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TCI Premier March 25 National Address – COVID-19 Impact and Response

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File Photo, Hon Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson, TCI Premier

FULL STATEMENT: These past few months and weeks, countries around the globe have been grappling with the deadly COVID-19. We have seen panic, fear, anger and tears from leaders in public places. No one could have imagined that countries so far apart and so different in a world seemingly so big would become so small and will across the continents face the same crippling challenge.

Our country has had the benefit of watching this unfold in many respects in the worst possible away for citizens across the world and have used the opportunity to learn from good and bad experiences whilst crafting our response.

I must as always commend the Ministry of Health for their pro-activeness and for briefing Cabinet as early as January on COVID-19 and for the Hon Minister’s comprehensive Ministerial Statement to the House of Assembly as early as February 14th. Health’s advice through the Public and Environmental Health Board, Health Leaders has poised TCI to take proactive measures.

When we introduced Regulations in response to this pandemic, ours were the most advanced in the region at the time.

We activated the National Emergency Operation Center (the structure used in our context for Hurricanes) to better coordinate activities to manage and structure our preparedness, mitigation and response to COVID-19.

We strengthened measures as recent as Friday to contain and control the spread and last evening, the Emergency Powers commenced under a declared State of Emergency; and all steps were taken prior to any news of a confirmed case in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Whilst this is being lauded by our counterparts, we are not boastful of what we have accomplished but proud of our health team who never shied away from their role and advice.

This is not to say, we have taken all the right steps to eradicate the threat but these measures certainly are mitigating measures and will go for naught if we as the people do not embrace the measures in the spirit in which they are being introduced.

Yesterday, the Cabinet sat in an extraordinary Meeting to consider further recommendations from the Meeting of the PEHB and the NEOC. After hours of careful and measured consideration, we have agreed the following:

Curfew Imposed
For the purposes of preventing, controlling and suppressing the spread the virus, a curfew is being imposed.

Effective Thursday, March 26th, a curfew is hereby imposed on all persons and businesses from 8pm to 5am save for any exemptions provided.

Effective Saturday, March 28th at 5am, a curfew is imposed every day until April 14th 2020 for twenty-four hours except as provided herein or as may be approved by the Governor. There are essential services that will be allowed to operate and a comprehensive list will be made available through various platforms immediately following this address as well as at 12pm today and every other hour, the measures will be aired over RTC for the remainder of this week.

Shelter in Place
For the purposes of preventing, controlling and suppressing the spread the virus, residents are to shelter in place and shall remain confined to their place of residence (inclusive of their yard space) to avoid contact outside of their family, save for the exceptions provided.

Work Remotely
For the purposes of preventing, controlling and suppressing the spread the virus, all businesses and offices may only continue their business operations by allowing their employees to work remotely from home utilizing virtual means unless workers are permitted to work under these Regulations or are designated as essential services. These provisions are likewise extended to the Public Service.

For the purposes of preventing, controlling and suppressing the spread the virus, all establishments, institutions, businesses, offices, stores and organisations shall suspend operations except those designated as essential services in the Regulations and for the hours permitted.

Stricter Social Distancing Protocols
For the purposes of preventing, controlling and suppressing the spread the virus, there will be strict distancing protocols for those offering and accessing essential services.

Ban on Social Gatherings
For the purposes of preventing, controlling and suppressing the spread the virus, no person shall host or attend any social gatherings except those approved by the Governor on the advice of the Ministry of Health.
Closure of Public Beaches
For the purposes of preventing, controlling and suppressing the spread the virus, all public beaches shall remain closed.

Restriction on Visitation
For the purposes of preventing, controlling and suppressing the spread the virus, there will no visits to anyplace of quarantine, to a patient at the hospital or under residential care at a facility, the detention center or the prison.

Power of Governor
For the purposes of preventing, controlling and suppressing the spread the virus, the Governor shall have the power to requisition any building, ship, aircraft, vehicle etc. with notice during this period of emergency to be used for the purpose of stopping and controlling the spread of the virus. He shall likewise have the power to reasonably requisition management and control of any essential service.

