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

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#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.”

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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.

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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.

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ScotiaBank Turks & Caicos Awarded Best Consumer Digital Bank 2021

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Providenciales, Turks & Caicos Island – September 24, 2021 – Scotiabank TCI has been named the “Best Consumer Digital Bank 2021” by Global Finance (New York), which regularly selects the top performers amongst banks and financial services and is a trusted standard of excellence for the global financial community.

In commenting on the award, Patricia Adams, Managing Director (Acting), Scotiabank TCI said, “Supporting our customers during the ongoing uncertainties remains our top priority and we are thrilled that our significant focus and investments in our digital banking platforms continue to yield positive results.”

“During this period, we have continuously relied on feedback from our customers about their specific personal or business needs and we remain committed to further improvements as we aim to make it easier and safer for them to conduct their banking” Adams concluded.

Some of the most recent investments include the expansion of the capabilities of the Scotiabank Mobile App, upgrades made to the Bank’s ABM network to include intelligent deposit machines and the use of digital analytics to anticipate customer needs and deliver personalized financial solutions.

Winning banks were selected based on the following criteria: strength of strategy  for attracting and servicing digital customers, success in getting clients to use digital  offerings, growth of digital customers, breadth of product offerings, evidence of tangible benefits gained from digital initiatives, and web/mobile site design and functionality. Read more about the awards here.

Scotiabank TCI’s award for “Best Consumer Digital Bank” follows another recent global recognition for innovation in financial services by The Banker’s Global Innovation in Digital Banking Awards 2021. The ‘Most Innovative in Data’ award acknowledges the Bank’s investments in data and analytics, as well as its commitment to delivering a more personalized customer experience.

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COVID Works programme launched by Ministry of Physical Planning & Infrastructure Development

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#TurksandCaicos, September 21, 2021 – The Minister of Physical Planning and Infrastructure Development, the Honourable Akierra Mary Deanne Missick and the Physical Planning & Infrastructure Development team are pleased to announce the launch of the COVID WORKS Programme, that went live on September 1, 2021.

The Programme seeks to support many who have lost jobs and livelihoods, while providing labour intensive work for economic exchange opportunities for persons to be engaged.

Works are set out in three (3) levels and comprise a variety of categories example, cleaning, road works, demolition and general construction to name a few.

Level 1 – value $1,500 – $9,999

Level 2 – value $10,000 – $39,999

Level 3 – value $40,000 – $70,000

Turks and Caicos Islanders with valid business licenses are also being encouraged to submit proposals to the Public Works Department for consideration for works throughout the islands. 

Commenting on the launch of the programme, Hon. Missick said, “We are very much mindful of the impact that restrictions introduced by Government in an effort to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, has had on the islands, many continue to experience financial hardship. Whilst, the hospitality and construction sectors in Providenciales have rebounded well, as an Administration, we cannot rest knowing that other industries are still limping along.

As a result, during the remainder of this financial year, the Turks & Caicos Islands Government has now launched the COVID Works Programme to provide an opportunity for Petty and Small Contractors to assist the Government in the enhancement of our communities, through programmed works, to the benefit of all of us as residents”.

The Minister went on to note, “This Programme is set to the tune of US$5,000,000.00, and works will be rolled out across the Islands in batches, as we have to ensure that we do not go beyond the allotted expenditure and that financial oversight and transparency are maintained.”

The initial batch of works for South Caicos, which comprised the following, was returned and evaluated on Monday, September 13, 2021 and included:

South Caicos 

Demolition- Queen’s Shed

Demolition- Distribution Concrete Tank

Demolition- Old Clinic Building

Demolition- DECR Building

Demolition- Library Building

Repair of Water Cistern

Works for Grand Turk included:

Grand Turk 

Demolition- Blood Bank Building

Demolition- Geriatric Ward Building

Demolition- Kitchen Building

Demolition- X-ray Building

All returning bids must be sent to the COVID Works email at tcigworks@gov.tc

Kindly note that as of Monday, September 20, 2021, the following works are planned to be released:

Grand Turk: 

Beach Cleaning (Eastern portion of Grand Turk)

Street Cleaning (All areas)

Providenciales:

Beach cleaning (Areas of Shore Club and Five Cays)

Street Cleaning (All areas)

A number of other works for Middle & North Caicos, as well as Salt Cay will be released shortly. This is a six month program that will spread throughout the TCI and we encourage persons to continue to register via tcigworks@gov.tc or the local Public Works Department and District Commissioners’ offices, to be eligible for this opportunity.

