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TCI Governor on the Science of COVID-19; Statement made April 1

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#TurksandCaicosIslands – FULL STATEMENT :

Good evening Turks and Caicos, it’s the Governor speaking, speaking on behalf of both myself and also the Premier. The Premier will talk on Friday about the support and stimulus package.

From me a Wednesday evening update for you. This is our fifth day of lockdown and curfew.  So far so good – and the first thing to say is thank you. We are collectively doing the right thing.  It’s causing, we know, inconvenience and in some cases serious hardship.  Most people I speak to understand instinctively why we are doing this but we thought we would use tonight to try and describe the underpinning facts of why we are doing what we are doing.

The Science:

If you can bear it, a quick science lesson – because it’s the science that is guiding us on this. You’ll have heard lots of people describe ‘flattening the curve’.  As far as I can, I want to describe to you what that means and why what we are doing does this.

All virus’s spread at different rates.  There is a scientific scale of measuring infection – this isn’t random – so, for example, measles is ‘nine’ which means that we would expect one measles case to infect nine others.  For Influenza the infection rate is 1.3.  If the rate is ‘one’ then one person infects one other person.  A figure less than ‘one’ means the disease is in decline and may die out.   

COVID19 is thought to be around 2.2. Much less infectious than measles but considerably more infectious than influenza. What this means is that, on average, one infected person passes it on to 2.2 other people. As with all statistics that quote averages this means that there may be many people that only pass it on to one, and one person that passes it on to many, but as I say the global average is 2.2

You see this in the way COVID19 spreads. One person infects two, two people infect four, those four infect eight (in fact because it’s an infection rate of 2.2 it’s now starting to become more than simply doubling) so let’s say that eight cases becomes 17 and then 17 becomes 37. You get the picture, we now have a very dramatic rise as we saw in Italy and in cities such as New York.  It’s out of the cage and it’s spreading and multiplying at a factor of 2.2. Not good.

The number one purpose of everything you are doing is to change the maths on this spread. What we need to do is bring this down from 2.2 to certainly under 1.5, in truth we want to get it to under one.  But Below 1.5 we can start to impose ourselves on this virus and bring it under control. We have to do that because our medical services can manage a much flattened curve but they couldn’t possibly manage the sort of increase I described as it grew at 2.2

The good news is that all the medical opinion we can draw on – here in the Island, public and private, and that expertise we can draw on elsewhere, including some very eminent epidemiologists in the UK, tell us that TCI is doing all the right things to achieve this. We got ahead of it and we clamped down on it, and if we can hold the line we are going to not only get through but present an example to the world about how to do this.

Separate to this there is a secondary benefit. The better the lockdown we achieve, the more chance there will be that we generate in the population a slow-burn immunity that builds over time. These will be people who have in some way been exposed to the virus but have either had no symptoms or very mild symptoms. 

It’s reasonable I think for us to assume, given how large our tourist sector was, that the virus must have been on the Islands before it was first properly identified. Some immunity will have been starting to develop.  

With testing – coming in from the UK and also being procured from the US – there’s sophisticated modelling that can explain this and as we reach a tipping point we will know that. While there will continue to be cases in TCI, there will be sufficient immunity in the population to prevent its rapid spread here. We will be seeking data to make smart decisions around this.

With the Territory having developed its own immunity – with the borders still closed – we can start to restart the local economy and get money moving through and round it. Businesses will be able to open. Fear of each other will subside.

Indeed, these Islands are small enough, the measures we have all taken together restrictive enough, and the data we may be able to collect around immunity important enough, that it may well be that TCI becomes an example of how to do this – that does our brand – as an extraordinary place and a healthy place to visit – no end of good.

It also allows us to start to see a medium term future where a tourist visiting TCI who we know is safe can come to an extraordinary destination that they know is not only beautiful, but is safe. But let’s be honest with each other that’s some way off in the future although something we are working towards.

Adjustment to the Regulations

Laws can help moderate and guide behaviour but it’s by far best when a people know why they are doing something than be told to do something. Self-denial, self-discipline and good judgement are so much more powerful than say the threat of vehicle confiscation. Please, err on the side of caution. Because you can do something doesn’t mean you necessarily should do something. 

We said we’d keep everything we were doing under review and we have been. Broadly we think we are in the right place.  Matters that have now become clearly the way to do things – which haven’t caused enormous inconvenience but have severely cut down traffic and movement – we yesterday captured in law; so, for example, you may not drive to your place of exercise.

We have removed takeaways, drive-throughs and restaurants from being described as an essential service. From the last few days it’s clear they aren’t – we can get by until the end of this period without them, wonderful as they are.

We do it based on medical and Policing advice.  With TCI Islanders and Residents being the sociable society we are, some risk becoming the equivalent of the local bar, the spot some meet and engage, and it also gives a license for movement we could not reasonably police.

This covers every form of takeaway, no exceptions.  There is the possibility of the Governor granting exceptions but I think that will be unlikely over this period of lockdown unless it’s in direct support of an effort to alleviate hunger.

