#Providenciales, Turks and Caicos – August 26, 2020 — SUBMITTED – After a careful analysis of the daily Ministry of Health (MOH) COVID-19 updates for the week of August 17th, one needs no convincing that the Ministry of Health needs urgent nonpartisan private sector help in tackling this pandemic.
In our beloved TCI, concerns have heightened to uncontrollable levels, as we continue to observe the tremendous increase of positives cases. During the week of August 17th, 2020 in the midst of daily double digit increases of COVID19 positives, we have seen a number of troubling signs such as:
- The key MoH Lab Official charged with testing was terminated, without any public explanation for his immediate dismissal. Many are suggesting this is cause for concern;
- Private facilities were directed to stop doing covid19 tests due to the abrupt introduction of a new policy without wide consultation with the industry.
- The Police Force announcement of positive covid19 cases within the Force administration where several members were placed into quarantine.
- The MoH temporarily shut its office in the epicenter of the virus- Provo, for deep cleaning because its own staff tested positive.
- The public was advised that community spread continues.
- Without any explanation we note a drastic and sudden increase of recoveries on the dashboard in the past 48 hours.
- The MoH ran out of COVID19 Tests; the Minister was warned about this happening, when my article scrutinised the donation of 10,000 of our country’s much needed Covid19 test kits to the Bahamas. I had specifically asked for an inventory check of test kits on hand and had questioned whether we were giving away supplies that we ourselves needed in order to increase our on-island testing capacity. To date, the only answer received from the Minister of Health in that regard, is still in question, as the amount he stated had been given to the Bahamas was extremely lower than the amount officials in the Bahamas declared they received from our Government.
- The MOH Covid19 dashboard continues to show it is not adhering to key established guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO) which is “to test and isolate all confirmed cases, even mild cases in health facilities, to prevent transmission and provide adequate care”.
So my question to the Minister of Health and the MoH Oofficials, is why are we not isolating all COVID19 positives in a facility? this is a crucial part of WHO’s recommendation that seem to be falling on deaf ears in the TCI and clearly is one of the main reason contributing to the rise of this dreadful disease within our communities. If we are to tackle the fight of COVID19 head on, this government must be seen as one that is spending the people’s funds on the necessary facilities and systems to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of our people.
A PROPOSED SOLUTION
I am recommending the MoH immediately establish a Nonpartisan Covid19 Medical Council (CMC) made up of Physicians and Health Care Professionals from both the Private and public Sector. The CMC should be tasked with effectively monitoring and responding to covid-19 pandemic in the TCI. The CMC responsibilities should also involve a range of efforts relating to the diagnosis, response, and treatment of COVID-19 and supporting solutions to bring an end to this crisis.
The MoH must remember, that this pandemic is far from nearing an end, as there are various other aspects it will need a pool of resourceful professionals within the industry to lean on in the coming months, with regard to new tests for COVID-19, new therapeutics, and the long awaited vaccines which may soon be available.
Covid19 is EVERYBODY’S business and if we are to combat this pandemic, the government must find a way to enlist as much of our own local expertise to overcome the widespread effects of this illness and save the health and overall wellbeing of our nation’s populace.
The CMC will allow for a wider Action-Tank to provide swift and rapid suggestions including a way forward for facility isolation of COVID19 positive patients. Whilst I welcome this week’s MOH most notable adjustment of the dashboard role reflecting cases by island, it is evident that this fight cannot be undertaken by them alone. The hope is that the CMC will greatly assist MOH as the challenge to combat COVID19 continues to evolve. We are all in this fight together and must remember that the health of our nation is the wealth of our nation.
We can only emerge from this emergency be working together. It is my sound advice that the MoH should establish our own Covid19 Medical Council and should do so now.
Mark A Fulford
Education Minister announces Platinum Partnerships for internet and tablet program amidst COVID surge
By Shaniek Smith
#TurksandCaicos, January 15, 2022 – Schools did not resume in person learning in the Turks and Caicos on January 4, instead it was back to virtual classes for 7,400 children in the British overseas territory due to an omicron-driven surge in Covid-19 infections.
It was announced on the New Year’s Day holiday for TCI, January 3 in a press conference hosted by Rachel Taylor, the Minister of Education, and attended by Jamell Robinson, Minister of Health and supported by Premier Washington Misick, who was also at the live event.
In a promised update, parents got the not-so-good-news, virtual classes would resume at least until the end of January due to the surge and staff shortages being experienced. Turks and Caicos, up to Thursday January 14 had over 800 active cases, five new deaths and a 600 per cent increase in hospitalisations. The Minister said the decision was in the interest of safety.
The Minister also promised to get devices and internet to students in order for them to participate in learning during this virtual-only season. The press conference on January 13, welcomed partners Flow, Digicel and the Pine Cay Project.
In her address, chair of the Pine Cay Project, Marie Landel, said that an urgent call from Dr. Carlton Mills, a member of their board of trustees revealed that about 750 students would be without internet connection and devices.
The Pine Cay Project responded to that information and has agreed to pay for internet for 30 days students, with its partner in the initiative, DigicelTCI. It is an $18,000 investment in education continuity for hundreds of children.
“We had strong discussions on what we should do with the money that we collect every year, so yesterday we agreed to the funding in emergency situation of 300 internet connections and devices that are going to help the students in need, and we’re very proud to be able to act quickly,” Landel expressed.
Additionally, the Marketing Manager at Digicel TCI, Mr Drexler Smith, said Digicel has partnered with the Ministry of Education to provide about 1,000 tablets for public schools. Smith added that 75 MiFi devices valued at 7,000 dollars were provided; they come with free data services for up to three months for students in need.
