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New recovery standard for TCI; 14-days symptom free for release of COVID-19 patients



#Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands – August 27, 2020 — Turks and Caicos is added to the growing list of places which are abandoning the standard that COVID-19 patient recovery is measured by two negative RT-PCR tests.  Edwin Astwood, the Minister of Health on Wednesday said Cabinet has agreed to give clearance to previously positive patients after 10-days of having experienced no fever or symptoms of the coronavirus.

“The Ministry of Health has updated its standard operating procedures for recoveries and people being relieved from quarantine which is based on technical guidance received from PAHO, Public Health England, CDC, WHO and CARPHA.  These new protocols for recoveries and persons being released from quarantine are now being instituted by the Ministry of Health Agriculture Sports and Human Services (and) will come into effect immediately.”


The announcement, backed up by “new and emerging science” was met with skepticism and labelled risky by some tuned into the national press conference broadcast live from the Office of the Premier in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos.

Still the world’s leading health regulators including the World Health Organization (WHO), the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are promoting the research as a recommendation.

The WHO updated its recovery recommendation since May 27, 2020.  An excerpt from its website says this:

Criteria for discharging patients from isolation (i.e., discontinuing transmission-based precautions) without requiring retesting[1]:

  • For symptomatic patients: 10 days after symptom onset, plus at least 3 additional days without symptoms (including without fever [2] and without respiratory symptoms)[3]
  • For asymptomatic cases[4]: 10 days after positive test for SARS-CoV-2

The WHO says there is some risk associated with this “isolation discharge criteria” and adds, “There is a minimal residual risk that transmission could occur with these non–test-based criteria.”

Among the reasons for the change is to bring relief to medical centers which need the bed space; to cut-down workload on testing centers which are overwhelmed by new and repeated testing demands; to support healthy patients with a more expeditious return to life in the ‘new normal’ and to embrace the science which says COVID-19’s dead particles are responsible for positive diagnoses long past the time a patient is infectious.


The WHO, in that June 17 brief, encourages countries that can, to continue laboratory testing.  The Turks and Caicos has opted to go a new and different route which should dramatically increase the figures on recoveries.

“If a person who had recovered from COVID-19 is retested within three months of the initial infection they may continue to have a positive test result, even though they may be spreading COVID-19,” said Minister Astwood, who shared about individuals held in long isolations: “…they have been in quarantine for some 25 days, some 35 days, some 45 days and they feel well, they feel healthy and they are wondering why they have to stay this long in quarantine and the results now, the science now backs up that we can now release those persons from quarantine much earlier; 10-days and 14-days depending on symptoms and if the person is asymptomatic.”

While some may say we can trust the science, there is grave concern about whether we can trust the patient.  The Ministry of Health will admittedly be relying upon patients to be honest about their state of health.

from Ministry of Health, Turks and Caicos Islands

“We have to rely on persons to be honest and truthful but still they will be under the quarantine order to remain at home and if they have fever and symptoms we want them to report that, the Minister of Health continued with, “We have seen that persons have not been giving full and complete information but we have more good people out there than bad so, we know that we will get from our people here in Turks and Caicos Islands, at least 95 to 95 percent compliance with this because we have a lot of people who want to do the right thing.”

Minister Astwood’s enthusiasm is not shared by many residents.  By admission, some positive patients were not forthcoming during the contact tracing phase.  By widespread observation, individuals have shown a reckless tendency to shirk responsibility of self-quarantine regulations in order to get out and about.

Thousands of tests have been used up in the previous method of retesting before clearance is given.  Scores of people have been waiting weeks for medical clearance to return to work because Health personnel have been unable to deliver timely follow-ups.

The Minister was optimistic that reducing this painstaking process of sequential negatives for the coronavirus will allow his team to move on to community testing, which had been waylaid by a surge in coronavirus cases.

In the past two days, 81 new cases of the coronavirus were recorded for the Turks and Caicos Islands; bringing the country’s total number of infections to 464.

The new measures will be made available online.


Woman dies on Tuesday; 32nd Covid Death for Turks & Caicos



By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer


#TurksandCaicos, January 20, 2022 – The Turks and Caicos has recorded its 32nd death related to COVID-19.

A Ministry of Health press release informed that the individual who was in quarantine in Grand Turk and requested emergency aid on Tuesday; response came from the public health team in Grand Turk.

The person, who we are told is a special needs young woman – was unvaccinated and had underlying medical conditions.

The death rate in the Turks and Caicos of both vaccinated and unvaccinated persons has climbed alarmingly this year.  In the 21-month period from March 2020 when the country recorded its first case to December 2021, there were 26 deaths recorded in the TCI.

In the 19 days since the start of 2022 that number has increased to 32; which means six deaths already in January.


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Bahamas News

Cruising should slow down says PAHO



By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer


‘Slow down on Cruising’, that’s the word from the Pan American Health Organization, PAHO in their latest recent press conference.

Dr. Ciro Ugarte Director of Health Emergencies at the PAHO was referring to the Bahamas but made sure to note that the advice was highly relevant to many countries in the times of omicron.

“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.

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Caribbean News

Understanding Sargassum with help from the TCI’s Department of Environment & Coastal Resources  



By Sherrica Thompson

Staff Writer


#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.

Environmental Outreach Coordinator at the Department of Environmental and Coastal Resources for TCI, Amy Avenant, says the Turks and Caicos Islands has not seen the worst of the overgrowth.

“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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