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TCI: Airport firefighters draw public support during strike, labelled as ‘one of the finest’ by Provo Air Center

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#Providenciales, August 10, 2019 – Turks and Caicos – Memes, social media commentary, voice notes and at least one private sector partner lent support to the disgruntled fire fighters of the Providenciales International Airport, PLS in their stance for better work conditions.

“Thank God, I haven’t had to see the fire fighters in major action yet but I’ve seen them operate and react to a lot of minor incidents.  We have one of the finest in the Caribbean.  These guys and women are an elite fire fighting force and I think that we need to recognize them and we need to treat them as such.  So, I feel for them, I understand what their complaints are and I hope that we are all going to be speaking to our representatives and encouraging the Airports Authority to do their best with them,” said Deborah Aharon, CEO of Provo Air Center during an interview with Magnetic Media on Friday.

Twenty of the 25 fire crew walked off the job on Thursday, citing their frustration at requests for improvements and fairness on the job as reaching a breaking point with the Turks and Caicos Islands Airports Authority, TCIAA. 

Aharon, who has been in the airline business for over 20-years explained, “We rely on them, as we learned today, if they’re not working, nobody is moving.  To me they are heroes just for showing up every day.”

The fire fighters claimed, “employment abuse” by the TCIAA and their strike left the airport with insufficient fire fighters and crippled operations at the country’s busiest airport.  Flights on Friday were delayed and some cancelled as a result of manpower shortage. The incident almost forced cancellations at the Fixed Base Operators, FBOs or private airports. 

“In the beginning, it was a little bit scary because everybody had to stop;  interCaribbean, United, Delta and I think they had to make special arrangements to get American off on-time today, which was a blessings, they came up with work-arounds and some of the fire fighters started coming in to help.  For the FBO, the problem is that most of the one percent visitors are coming in on large private jets, they are coming in on Challengers, Gulf Streams and those are fire-fighting category six.  So, for most of the day we were operating at category five, so that meant that some of our customers could not come in today or could not take off.  Luckily the Airports Authority worked it out, just before I had to start notifying customers.” 

The 23 men and two women which make up the fire crew at their airport told Magnetic Media that they were treated unfairly by the Airports Authority.  Overtime pay was unpaid and sometimes their hours were adversely manipulated, the fire station where the crew could spend up to 16-hours on shift, was run down according to the spokesperson for the group.

Speaking to us at her office at Provo Air Center, which is located on Aviation Drive, Aharon said:  “I don’t know much about it (the complaints) but I would certainly hope that the Airports Authority is going to put every effort into making sure that they have the comfortable working environment that they need.”

The fire fighters on Friday afternoon managed to secure a meeting with the Premier, the Governor and the Deputy Chairman of the TCIAA board; it led to an amicable end to the stalemate and a return to work with the crew feeling optimistic about concerns finally being addressed. 

For Provo Air Center, which handles the lion share of private flights to Providenciales, this was great news.

“I really hesitated to notify customers, because we don’t want this to get out into the world.  So, I think we dodged a major bullet today.  I hope that they’re going to keep the dialogue going and they’re going to reach a good agreement in order for us not to have to face this again.”

Both Provo Air Center and Blue Heron Aviation share a site with the Providenciales International Airport.  The fire fighters stationed at PLS are trained, equipped and mandated by international regulations to be on emergency stand-by in the event planes landing at either of the three facilities, experience trouble.

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Education

Education Minister announces Platinum Partnerships for internet and tablet program amidst COVID surge

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By Shaniek Smith

Staff Writer

 

#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.

 

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Health

Government apologizes to Churches for NEW Covid-19 Testing rule

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#TurksandCaicos, January 15, 2022 – The TCI Government is apologizing for including the Church in a new raft of restrictions which mandates unvaccinated congregants be tested in order to be allowed to attend church events however, there is no change in the rule.  The rule is now delayed start for another two weeks following an announcement issued by the Ministry of Health on Thursday evening.

The apology came from Premier Washington Misick in a statement late Wednesday, where he apologized for bunching the church in with restaurants, lounges, bars and discotheques which also have to follow the regulation.

Church pastors speaking with Magnetic Media expressed shock at the announcement which was revealed, on Tuesday, as a cabinet approved decision which also includes mandatory testing for the unvaccinated to attend funerals.

While there has been no official statement from the Turks and Caicos Islands Christian Council or the Pastors Fraternity it was clear that some of the church community seemed prepared to stand firmly against the measure.

The Premier has promised that there will be consultation going forward; beckoning to Churches to comply with the temporary rule which he said would help to curb the latest surge of COVID-19 cases.

 

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Health

Cruising & Caring for Health and Wealth

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, January 15, 2022 – As the cruising industry in Grand Turk continues to get back into full swing with an anticipated four cruises or more per week, Turks and Caicos Islanders who work in the industry will again be interacting with thousands of foreign nationals on a weekly basis.

Normally this would be a cause for celebration and it is, but with the world in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic and especially in light of the newest variant, the rules have changed.

As researchers find more information in regards to Omicron it is becoming increasingly clear that while the variant may be slightly milder than others its transmissibility is a major treat to populations, economies and health systems everywhere.

The following are tips that will help balance TCI tourism workers’ income and their safety, or as government often puts it, “lives and livelihoods”.

 

Prior Preparation.

Masks have become a part of life since the beginning of the pandemic, some wear them for safety, others because they are mandated. Nearly all of us have experienced that ‘oh no’ moment when we realize we’ve left our mask behind, it’s a funny anecdote to represent our new normal in theory.

In reality it can be dangerous, life threatening even, to be without protective measures especially for vendors who interact with international visitors all day long.

This means prior preparation is key. Outfit your stall with masks and the recommended cleaning agents, have extras on hand so you never get caught without. If possible put the required distance between your own stall and your neighbors. If possible create dividers for yourself and tourists that will allow you to interact safely. Place reminders in the form of signs around your stall so guests are not tempted to flout safety measures.

 

In the Moment

Cruise days can be hectic, there are so many people and so little time but as you rush to make your sales or braid hair it is important to keep safety protocols in mind.

Always maintain social distancing between yourself and guests, this is especially important in high volume situations like this as guests can be asymptomatic.

If you operate a business that will not allow you to do so e.g. hair braiding, keep your mask on at all times and insist that your guests do so as well.

Limit the amount of guests allowed in your space at once.

Establish rigorous and frequent cleaning protocols, as guests move around in their excitement they may forget to sanitize. Clean surfaces regularly with the recommended products to prevent lingering traces of anything dangerous.

 

Aftercare

When guests have departed and it’s time to close up shop don’t skip any steps that could undo a successful day of safe practices.

Wash your money, it may seem strange but bills are made from durable paper that is not susceptible to tearing or water-wear. Washing your bills and coins gently will not hurt them but will protect you from any lingering viruses. Clean regularly touched areas and items. Get tested regularly, that way if you do get infected you will be in the know early. If you feel ill, immediately self-isolate and test to confirm if you have COVID or not. Deep clean your stall regularly, disinfecting as many areas as you can.

Covid-19 has forced us into a new normal but Turks and Caicos Islanders are resilient, it is possible to balance safety and profit, remember to wash your hands and obey all the protocols so the TCI can come out of this Pandemic with as little losses as possible.

 

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