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Cry for help; TCI Residents stuck abroad feel forsaken

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#TurksandCaicosIslands – August 10, 2020 — Coming home has never been harder and believing the Turks and Caicos is open for tourism business has never been so unbelievable.

Easily fingered as the culprit, is COVID-19, which is responsible for 732,000 deaths world-wide; some 20 million people have been infected.

Still, everyone agrees that life must go on and though it is generally accepted the ‘new normal’ will sometimes make unconstitutional demands, Turks and Caicos Islanders are today questioning the fairness and logic of what they are mandated to do in order to return to their homeland.

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Concerns are mounting and frustration is high specifically about the timeframe given for the negative COVID-19 PCR test which must be submitted with other documents through the TCI Assured portal for travel approval. 

The Turks and Caicos Ministry of Health requires the test be done and presented within five days of travel to the territory.  The five-day window includes the day test swabs are taken.

Illogical; returning citizens say because getting a test done and returned within five days is next to impossible.

In one case; a Grand Turk native is for the third time waiting to have the requisite test completed.  Two negatives have been presented, one missed the deadline and the second was questioned as legitimate.  Although, it was ultimately determined that the test result was valid, it took two days.  Which meant the applicant, travelling home on connecting flights was now six-hours outside of the five-day window.

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No consideration was given to the delay experienced as the test result was authenticated by the Ministry of Health, we are told.  Due to the competitiveness to secure a coronavirus test, the earliest date for the new appointment is nine days from now.

In another case; a Providenciales native has negative results of tests for the family but the earliest connecting flight puts them, mere hours outside of the five day window.  They were told by the TCI Assured portal managers they will have to test again in the transit destination before coming home.

The challenge is the transit destination has quarantined them for 14-days; which means they have no way of getting out to take the tests and are still denied entry by the country they call “home”.

In yet another situation; an 11-year old child is trying to come home to Provo.  It is explained the test was taken on August 4, the results were received August 9 and earliest travel home is (tomorrow) August 11.  The applicant was denied by TCI Assured because they have tallied the five days from time of test taken to date of travel; which is seven days. 

Fortunately for the 11-year old, the test is free.

Tourism is also taking a hit as the process proves too tedious for many guests; these tourists are aborting their mission to escape to the Turks and Caicos Islands and cancelling bookings.

The residents have all put pen to paper several times; explaining their circumstances. While those emails and messages have gained them some sympathy, there is no meaningful change which grants permission for a return home. 

All are amenable to a 14-day quarantine and further testing upon arrival.  All feel let down and discarded by ‘home’.  All are running out of cash and time.

It is a cry for help and a hope that these appeals are met with not only sensitivity, but urgency.

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FortisTCI Presents Sponsorship Funds to the National Cancer Society

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Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands (Wednesday, October 20, 2021) – FortisTCI has presented the National Cancer Society of Turks and Caicos Islands with a $5,000 sponsorship to help support the Society’s ongoing programs and the annual Breast Cancer Awareness Walk-a-thon, which will be held on Saturday, October 30. FortisTCI President and CEO Ruth Forbes made the presentation on Tuesday, October 5 to the Society’s President Veronica Rigby, and former president Rosemary Jolly.

FortisTCI is a long-standing sponsor of the National Cancer Society and over the years has supported programs such as the annual walk-a-thon and the Society’s Night for the Fight event.

FortisTCI President and CEO Ruth Forbes said, “We are proud to once again show our support for the National Cancer Society and the very important work it does. Cancer is a disease that touches almost everyone in our community, whether directly or indirectly, and it is vital that we have a dedicated organization like the National Cancer Society that continues to educate the community, and provide tangible support to cancer patients. As we mark October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we hope this donation will assist in enabling the Society to expand its outreach efforts.”

National Cancer Society President Veronica Rigby remarked, “On behalf of everyone at the Society, I thank FortisTCI for their continued support. Beyond this sponsorship and their financial commitment through the years, we know we can also count on FortisTCI employees to support our activities. We have a partnership that works well together, as we do everything we can to make a positive difference in the lives of those we serve.”

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Health

Over 75 per cent Fully Vaccinated, Over 800 Boosted says Chief Medical Officer

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#TurksandCaicos, October 19, 2021 – “This week’s COVID vaccine report as of 11th October records a total of 28 529 persons or 82% of the population have received the first dose of the COVID19 vaccine with 26 233 persons being fully vaccinated which represents 75.1% of the eligible population. 4 Importantly, since the launch of the TCIs COVID-19 vaccine booster strategy which was launched on 4th October 2021, a total of 816 persons have received their booster doses.

The Ministry of Health continues to promote the COVID-19 vaccine which is readily accessible and free of cost to residents as a critical defense against COVID19 and a tool which will help the TCI to get back to the new normal amidst the ongoing pandemic.

We don’t have to look far to see what an enviable position the TCI is in as it relates to our access to the COVID-19 vaccine through the UKG. To date, we have received 5 tranches of the vaccine with additional deliveries being arranged in order to ensure that our resident population is protected.

Many countries both near and far are still struggling to meet the demands for the vaccine by their citizens and are experiencing challenges in accessing sufficient quantities of the vaccine to protect vulnerable groups as well as the wider population.

