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Jamaica can now test for Coronavirus

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#KINGSTON, February 18 (JIS):  Jamaica is now able to test for the coronavirus. Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, made the disclosure during a tour of the National Influenza Centre (NIC), based at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), on Monday (February 17).

            The development follows training of local laboratory staff by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) last week.


Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton (left), tries out a thermal cycler while on a tour of the National Influenza Centre (NIC) at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) on Monday (February 17). Looking on (from second left) are Medical Chief of Staff and Consultant Neurosurgeon at the UHWI, Dr. Carl Bruce; Director of the NIC, Professor Monica Smikle; and acting head of the National Public Health Laboratory, Dr. Michelle Hamilton.

            The tests will be carried out at the NIC in collaboration with the National Public Health Laboratory (NPHL).

            Speaking in an interview with JIS News, Dr. Tufton hailed the development of local capacity to test for the infection as “another positive” for the country’s public health system.

            “It is very good because we don’t have to send samples elsewhere, which would take a few days. We can now do the test… and decide how long we isolate people and if the isolation has to be elevated to the highest possible level,” he said.

            “We have to give credit to the medical team and the partnerships that we have established with our partners PAHO, the World Health Organization (WHO), and others,” he said.

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             Dr. Tufton assured that the Government is making every effort to build the capacity of the health system to protect the public, should the virus enter the island.

            For her part, Acting Head of the NPHL, Dr. Michelle Hamilton, said the NIC offers the most accurate test, noting that the results will be available within 10 hours.

            “Jamaica is at the cutting edge. Within two weeks of the international declaration of the [novel coronavirus] as a global health emergency, we are able to test,” she noted.

            Jamaica is among the first countries in the region to develop the capacity to test for the coronavirus.

Official name of Coronavirus

            While there have been no cases of the infection on the island to date,  the Health Ministry has been working closely with PAHO to enhance national preparedness and to strengthen the capacity of the national laboratory to detect the virus.

            Scores of kits have been issued and nine persons trained to boost the detection process.

                Meanwhile, the Ministry is advising the public to observe the standard infection prevention and control precautions, especially as it relates to viral respiratory illnesses.     These include frequent hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing, and avoiding contact with persons who display symptoms.

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Bahamas News

Cruising should slow down says PAHO

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

‘Slow down on Cruising’, that’s the word from the Pan American Health Organization, PAHO in their latest recent press conference.

Dr. Ciro Ugarte Director of Health Emergencies at the PAHO was referring to the Bahamas but made sure to note that the advice was highly relevant to many countries in the times of omicron.

“In the context of intense transmission, due to the Omicron variant as we have highlighted several times. It is just logical to suspend or at least limit the cruise ship traffic as an outbreak on board might end up exceedingly high and probably will go beyond the capacity of local health services”

Both the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos are experiencing a massive uptick in cases and several warnings regarding cruise travel have been issued by the US Centers for Disease Control.

Cruising just resumed for many regional countries this past Summer, Turks and Caicos was among the latest to restart on December 13.

A stop to sailing would be devastating to economies, however, ports of call like Grand Turk which are reeling with rocketing case numbers of COVID are urged to consider the suggestion of slowing down on ships by PAHO.

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Caribbean News

Cayman gets its second ‘Sir’; former Premier Alden McLaughlin knighted on Jan 1

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#Cayman, January 20, 2022 – Former Premier of Cayman Alden McLaughlin was knighted at the start of 2022; named in the Queen’s New Year Honors List. He is only the second Caymanian to have ever received a knighthood from her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Sir Vassel Johnson, received the honour in 1994; he was Cayman’s first Financial Secretary; he died in November 2008 at the age of 86.

Current Governor, Martyn Roper extended congratulations saying, “This is an outstanding personal achievement for former Premier McLaughlin, one of the most important and impactful political leaders in Cayman over the last 21 years. It is a significant moment for our islands. This historic award is only the second ever Knighthood to a Caymanian since the first in the 1990s. It is a strong signal of the respect in which Cayman is held and a visible demonstration of the progress Cayman has made as a vibrant democracy with strong good governance foundations.”

Sir McLaughlin, who is also now a QC attorney, served two terms as premier and had a career in politics that spanned 21 years. McLaughlin is known for his role in modernizing Cayman’s constitution.

Current premier G. Wayne Panton described the occasion as a unifying moment for the country saying, This is a day of celebration and great pride for all Caymanians as a son of our soil has been bestowed one of the highest honour.  Today marks a new and most unique storyline in the history of the Cayman Islands.  In considering the rarity and magnitude of this occasion, this is certainly a unifying moment for our community.”

Sir Alden McLaughlin, 60, was appointed as a Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George on January 1, 2022.

 

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Caribbean News

Understanding Sargassum with help from the TCI’s Department of Environment & Coastal Resources  

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By Sherrica Thompson

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, January 20, 2022 – Sargassum, also known as seaweed, is a natural brown macroalga that lives in temperate and tropical oceans of the world. The floating micro eco-system is important to many species, including baby turtles, little crabs, and tiny fish. All these animals use the floating rafts of the sargassum for protection, shelter, and food.

Over the years, sargassum has been increasing its quantity in the Caribbean due to climate change. As water temperatures increase, sargassum blooms, and as this continues, it occurs in large amounts. This can be dangerous for some marine life because when seaweed washes up on the shore, some species become trapped in the sargassum mat.

Environmental Outreach Coordinator at the Department of Environmental and Coastal Resources for TCI, Amy Avenant, says the Turks and Caicos Islands has not seen the worst of the overgrowth.

“In the Turks and Caicos Islands, we have not seen the full severity of sargassum blooms. Our neighbours in Bonaire, for example, experience up to six feet of sargassum, and they have found stranded dolphins, sea turtles, and sometimes even birds,” said Amy Avenant.

“When the sargassum washes up on shore, it starts to decompose, and when it decomposes, it emits methane, and that is the stinky sulfuric eggy smell that you can smell when you walk past it on the beach. It is a bad thing for climate change because of the methane, but it is not harmful to your health.”

Turks and Caicos saw this in extreme amounts in October; so severe, resorts were forced to bag and bury the stinky seaweed which for over a week covered the usually sandy white stretch of Grace Bay beach.

Avenant noted that in the TCI, we have a balance between managing the influx of sargassum and impacting the areas where it lands because its influx is correlated to the cycles of the moon.

She also said sargassum can be used as a fertilizer in farming. If you collect it, the advice is to spread it out and ensure you wash the excess salt off before adding to your gardens or farms.

There are also hidden dangers and habitat threats to the piles of sargassum on shorelines.

Avenant informed, when you see sargassum on the beach, ensure you watch out for wildlife that might be stuck and species which might have made a home of the ocean’s deposit which has washed up, this is heightened on rocky shores.

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