Digicel has also created a special education plan for e-learning with specific zero-rated sites and applications. The company partnered with Pine Cay and other private entities in this regard. Various schools and educational facilities in South Caicos, Five Cays, and Providenciales have benefitted from laptops, data plans, MiFi’s, and e-learning kits.
Marketing Executive Flow TCI, Darron Hilaire, also shared the contributions Flow made to the education sector since the pandemic.
“Within the last three years, Flow TCI, through our charitable foundation, would have donated $130,000 worth of ICT equipment to 2 schools respectively in Grand Turk and in Providenciales for the outfitting of the new computer labs to help facilitate the ministry’s vision to foster an efficient e-learning environment for students,” he said.
Mr. Hilaire added that within the first year of the pandemic, Flow responded to requests from the Ministry to increase the bandwidth to public schools in the TCI. Hilaire said Flow home internet speed doubles automatically at no cost to its customers in early July.
He said that within the last 60 days, Flow TCI announced a recent donation of $25,000 dollars to two schools in North Caicos and one in Providenciales. The donation was in aid of increasing connectivity and infrastructural upgrades.
“As we come to the end of this phase of the project, our objective is to look at doing the same for other schools in the second phase of the projects to further arm our schools with the access to technology to provide the best quality education to students,” Hilaire added.
Amanyara Resort, not present at the press event, was said to be working on additional laptops for hundreds of children despite having already donated to several schools in Providenciales.
Minister Rachel Taylor and her team, including Eugene Grant, ICT Education Officer at the Ministry of Education and Mark Garland, Deputy Director of Education thanked the donors; they were labelled Platinum Partners by the Minister.
Government apologizes to Churches for NEW Covid-19 Testing rule
#TurksandCaicos, January 15, 2022 – The TCI Government is apologizing for including the Church in a new raft of restrictions which mandates unvaccinated congregants be tested in order to be allowed to attend church events however, there is no change in the rule. The rule is now delayed start for another two weeks following an announcement issued by the Ministry of Health on Thursday evening.
The apology came from Premier Washington Misick in a statement late Wednesday, where he apologized for bunching the church in with restaurants, lounges, bars and discotheques which also have to follow the regulation.
Church pastors speaking with Magnetic Media expressed shock at the announcement which was revealed, on Tuesday, as a cabinet approved decision which also includes mandatory testing for the unvaccinated to attend funerals.
While there has been no official statement from the Turks and Caicos Islands Christian Council or the Pastors Fraternity it was clear that some of the church community seemed prepared to stand firmly against the measure.
The Premier has promised that there will be consultation going forward; beckoning to Churches to comply with the temporary rule which he said would help to curb the latest surge of COVID-19 cases.
Cruising & Caring for Health and Wealth
By Dana Malcolm
#TurksandCaicos, January 15, 2022 – As the cruising industry in Grand Turk continues to get back into full swing with an anticipated four cruises or more per week, Turks and Caicos Islanders who work in the industry will again be interacting with thousands of foreign nationals on a weekly basis.
Normally this would be a cause for celebration and it is, but with the world in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic and especially in light of the newest variant, the rules have changed.
As researchers find more information in regards to Omicron it is becoming increasingly clear that while the variant may be slightly milder than others its transmissibility is a major treat to populations, economies and health systems everywhere.
The following are tips that will help balance TCI tourism workers’ income and their safety, or as government often puts it, “lives and livelihoods”.
Masks have become a part of life since the beginning of the pandemic, some wear them for safety, others because they are mandated. Nearly all of us have experienced that ‘oh no’ moment when we realize we’ve left our mask behind, it’s a funny anecdote to represent our new normal in theory.
In reality it can be dangerous, life threatening even, to be without protective measures especially for vendors who interact with international visitors all day long.
This means prior preparation is key. Outfit your stall with masks and the recommended cleaning agents, have extras on hand so you never get caught without. If possible put the required distance between your own stall and your neighbors. If possible create dividers for yourself and tourists that will allow you to interact safely. Place reminders in the form of signs around your stall so guests are not tempted to flout safety measures.
In the Moment
Cruise days can be hectic, there are so many people and so little time but as you rush to make your sales or braid hair it is important to keep safety protocols in mind.
Always maintain social distancing between yourself and guests, this is especially important in high volume situations like this as guests can be asymptomatic.
If you operate a business that will not allow you to do so e.g. hair braiding, keep your mask on at all times and insist that your guests do so as well.
Limit the amount of guests allowed in your space at once.
Establish rigorous and frequent cleaning protocols, as guests move around in their excitement they may forget to sanitize. Clean surfaces regularly with the recommended products to prevent lingering traces of anything dangerous.
When guests have departed and it’s time to close up shop don’t skip any steps that could undo a successful day of safe practices.
Wash your money, it may seem strange but bills are made from durable paper that is not susceptible to tearing or water-wear. Washing your bills and coins gently will not hurt them but will protect you from any lingering viruses. Clean regularly touched areas and items. Get tested regularly, that way if you do get infected you will be in the know early. If you feel ill, immediately self-isolate and test to confirm if you have COVID or not. Deep clean your stall regularly, disinfecting as many areas as you can.
Covid-19 has forced us into a new normal but Turks and Caicos Islanders are resilient, it is possible to balance safety and profit, remember to wash your hands and obey all the protocols so the TCI can come out of this Pandemic with as little losses as possible.
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