#GrandTurk, Turks and Caicos Islands – March 5, 2020
1. Are we ready for the first case?
Yes. We have isolation rooms in both hospitals. We’re asking the public that if they suspect that they have the virus, they are not to go to the hospital but to call the Ministry of Health Coronavirus hotline, 232-9444 or 338-0911, and will provide advice and guidance. If required, we have identified the new Mental Health facility in Grand Turk as an isolation facility and also the Blue Hills Clinic in Provo – minor works are to be completed before the facilities can be fully utilized. The government has also looked at the possibly of securing vacant commercial properties as an additional alternative.
2. What will we do when the first case arrives?
If a suspected case was identified today, we have the proper protocols in place in order to respond. In addition, we have isolation rooms located in both of our hospitals for persons requiring care.
3. Do we have an isolation Unit?
Yes. As mentioned, units are operational at Cheshire Hall and Cockburn Medical Centres. There are also units at the newly constructed Mental Health Facility in Grand Turk which will be used if needed.
4. Do we have enough medical oxygen, ventilators, and other vital equipment
Yes, we do have the vital equipment that can cope with an initial outbreak. The Health Emergency Management Unit within the Ministry of Health is advanced into the process of procuring additional Oxygen, Ventilators and other vital equipment such vital signs monitors, IV Stands and a PCR machine which would enable us to test locally. However, due to this emergency there has been a slowdown in the global supply chain, affecting availability and prices.
5. Will we know if there are cases in other parts of the country?
The Ministry or Health is committed to providing information to the general public as it relates to the TCI. Information will be shared as and when it becomes available.
6. Is there a reporting system that all health facilities are using and a way to raise an alert if there is a concern?.
Yes. The Ministry of Health through the National Epidemiology and Research Unit currently has a very robust Syndromic Surveillance System which works very closely with all private health care facilities and all government facilities, TCI hospitals and a number of resorts. From as early as January all sites were alerted to be vigilant for persons meeting the case definition of COVID-19.
7. Do our Health workers have the training and equipment they need to stay safe?
Refresher training is ongoing for all Health Workers in Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) and the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE). Currently there is a supply of PPEs such as N95 masks, face shields, gloves aprons, goggles, coveralls and gowns available for use in country. Additional supplies are also being sourced to supplement stocks on hand.
- 8.Do our Health workers know how to take samples correctly from patients?
All the Public Health Nurses and Doctors are comfortable and well-trained in obtaining samples for testing.
- 9. Do we have the right measures at airports and border crossings to test people who are sick?
Screening is ongoing at the air and sea ports. Cruise ships have to notify us before entry of any ill persons on board as a part of their routine reporting requirements and we would not allow any ship with the virus to land. If there are any suspected cases, vessels would not be allowed to disembark their passengers or crew. If required, testing would not take place at our ports of entry but specimen collection can take place there. We have assigned additional staff to the airport in Providenciales and will be enhancing our surveillance at the cruise port. Additional temporary staff are also being recruited.
10. Do our labs have the right chemicals that allow them to test samples?
Like many countries in the region, our Public Health lab is not able to test locally at the moment. We are exploring the swiftest options for such testing. We have already established protocols in the meantime at the Caribbean Public Health Agency laboratory and are seeking to partner with other countries to support our testing capabilities. A PCR machine is required to test locally and the Ministry of Health is in the process of procuring a machine. The equipment for sample collection is in country.
11. Are we ready to test patients with severe or critical disease
Once we receive the PCR Machine, the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) would assist with refresher training and we will have the capacity to test in country. In the meantime, we would use established protocols to test samples.
12. Do our hospitals and clinics have the right procedures to prevent and control infections.
Our Health facilities have a very strong Infection Control Programme and we are also guided by new guidelines provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) in relation to COVID-19. We have a draft Policy in place and training of our health personnel is ongoing.
13.Do our people have the right information; do they know what the disease looks like?
The Ministry of Health commenced a public education campaign COVID-19 on the 22nd of January 2020. Messages have been distributed via social media, radio, WhatsApp and through community visits. The Ministry is currently working on video messages to be distributed. Schools are also being educated about the virus and how to protect themselves from it, this activity began on 21st February. Sessions with churches on COVID-19 began on 23rd February. Ministry officials have also appeared on radio talk shows concerning COVID-19. Frontline government staff along with other public service providers have been receiving information on COVID-19 and also have been advised to have hand sanitizers for, not only staff, but also the public that they serve.
14. Are we ready to fight rumors and misinformation with clear and simple messages that people can understand?
Yes. We continue to respond to damaging rumuors through a combination of activities, including but not limited to, press conferences (held on Monday, 2nd March, 2020) and media statements; text messages through FLOW and Digicel, along with messages through platforms such as WhatsApp and the use of social media. We ask the public to only seek advice from credible sources.
15. Are we able to have our people on our side to fight this outbreak?
We are increasingly confident that the general public understand that combating this public health emergency is everyone’s responsibility. We firmly believe that by the government continuously sharing information with the general public on a timely basis, and responding to their concerns, that we can yet further build support. The answer to these questions can be viewed in that light.
PRESS RELEASE: TCIG MINISTRY OF HEALTH & TCI GOVERNOR’S OFFICE
RTCIPF Marine Branch and USCG Working Together in Keeping Our Borders Secure
#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.”
Ten Selected for the TCREA Real Estate Mentorship Program
#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.
DECR Launches Important Tropical Plant Areas & Species in TCI Project
#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.
Photo: This beautiful Encyclia orchid is one of the unique groups of plants that will be studied by the project.
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