Kingston, Jamaica – May 11, 2020 – Jamaica is ranked first out of 14 Caribbean countries in terms of the overall number of tests administered for the coronavirus (COVID-19).
This was disclosed by Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, who commended healthcare professionals for the critical role they play in facilitating the country’s increased testing capacity.
He was speaking at a digital press conference on Wednesday (May 6) from the Ministry’s New Kingston offices.
Providing further details, Principal Medical Officer and National Epidemiologist, Dr. Karen Webster Kerr, noted that the figures used for the ranking were as at May 5, when 5,993 tests were recorded. The latest update on May 7 brings the number of tests done locally to 6,417.
Jamaica is followed by the Cayman Islands, which has undertaken 3,050 tests, then Barbados with 2,629. Trinidad and Tobago and The Bahamas round out the top-five countries, recording 2,121 and 1,485 tests, respectively.
Dr. Webster Kerr noted, however, that the Cayman Islands surpassed Jamaica to take the top spot in terms of the number of tests per population, at 46,000 per million. With 2,024 per million, Jamaica is ranked ninth. Jamaica has a population of 2.9 million, while the Cayman Islands has a population of 65,604.
The other countries involved in the evaluation are Belize, Haiti, Guyana, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Lucia, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Turks and Caicos.
Jamaica’s capacity to conduct tests for COVID-19 was recently boosted with the commissioning of a COBAS machine, located at the National Public Health Laboratory in Kingston, which has capacity for a maximum 1,140 tests per day.
This is in addition to the donation of two diagnostic machines and 7,500 testing kits by major shareholder in the Jamaica Public Service (JPS), the South Korea-based East West Power Korea (EWP), to the National Influenza Centre at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI). This has improved the testing capacity of the Centre from 200 to 986 per day.
In total, Jamaica now has the capacity to conduct approximately 2,126 COVID-19 tests per day.
Cruising should slow down says PAHO
By Dana Malcolm
‘Slow down on Cruising’, that’s the word from the Pan American Health Organization, PAHO in their latest recent press conference.
“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.
Cayman gets its second ‘Sir’; former Premier Alden McLaughlin knighted on Jan 1
By Dana Malcolm
#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.
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.
Understanding Sargassum with help from the TCI’s Department of Environment & Coastal Resources
By Sherrica Thompson
#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.
“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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