Enforcement
For the purposes of preventing, controlling and suppressing the spread the virus and enforcement of these provisions, a Police Officer has the power to stop, detain and arrest any in violation of these Regulations.

No one shall obstruct any officer empowered under these regulations to carry out their duties.

And no person shall declare the sale or offer of sale of goods during this period of public emergency at an unconscionable price.

Ban on Returning Residents
Effective today, all returning residents are banned from returning to TCI for a period of 21 days. We have now agreed to take this step following our repeated appeals.

Restriction on Inter Island Travel
Effective tomorrow all inter island travel is restricted save for those accessing essential services only.

Please note that all provisions remain under review but the 24 hour curfew shall remain in place for a period of 21 days from Saturday 5am. Please familiarize yourselves with the essential services that will allowed during this time and the wider Regulations.

I wish to remind us further that:

Emergency Powers came into effect last evening under a Declared State of Emergency at midnight and this allows for ease of governance. We assure our people that these powers will be accessed and responsibly used for the purposes of preventing, controlling and suppressing the spread the virus. This leadership partnership that you see before you today is vital for us at this time but your role is even more important.

In addition, effective last night, it is a punishable offence to spread false information. Please guided by the Regulations as to what constitutes this offence.


Our dashboard released daily shows in our local context one confirmed case of COVID-19 in these Islands. I place emphasis on confirmed. We want you to behave as if there are more because there probably are. We want you take note of symptoms and use the numbers provided by the Ministry of Health. If you experience any of the symptoms, please do not go to the Hospital. Please use the numbers provided.

As I conclude, I share that in all of Cabinet’s deliberations during the threat of this pandemic, we have been guided by four principles: top of the list and paramount is the health and the well – being of our people and so we have had to make some tough decisions that adds to all of our financial state. There must never be a competition between economy and health. Health must win every time. It is a sacrifice that we have all had to make as leaders and I know that it is the right decision.

In these times, Governments do have a responsibility to aid our people. And as promised, TCI Government like a few Governments thus far will present a list of measures. Tomorrow at 2pm, I will announce the TCI’s Stimulus Package in response to COVID-19. Countries dealing with the fall out have had to juggle figures that are shifting by the day. The response of TCI has been a measured one and one that has looked around sectors to see how we can assist individuals and businesses. As we are all uncertain of the length of this period, we ask that you tighten your boot strap where you are able to and consider the uncertainty. Whilst TCI Government will do what it can, we ask corporate citizens to not close their bowels of compassion and we ask us as individual citizens to be our brothers’ keepers. We need each other. The road ahead may become increasingly difficult. These are indeed uncertain times but I remain confident that if we take individual responsible action, we can come through this the best way possible.

These are difficult times and this hand has been dealt to every country across the globe has challenged us not just as leaders but as citizens to take proactive steps. This uncertainty does not make us powerless. In fact, this empowers each of us to take this matter seriously and in our own hands and it has rewarded those who act responsibly together. Whilst the Governments across the world are taking serious measures to protect its people, our efforts are only as good as the individual. We need you to partner with us by breaking contacting and by heeding health’s practical advice: wash your hands properly or use a 70% alcohol based sanitizers, cover your cough and/or sneeze and disposable of any tissue properly, avoid touching your mouth, eyes and nose, sanitize frequently used surfaces including your cell phone and practice social distancing.

May God bless us all and God bless these Beautiful by Nature Turks and Caicos Islands.

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Caribbean News

RTCIPF Marine Branch and USCG Working Together in Keeping Our Borders Secure

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#TurksandCaicos, May 20, 2022 – During the afternoon of Wednesday 19th May 2022, a call was made to the RTCIPF Marine Operations Centre via VHF radio that a suspicious vessel was sighted around 35 miles south east of Providenciales. The operator immediately updated colleagues within the Royal Turks and Caicos Marine Branch who made their way to the location and with the support of a US Coast Guard (USCG) plane, safely intercepted an overloaded vessel carrying irregular migrants.