These works will continue on a monthly basis and the programme will come to an end in March 2022.

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Grandstanding at best – Hon. Jameka Williams

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#TurksandCaicos, September 21, 2021 – Response to Mr. Robert Been Jr. – People’s Democratic Movement All Island Candidate 2016 and 2021 “Where is the Wo’k you promised PNP?”

Like some of you, I have the opportunity to read the statements that has been published by Mr. Robert Been asking the government where is the work. I can only describe this as a classic case of grandstanding. The issues highlighted by Mr. Been are areas of concern in our country, however these issues did not begin yesterday nor did they became a concern seven months ago. I’d like to remind Mr. Been that these same concerns were there during his former governing party the PDM. The previous government did nothing to address these concerns in their four year tenure. Where was your voice then Mr. Been? As a matter of fact, where was your voice the four years prior?

As it relates to education, the issues with spaces in Schools has been heightened as a lot of families can not afford the cost of private institutions since the pandemic, so there is now a high demand for seats in the public schools. Our government is working closely with the private Institutions with a subsidy program to address those needs. Again, this issue existed under the former government before the pandemic but they made no attempt to address it. In addition under your former administration, schools were closed for over one year with no plan on sight for its reopening. Our children have regressed and many repeating to catch up on the year lost.

On September 1, 2021 our government announced the new protocols and measures as it relates to Covid 19. Yes, there are concerns being expressed by the citizens and business owners as it relates to the impact of those decisions. I would like to inform you to that these decisions were not made alone. Stakeholders were engaged in these conversations and I have also accompanied the Hon. Jamel Robinson to sit downs with various groups of business owners to provide feedback, listen and take recommendations.

Countries around the world are imposing stiffer penalties and measures to help with the control of Covid 19 virus and the TCI is no different. We’ve seen reports published of cancellations that we believe are flawed to bully the government into reversing the decisions made. Our government has a responsibility to protect life and livelihood. There are decisions that are sometimes tough to make but it is our responsibility to make them no matter how unpopular. In time, the people of this country will see the benefit of those decisions concerning what’s happening around the world in even more developed countries as it relates to COVID-19.

Mr. Been, I would like for you to know that the island of Grand Turk was in a state of devastation since the storm of 2017 under the tenure of your government. There was an outcry for years by its residents. The cruise industry is at a standstill. However, I’d like to inform you that during our budget debates this current government has passes 8.3 million dollars for all the islands with 3 million ring fenced for Grand Turk alone in works and cash grant injections. The Ministry of Planning and Infrastructure Development has as of September 1, 2021 rolled out its contract program for works around the islands particularly in the Nation’s Capital.

Since the closer of the cruise sector in Grand Turk, the former administration had little to no engagement with Carnival partners on a plan to jump start that industry. It is extremely commendable that our government took the initiative to host a town hall meeting with all persons involved in the cruise industry in June 2021. Additional the Premier is in constant dialogue with Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean has now expressed an internet in having Grand Turk as one of their destinations.

Mr. Been, it is widely rumored that you may have an interest in Leadership of the PDM during the next convention. You are a personal friend of mine and I wish you well on your endeavors as this is a noble profession. However, my advice to you would be to offer solution based arguments so that the electorate sees your strength and potential instead of pointing fingers and grandstanding. Admittedly you mentioned that the elections are over. But are they really for you? As a government we do not have all the answers but I assure you that the decisions made are in the best interest of all of us including you. Hold on, better days are ahead.

 

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