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Abandoned! 27 residents denied return to TCI, including babies; the Minister speaks out

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#Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands – July 2, 2020 – Safe accommodations and a rescue flight to return for stranded Turks and Caicos residents were among the plans on the table tonight after a Covid-19 repatriation exercise today went disturbingly wrong. 

Twenty-seven individuals were left behind in disbelief at the Sheltair private airport in Ft Lauderdale, South Florida as they watched their interCaribbean Airways chartered plane take off with no passengers on board. 

Entry for everyone, including new born babies and their mothers was denied by Turks and Caicos Health officials without explanation and at the last minute.

Once news of this shocking abandonment of Turks and Caicos people hit mainstream and social media; comments revealed widespread outrage and bewilderment about the Government’s handling of the return home of citizens and expatriate workers.

Though many have pointed their fingers at the government administration, we are told tonight that if it were the final decision of the Minister and PDM Administration, all 27 individuals would be back on Turks and Caicos soil.

“We are very much disappointed; especially with our people being out there in Florida where you have so many more cases (of Covid-19); they are at a higher risk being out there. So any flights coming with seats on it, we want to have our people to fill it as much as we can, to bring our people home,” said the Minister of Health, Edwin Astwood.

Edwin Astwood, TCI Minister of Health, file photo

In an interview this evening, the Minister confirmed to Magnetic Media that he was made aware of the denial of entry to 27 residents and citizens late Wednesday night.  The individuals, had either bought their own tickets or had airfare paid for by the National Health Insurance Plan, which arranged seats for returning patients. 

The response to the outcry for help was an immediate review the passenger list, after which he issued this recommendation:

“In reviewing the list of persons scheduled on the flight, the majority are NHIP patients and the remainder is in possession of a recent Covid-19 negative test result.  Also included are three mothers with newborn babies.  In addition, most stated that they would be able to quarantine at home (being in possession of their recent negative Covid-19 test).

I am recommending that the flight be granted leave to enter the TCI tomorrow afternoon, bringing the returning residents.”

With the Minister of Health on their side, the residents who had been previously informed their re-entry was denied were confident the repatriation flight would now take place.  However, those hopes were crushed and instead the terminal was an emotional mix of tears, frustration, anger and bitter disappointment for the passengers, their families and the interCaribbean Airways crew.

The Minister confirmed that his Wednesday night communication was dispatched, via email, to the Chief Medical Officer, who is Dr. Nadia Astwood and the Director of Environmental Health, who is Kenrick Neely, among others.

“Maybe the Health officials thought they were working in the best interest of the general public because of the capacity and our recent outbreak (of coronavirus).  That is what I am thinking that maybe they were thinking that they were acting in the public’s best interest by saying ‘no’ to this flight,” shared Minister Astwood.   

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The recommendation from the Minister, who is also a health professional, was rejected without notification, explanation or discussion.

“I thought persons would have taken the recommendation and go ahead with the flight, because I put myself on the line saying yes, that I would recommend that they do this flight.  The relevant health officers, whom the (Public and Environmental Health) Ordinance empowers to make the final decision didn’t agree with the flight coming in,” explained Edwin Astwood.

Minister Astwood confirmed that up to the time of our interview, he had still not been offered a reason for the denial of the flight by the CMO and EHD Director. 

The Minister did say that both officers have since been informed the situation their denial of re-entry has created will now cost the Government more money and has attracted considerable public backlash.

“We have the money that we can get a quarantine place. Now it will cost us the government much more in money and time, and funds are tight but it will cost us much more.”

It was also explained that knowing the details of this flight manifest in advance would have given the government administration more time to lobby for approvals and could have provided the opportunity to remove stumbling blocks.

“I have gotten other ministers involved; the Minister of Tourism, Immigration and the Premier are involved and we are seeing how we best we can sort out this problem and we have to do an investigation into what went wrong, why this happened at the ninth hour and why we were informed so late, yesterday evening.”

As for what happens tonight and when the residents can be brought home, Magnetic Media is informed that the National Health Insurance Board has been asked to offer assistance to residents until a rescue flight is arranged.

All stranded passengers are confirmed to have safe lodgings for the evening.

InterCaribbean Airways is ready to re-try the repatriation flight; requiring time to organize the mission and financial support from the Government to return for the individuals who remain stuck in Florida.

Magnetic Media is a Telly Award winning multi-media company specializing in creating compelling and socially uplifting TV and Radio broadcast programming as a means for advertising and public relations exposure for its clients.

Crime

RTCIPF Press Release: FIVE CAYS MURDER UPDATE  

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#TurksandCaicos, January 25, 2023 – An investigation has commenced into the shooting death of a male.

The murder occurred today (January 24th).

Based on preliminary reports, at around 3pm, the Police Control Room  received a call from a resident stating that gunshots were being heard in Five Cays

RTCIPF officers responded to the given location at Reece Street and found the lifeless body of a male, lying face down on the ground with what appeared to be gunshot wounds about the body.

Based on initial information received, the victim resided at Sand Bar Street, Five Cays.

Officers are at this time gathering pertinent details to ascertain a motive behind the murder of  the deceased.

The public is being advised to notify the closest police station or to contact Crime Stoppers and give any information regarding this murder or  any illegal activity anonymously.

Please note, that Crime Stoppers calls are answered in Miami and in Houston by Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers which is a non-profit and not a police agency.

The calls are anonymous and cannot be traced in the United States or the TCI.

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Crime

Drunk Driver charged says TCI Police

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

 

#TurksandCaicos, January 25, 2023 – Turks and Caicos’ road fatalities remain at zero.  But a serious traffic accident had residents concerned that an individual may have died.  With those concerns voiced by residents, Police have confirmed to Magnetic Media that while an accident did occur last weekend near the Chicken Shack, no one died.

Press Officer Denyse Renne explained that in the case of that accident a 59 year old Grand Turk man was arrested  for driving with alcohol consumption above the legal limit and that  the Traffic Department is continuing investigations.

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Education

‘Greening Our Schools’ Campaign launches nation-wide

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#TurksandCaicos, January 25, 2023 – The Department of Education’s (DoE) Curriculum Development Unit in collaboration with the Department of Environment and Coastal Resources’ (DECR) Outreach Unit today launched the ‘Greening Our Schools’ initiative across the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The initiative will work with primary and high schools around the islands to foster environmental awareness and action by developing resource, energy and environmentally literate citizens through service projects, leadership and activism. The program, which will take effect in September this year, encourages schools to choose from four themes and to creatively solve the problems faced by the school and their community under the chosen theme.

Schools will have to choose from the following themes, namely Biodiversity, Electricity Conservation, Water Conservation, and Waste Management.  Schools will systematically be guided through the initial process and will be reviewed at the end of the school year, where they may qualify for ‘Green Flag’ status upon successful review of their project. The coveted prize, the ‘Green Ribbon’, will be awarded to the school with outstanding performance – enhancing sustainability practices among all schools with Green Flag status.

The DoE and the DECR are excited to foster environmentally-minded young people who will responsibly benefit the future of the Turks and Caicos Islands, especially in a world fraught with negative environmental impacts.

Look out for Rocky the Iguana and representatives visiting schools in promotion of Greening our Schools!

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