Following delicate coordination and the stabilization of the boat which was unsafe, severely overcrowded and none of the occupants was wearing life vests, the RTCIPF marine unit was joined by a second RTCIPF Marine crew and a third vessel crewed with TCI Regiment and Tactical Unit officers to support the delicate operation.

The vessel was carefully offloaded at sea to ensure the safety of the occupants after which, the boat was towed to South Dock where it arrived around 10:30pm with a total of 110 persons (84 males and 24 females and 2 juveniles) who were then taken into custody by the Immigration Department.

Superintendent Martyn Ball said, “Once again working with partners we have safely intercepted another vessel that was overcrowded, unsafe, risking the lives of those on board. This demonstrates the professionalism and dedication of the RTCIPF Marine Unit, working together with colleagues in the Marine Operations Centre, USCG, TCI Regiment, TCI Immigration and the RTCIPF Tactical Unit to save lives and keep our borders here in the Turks and Caicos safe.  In the last couple of months around 768 individuals on 8 dangerous vessels have been intercepted which is testament to the professionalism of our teams here in the TCI and I am very grateful to the passing vessel who raised the alarm.  I would appeal to anyone if you have any information relating to such activity that you call Crimes Stoppers free and anonymously on 1-800-8477 (TIPS) not only will you be saving lives but also supporting our national security here in the Turks and Caicos Islands.”

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Education

Ten Selected for the TCREA Real Estate Mentorship Program

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#TurksandCaicos, May 20, 2022 – Since the official announcement of the Turks & Caicos Real Estate Association’s High School Mentorship Program, ten mentees have been selected for the inaugural group and will begin their journey on the road to embracing the fundamentals of the real estate field this month.

TCREA Ambassador and Director of the mentorship program, Mr. Trevor Musgrove, shared how pleased the committee was to have received thirty applications for the program, “We extended the opportunity to high schoolers and young college students aged 13-17.  Initially, the invitation for applications was shared only with Providenciales students because of the logistical challenge to accommodate in-person sessions with sister island students, as all our committee members are based in Providenciales.

Luckily, once the Ministry of Education came on board and endorsed the program, Honourable Rachel Taylor immediately encouraged us to extend the mentorship opportunity to all islands, pledging her Ministry’s commitment to handling the necessary authorizations and cost to ensure successful applicants outside of Provo would be able travel here as needed,” said Musgrove.

 The successful applicants and their respective schools are as follows:

·     Clement Howell High – Dashawn Brooks, Alyssa Callum

·      Raymond Gardiner High – Olique Stubbs, Lewis Walkin, Jr.

·      Precious Treasures – Aniyah Bovie

·      Maranatha Academy – Shamya Missick

·      British West Indies Collegiate – Pavla Lalakova, Andino Parker

·      Louise Garland Thomas High – Abnise Noel, Antoine Gedeon

Musgrove said they were pleased to have had applicants from North Caicos and were hopeful to have students from Grand Turk and South Caicos among the group, however no applications were received from those islands.

On Tuesday, May 10th the final group came together for a virtual meet-up and briefing, where they were formally introduced to the program’s mentors and were given an overview of what to expect in the coming months.

The teens will receive a monthly educational module over the next six months and will be provided 1-2 weeks to internalize the information. They will then enjoy a monthly in-person session with their mentors where they will put their real estate acumen to the test in interactive sessions, field trips, and more.

Program mentor Manfred Smith of Sotheby’s Turks & Caicos shared his elation for the program’s momentum thus far, “We are excited about providing this opportunity to introduce high school students to the real estate industry.  From the initial feedback, the students are also very keen to learn, which makes it rewarding for all as we contribute to the development of tomorrow’s professionals.”