It’s also now clear in the law that you have to be on a route from your home to your allowed destination (a supermarket is the best example). Much of this ‘law’ wasn’t required because people were demonstrating great common sense but it is a tidying up exercise for those who might take advantage, a week or so in.  Beyond that we’ve kept matters very much as they are. It’s working.

We had an interesting piece of false news start to generate today. It wasn’t malicious just wrong and it originated from a South African website – that isn’t a recognised authority on medical statistics. 

To be clear, we still have only 5 (five) confirmed cases in TCI.  The authoritative way to know – what our health professionals on the front line know – is the TCI dashboard that we disseminate daily and is on the MOH website. Please stick to TCI sources, we hold the data because we collect the data. We want the public to know.

This wasn’t malicious or dangerous it was just wrong. There have though been several instances on social media recently that haven’t just been wrong they’ve been dangerous. Before focussing on the tiny number who are malicious amongst us, let me say somethuing about the vast majority.

This is not the time to stifle decent debate – indeed the future of these Islands are starting to be decided during this time in terms of whether we remain safe, recover, and can once again prosper. 

But what this short period is not, is an opportunity for us to stigmatise anyone who has COVID19. For all you know you may be one of the fortunate that had it, suffered few if any symptoms, but passed it on to others. Or – if we all lose control of this through our casualness – it’s very probably true that it will be someone very close to you, who you love, that ends up with this virus. It doesn’t discriminate.

If you see someone originating or spreading hate or misinformation, designed to cause fear, then there is now a Police Unit – well skilled in following leads across the internet – that you can report to. Their email is: pofscovid19@tcipolice.tc. That’s pofscovid19@tcipolice.tc

Stopping the Sloops

I’ll finish on one point I flagged yesterday on Social Media. A large sloop of many hundreds was turned around yesterday on the High Seas between here and Haiti. I was on a call today with the US Ambassador and US Coast Guard in Bahamas; the number of combined assets we have operating presently in this space has significantly increased.  That frustrating battle continues every night – we should be more proud of those involved in this work tonight, than ever. But for those who can connect to Haiti do send them the message. You have our continued attention and you will be stopped.

As of tonight we are okay. We are in a much better position than many others. In terms of health, we can see a route through this, not through hope but through understanding the science, determined to capitalise by doing this once and doing this right. That’s what you are doing TCI; you are a resilient lot and resilience is the order of the day for the next few weeks. The reward is there if we stay firm; as firm we must.

Day five is drawing to a close and day six is soon to begin – soon we will be announcing the end of the first week. We can do this.

Good night TCI

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Caribbean News

TCI Tourist Board – Represented at New York Travel & Adventure Show

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Manhattan, New York (Friday, February 3, 2023) – The Turks and Caicos Islands recently participated in the successful New York Travel & Adventure Show held at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, New York from Saturday, January 28th – Sunday, January 29th. The event was New York’s largest travel gathering since 2019, providing the perfect platform to showcase the Turks and Caicos Islands and its unique luxury offerings as a multi-island destination. This was part of a larger effort by the Turks and Caicos Islands Tourist Board to showcase the destination at several major travel shows in the United States.

Mary Lightbourne, the Acting Director of Tourism, and Gabriel Saunders, the Senior Public Relations Officer, proudly represented the Turks and Caicos Islands at the event and emphasized its status as a premium travel destination. During the event, they engaged with travel enthusiasts, media outlets, influencers, and more to further increase visibility about the World’s Top Trending Travel Destination for Fall 2022. Visitors at the booth were given informational brochures on the destination and treated to a tasting of Bambarra rum, as well as Bambarra rum cakes. As a special souvenir, they were also gifted Beach Buddies keychains, designed as queen conch shells, spiny lobsters, Turks Head cacti, flamingos, and pelicans – symbolizing the coat of arms of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

“The New York Travel & Adventure Show was an ideal platform to facilitate us bringing the stunning beauty and diverse offerings of the Turks and Caicos Islands to a massive audience of travel enthusiasts”, stated Mary Lightbourne. “Through this opportunity, we were able to foster valuable connections with key industry leaders and share our islands’ captivating allure with travel lovers in a significant source market”, added Lightbourne.

Attendees had the chance to interact with the Turks and Caicos Islands Tourist Board’s representatives and learn about the destination’s diverse offerings, including world-class beaches, turquoise waters, luxury resorts, and vibrant culture.

“We were honoured to showcase the distinctive character of our destination and provide attendees with a taste of the local flavours and products that make our tourism product truly remarkable,” said Gabriel Saunders. “The Turks and Caicos Islands offers an unparalleled travel experience and we were grateful for the opportunity to inspire more people to come discover its beauty” added Saunders.

The New York Travel & Adventure Show was a two-day event that brought together top travel experts, destinations, and cultural attractions from around the world to provide inspiration and information to travel enthusiasts. The Turks and Caicos Islands Tourist Board also represented the destination at the recent Chicago Travel & Adventure Show and will be an exhibitor at the upcoming Atlanta Travel & Adventure Show and the Dallas Travel & Adventure Show.