Each country continues to place a focus on the vaccine as a means of managing the pandemic in order to reduce both deaths and hospitalizations. Although we have come far in this regard in the TCI, we can still do better. We need more persons to become vaccinated.

Those who are eligible should get vaccinated to protect those who cannot get vaccinated such as young children below the age of 12 years. We owe it to our fellow citizens to do what we can as individuals to protect the wider community. We still have room for improvement as it relates to persons who would be considered vulnerable as well as younger persons whose uptake remains relatively low.

Pregnant women are another group I would like to highlight as the data around the world has shown that pregnant women who are unvaccinated against COVID19. Pregnant and recently pregnant people are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 when compared with non-pregnant people. Severe illness includes illness that requires hospitalization, intensive care or illness that results in death. Additionally, pregnant people with COVID-19 are at increased risk of preterm birth and might be at increased risk of other adverse pregnancy outcomes, compared with pregnant women without COVID-19. In the UK, it has been recently reported that pregnant women who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19 account for almost 20% of critically ill coronavirus patients in England’s hospitals, in a statement from the National Health Service.

One in five patients receiving treatments through a special lung-bypass machine since July were expectant mothers who have not had their first shots. The vaccine as we have said before, is safe for persons who are trying to conceive as well as women who are pregnant. The vaccine is safe in these groups and can reduce the risk of infection and protect both mother and baby. It can also offer protection to the babies through the transmission of antibodies generated in response to the vaccine.

All pregnant women in the TCI are being encouraged to become fully vaccinated.”

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MINISTRY TOURISM STATEMENT ON TRANSITION OF TOURIST BOARD TO A DESTINATION MANAGEMENT ORGANISATION (DMO)

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#TurksandCaicos, October 19, 2021 – The Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands has for the past few months signaled the intention of the Government to transform how the tourism industry is managed. The vision to establish a Destination Management Organization (DMO) and a Regulatory Authority has consistently been discussed and referenced in presentations and budget speeches by the Hon. Premier and Minister responsible for Tourism Hon. Josephine Connolly since assuming office and the reins of Government.

The KPMG Tourism Strategy report of 2015 recommended a change in the structure of management of the tourism industry. Although not defining what that structure would look like, the Government after reviewing several models has outlined that the DMO and Regulatory Authority will best meet our needs.

To this end, the Government has released a tender for a consultancy to assist with the set up these authorities and to also wind down the existing structure of the Tourist Board.

This is meant to be a thorough and open process as all Invitations to Tenders are. The public would have been notified that a tender was released inviting bidders to respond to the invitation.

In the interim as outlined by the Hon. Premier it is important for the Tourist Board to begin to review its ongoing contractual obligations to ensure that the transition will go as smoothly as possible.

As things change, some things will remain the same. The Tourist Board continues its marketing and promotional activities and will work closely with the consultant when that service is procured. The team will also have membership on the working group/advisory committee that will inform the progress of the consultancy.

This does mean the Tourist Board will not exist as it does currently. In order to progress the work and winding down activities, the Premier and Minister for Tourism, asked that the external offices begin to wind down and close, with work conducted via these offices to be done from the Islands.

These offices were affected by the COVID 19 pandemic and have essentially meant that a lot of its work was conducted virtually. Additionally, the New York Office was managed by the periodic visits of the Director and the direct handling of calls and meetings were facilitated virtually. This method will continue with all offices. All trade and fam trips will continue.

COVID 19 did highlight that there was a need to review their existence and find alternative ways to manage them. This will allow for that work to be done expeditiously.

The Premier when he met to discuss the transition to the DMO to the staff, indicated that and gave his promise that no staff would be displaced nor made redundant. What ever structure put in place would mean redefining of roles and responsibilities.

Reviewing and addressing changes in management, deliverables and new ways of doing things are key strategies for any progressive Government.

The Regulatory Authority would have an enhanced role. This authority will set, monitor and maintain standards for all sectors of the industry. It is important that if we are to maintain our position as a five-star, high end destination that all elements of the industry reflect this. The quality of service and product offered by TCI has to reflect this. The Regulatory Authority will work closely with the planned hospitality institute, the community college and all other key stakeholders to ensure the establishment and grounding of standards all across the sector.

There has not been any talk of redundancies as mentioned on social media and rumors to this effect seems to be an attempt to create mischief. A few weeks ago, the Premier and Minister thought it prudent to meet with staff and Directors of the TB. This was important to help clarify the change process and to allay fears of anyone losing their jobs in the process.

Board members have been consistently updated on the process and subsequently a meeting was held October 2, 2021.  The meeting was constructive and staff were promised that they would be kept updated. Dialogue will continue as the project progresses toward a DMO in the new financial year.

The Premier and Minister firmly established their vision to promote local talent as there is an abundance of talent within the Tourist Board. The time has come however to have the structure reviewed and strengthened to meet the new and emerging needs of a dynamic industry.

Additionally, the Premier and Minister of Tourism has met with the TCHTA, the TB, local and international partners on many occasions since the passing of the budget and indeed early in the life of the new regime to discuss its intentions to transition to a DMO.

As of today, no consultant has been engaged as the tender process is still active. Interested parties/companies may find a copy of the tender at www.gov.tc. and are encouraged to apply We look forward to updating the public as we make progress.

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