Smith says the program also demonstrates TCREA’s continued commitment as good corporate citizens in the rapidly growing country.  The committee hopes that the mentees would grasp all that they can as they continue their educational pursuits.

The program’s Facebook page, @tcreamentors, is live and will document the group’s journey as they move through the program’s phases.  Along with Musgrove and Smith, the community can get to know more about the other committee members: Blair MacPherson of REMAX; Nina Siegenthaler of Sotheby’s; Vernica Delancy and Dedra Gray of Keller Williams; and Sean O’neill, of The Agency through the social media page as well.

At the end of the program, the students will sit a mock real estate license exam and will enjoy a retreat for a fun and memorable close-out. 

It is TCREA’s hope that this initiative will garner an interest and appreciation for the industry among high-schoolers and will act as springboard to the development of the next generation of local real estate professionals in these islands.

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News

DECR Launches Important Tropical Plant Areas & Species in TCI Project

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#TurksandCaicos, May 19, 2022 – The Department of Environment and Coastal Resources (DECR) along with visiting scientists from Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBG Kew) will launch the DarwinPlus 114 Project Tropical Important Plant Areas and Important Plant Species in TCI. The project was originally to begin in May 2020, but with Covid-19-related travel restrictions, along with restructuring at DECR and RBG Kew, two years of deferments were necessary. The project has begun and will be officially launched this week in a workshop on Thursday 12 May 2022 beginning at 9:00 AM in the National Environmental Centre.

In reference to the project, DECR Director Lormeka Williams stated, “With the recent completion of the National Physical Development Plan, the signing of the Climate Change Charter, and the review of the National Parks Ordinance, we are poised and ready to utilise new information on land use and impacts to our Protected Areas and green spaces. We are newly energised to commit to the discovery and description of our most sensitive and significant plant diversity hotspots. We’re inspired by our colleagues in the British Virgin Islands having completed the pilot of this project. We are also ready and excited to find out what these plants are that evade identification and may prove to be something unknown to science.”

The project is focused on identifying Tropical Important Plant Areas (TIPAs) in Turks and Caicos Islands. TIPAs are a network of the key sites for wild plants and threatened habitats identified using scientifically robust data. They are not legal designations, but a means to identify the most important sites for wild plant diversity and to inform the protection and management of sites. Identifying TIPAs will help prevent the global loss of plant diversity, whilst safeguarding the role of plants as primary producers and providers of ecosystem infrastructure, products, and services.

TIPAs also provides a framework for Governments to implement target 5 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Global Strategy for Plant Conservation – to ensure the protection of at least 75% of the most important areas for plant diversity of each ecological region by 2020 with effective management in place for conserving plants and their genetic diversity. TIPAs also contribute to implementing the CBD’s Aichi Biodiversity Target 12 – by 2020 the extinction of known threatened species has been prevented and their conservation status, particularly of those most in decline, has been improved and sustained. Criteria for identification of Tropical Important Plant Areas were developed, and the first nationwide project was completed by RBG Kew and the Virgin Islands National Parks Trust in the British Virgin Islands in 2019. Assistant Director of Research and Development B Naqqi Manco participated in the April 2019 BVI TIPAs Workshop, and discussed the potential to replicate the project with long-established partners at RBG Kew in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Following the TCI TIPAs Launch Workshop, the DECR and RBG Kew team will trial the criteria over several sites of high plant diversity in Providenciales, North Caicos, and Middle Caicos. Over the next three years, the teams will cover other islands as well. Of particular importance will be the Turks and Caicos Islands eight known endemic plant species – those found nowhere else on earth. A secondary component of the project focuses on investigating some unique populations of rare plants in TCI, which may constitute new varieties or even species. RBG Kew will use DNA analysis to explore the relationship of these species to their closest relatives. Importantly, the rare and endemic species will be targeted for IUCN Red Data Listing as well, to assess their wild population status and trends.

 

Release: DECR

Photo: This beautiful Encyclia orchid is one of the unique groups of plants that will be studied by the project.

 

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