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Caribbean News

The Idea that became an Iconic Event for Providenciales, Turks & Caicos

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

 

#TurksandCaicos, February 2, 2023 – An idea executed to perfection with the help of the entire Turks and Caicos community, that’s Island Fish Fry.  Born 10 years ago, in January 2013, it was a partnership between the Government, Private institutions, vendors and supporters all working together to make develop an authentic TCI experience; today it is an indisputable success.

Since its inception, Island Fish Fry has become a staple of the TCI community.   It’s where you can get your T-shirts to Lobster Mac and Cheese, a taste of Monkey Bag rum or TCI brewed beer, natural coconut water in branded coconut mugs, the oceanic beauty captured in charms and household items or glittering handmade bangles with entrepreneurs and crafters clamouring for their space at the ‘Fry’.

We spoke to several people who told us about the history of the event and what they love most about the evolution and realization of Island Fish Fry Ralph Higgs, Former TCI Tourist Board Director under whose direction the event was conceptualised recalled its beginnings.

“I do remember my first Fish Fry, it was the 29th of January 2013— It came as a result of many of our local businesses, mainly restaurants and other businesses featured at the fish fry saying ‘we don’t have an avenue or an outlet where tourists can come and try our products’.  Hence the idea of a weekly fish fry where tourists can come and try our products, try the cuisine, see the art and craft and then go on to enjoy it.”

Higgs says the event is a source of pride especially considering its capacity to nurture the arts in young Turks and Caicos Islanders

“Well I feel proud of the event but more so many of our local businesses and artisans that have found themselves at fish fry,” he used Wellington Williams, one of the country’s most prolific jewellery makers, as an example, “I remember him as a little boy trying to find his way in that business and he approached us at the Tourist Board for space at the Fish Fry and we were delighted to have him display his art. I think the rest is history. He is a success story by every definition and there are many others who have been able to find their footing because of the event.”

In a decade, the well-loved event has not faltered, only inclement weather and the Covid-19 pandemic have the reputation of putting the brakes on the outdoor festivity which features live music, community dancers, on the grill cooking and picnic styled eating.  Yet, even those challenges were overcome.

In 2021, Josephine Connolly became the country’s newest Minister of Tourism and in our chat with her about Island Fish Fry, Connolly described her elation when she was able to lead a team into resuming the event, finally.

“Fish Fry belongs to the people of this country— We made a concerted effort to make sure that a sense of normalcy returned to the people of this country, our tourist arrivals [had] continued to increase during COVID therefore we had to continue with the fish fry to ensure that our guests received their TCI flavour though it.  I am elated that Fish Fry returned and the entire Turks and Caicos and our guests are elated.”

Higgs praised the continuity of the event highlighting the vendors, musicians, entertainers, crafters, officials and others who have persevered to ensure there was a rich range of Turks and Caicos creativity and culinary skill on display week after week.

“There were many who came and showed support and many of them are still at the fish fry playing music, selling their goods and services and I’m so proud of all of them.”

Island Fish Fry celebrated its ten year anniversary on Thursday January 26th 2023.

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Bahamas News

Consumer protection, 85 businesses to be put under watch 

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By Dana Malcolm 

Staff Writer

 

 

February 2, 2023 – Grocery stores and dozens of other businesses will be under the microscope soon as the government begins aggressively enforcing the Consumer Protection Ordinance passed back in 2016 with an all-new Compliance and Regulatory Enforcement (C.A.R.E) Drive.

Carried out by the Department of Trade, Industry, and Fair Competition the drive aims to “actively educate providers whilst enforcing the main provisions to protect consumers under the Consumer Protection Ordinance,” a press release explained.

Firstly, Consumer Officers charged with protecting the people of the TCI from unfair business practices will be assessing the prices of selected breadbasket items in 23 different stores countrywide each month to see whether price gouging is being carried out by businesses.

Breadbasket items are currently duty-free under the Food and Fuel Tax Break until the end of the financial year in March and all savings from those tax exemptions should be passed on directly to the consumer. After each assessment, which will continue for several months at least a monthly price report will be published on the Department of Trade’s website.

In addition, the Consumer Officers will be monitoring other business activities across the country “to ensure that providers are compliant with their duties to consumers.”

Those responsibilities include:

  • Giving customers certain basic information about goods and services being sold;
  •  Informing consumers about terms and conditions before any payment is made (e.g., warranties, refunds, returns, exchanges, etc.) and;
  • Abstaining from misleading and deceptive conduct, false representation and unfair business practices.

The government says they will reach at least 85 businesses with the C.A.R.E. Drive but they did not indicate the process behind how these businesses had been singled out. Non-compliant ones will be fined after a thorough investigation and warnings are issued by the Department of Trade.

With this in mind, business owners are being encouraged to familiarize themselves with their duties under the Ordinance lest they be caught in breach. The government did not say what entities would be assessed and whether that included major retail grocery stores, gasoline dealers, water companies, electricity providers, telecommunications companies and other essential providers of the services that all islanders spend on.

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