine Cay and other private entities in this regard. Various schools and educational facilities in South Caicos, Five Cays, and Providenciales have benefitted from laptops, data plans, MiFi’s, and e-learning kits.
Marketing Executive Flow TCI, Darron Hilaire, also shared the contributions Flow made to the education sector since the pandemic.
“Within the last three years, Flow TCI, through our charitable foundation, would have donated $130,000 worth of ICT equipment to 2 schools respectively in Grand Turk and in Providenciales for the outfitting of the new computer labs to help facilitate the ministry’s vision to foster an efficient e-learning environment for students,” he said.
Mr. Hilaire added that within the first year of the pandemic, Flow responded to requests from the Ministry to increase the bandwidth to public schools in the TCI. Hilaire said Flow home internet speed doubles automatically at no cost to its customers in early July.
He said that within the last 60 days, Flow TCI announced a recent donation of $25,000 dollars to two schools in North Caicos and one in Providenciales. The donation was in aid of increasing connectivity and infrastructural upgrades.
“As we come to the end of this phase of the project, our objective is to look at doing the same for other schools in the second phase of the projects to further arm our schools with the access to technology to provide the best quality education to students,” Hilaire added.
Amanyara Resort, not present at the press event, was said to be working on additional laptops for hundreds of children despite having already donated to several schools in Providenciales.
Minister Rachel Taylor and her team, including Eugene Grant, ICT Education Officer at the Ministry of Education and Mark Garland, Deputy Director of Education thanked the donors; they were labelled Platinum Partners by the Minister.
Over 5000 COVID cases on Cruises, CDC investigations launched
By Dana Malcolm
#January 15, 2022 – Cruises have continued across the Americas despite the US Centers for Disease Control dire warning that even vaccinated individuals should be wary of them. Now the CDC informs that Coronavirus cases have been reported on every cruise ship sailing with passengers in U.S. waters.
According to the CDC, all 92 ships with passengers have met the threshold for investigation by the public health agency. In every case, the CDC has either started an investigation or has investigated.
The CDC warned travellers including those who are vaccinated to avoid cruising in December, following the announcement videos surfaced of jam-packed cruise ships with unmasked passengers ringing in the New Year.
Meanwhile, Grand Turk is still welcoming cruise ships. Eleven cruise ships are scheduled to dock at the Grand Turk Cruise Center throughout January, according to the port schedule.
Jamell Robinson, TCI Minister of Health has confirmed that ships have been allowed to dock in Grand Turk with positive COVID cases on board.
He said. “Now in each ship there are stations or places for isolation on board…Just because a vessel has people with Covid-19 on it doesn’t necessarily mean we wouldn’t allow them to disembark.”
The minister explained the number of positive cases recorded on cruise ships that had arrived in Grand Turk was .001 per cent of all guests and they were not allowed to disembark.
So far, Turks and Caicos has turned away at least one cruise liner due to fears of COVID exposure in the capital, which has gone from a handful of active cases to now 111, as of January 14.
The US Centers for Disease Control reported on Tuesday that COVID-19 cases on cruise ships have increased to 30 times what they were in mid-December.
New York, US Epicenter for Omicron “turning the corner”
By Shanieka Smith
#USA, January 15, 2022 – Today, New York is seeing a downward trend in Covid-19 cases, as officials revealed, “we are turning the corner” on Friday in updating on the state of affairs in the city, labelled the epicenter of omicron for the United States.
Before, data from the New York State Department of Health showed that the number of new coronavirus infections per 100,000 vaccinated residents in the State, rose from 29.8 in the first week of December to 222.3 last week. Also, the rate of new cases in unvaccinated adults rose from 239.6 to 1,583.1 per 100,000.
New York is a key source market for the Turks and Caicos and much of the Caribbean, which is heavily reliant upon winter travellers. The data showed, too, that vaccine effectiveness against severe infection remained high.
Only 4.59 fully vaccinated adults out of 100,000 were hospitalised with COVID-19 in the week of December 27. However, that number increased, and the hospitalisation rate for the unvaccinated is nearly 13 times higher.
New York’s rolling positivity rate fell below 20% in recent days, but media reports indicate the death toll in the State hit a startling high of 195 for the first time since the mass vaccination rollout.
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