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TCI Ministry of Health confirms ‘Lab’ termination; 125 new cases in 9-days

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File Photo (March 2020) - Public Health staff in training dons PPEs

#Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands – August 23, 2020 – It remains a mystery, the reason for the sudden departure of the two-year director of the National Public Health Laboratory, NPHL but today the Ministry of Health confirmed the contract of Samuel Johnson was indeed terminated on Friday August 14.

Already, the search is on for a new director explained the Ministry of Health in a statement to Magnetic Media on Saturday.

“The substantive Director post which recently became vacant, has been advertised in the latest recruitment batch as a part of TCIG’s recruitment programme.”

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In the past nine days, the Turks and Caicos has recorded 125 new cases of COVID-19; the spike and regular reports of offices and businesses having to close as a result of positive diagnoses of staff had also spiked concern about the timing of the termination.

 “…the National Public Health Laboratory continues to carry out testing as necessary under the leadership and direction of the Acting Director of the NPHL, Mr. Samajeo Williams, who is a TC Islander that is a highly trained and qualified Chief Medical Technologist.”

Samajeo Williams, new Director (Acting) National Public Health Laboratory (file)

Samajeo Williams, a Turks and Caicos Islands native, was added to the NPHL team in November, with glowing commendation from the Office of the Deputy Governor.  Williams is now the acting director.

“Mr. Williams, a former recipient of the ‘Best Performing Student’ award in 2007 (External Exams), completed his A-levels at the British West Indies Collegiate shortly after.  He later enrolled in Newcastle University in pursuit of a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology and Psychology which he completed in 2012.  In 2016, he graduated with Honours from the University of the West of England with a Bachelor’s of Science in Healthcare Science – Infection Sciences. While working as a registered Biomedical Scientist in the United Kingdom, Mr. Williams also attained the accreditation of a Specialist Biomedical Scientist in Microbiology.”

Manpower has been strained at the lab; a fact which has waylaid plans for progressive community testing. The National Public Health Laboratory is overwhelmed by the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic which has been 30 times worse than the first wave for the TCI.

A molehill has certainly turned to a mountain for the Turks and Caicos Islands as data exposes the country is currently averaging more cases per day, than the total number of positives charted in the entire first wave of the pandemic.

Between August 14 and August 22 – nine days – there have been 125 cases of COVID-19; that’s an average of 13 new cases per day. 

TCI Ministry of Health COVID-19 Dashboard – August 22

In the first wave, the Turks and Caicos recorded 12 positives for the coronavirus.

Over the same period, testing has been erratic, ranging from no tests done to as many as 168 tests performed in a single day.  The daily average for August 14-22 is 50 tests, which exceeds a previously divulged daily COVID-19 testing capacity of 47.

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Within the same period, the lab was able to inform that 48 people were recovered from the virus; from 54 recoveries charted on August 14 to now 102 patients who are COVID-19 free.

The rate of work at the NPHL appears to have not been stymied by the loss of the director given the data provided by the TCI Ministry of Health.

Still, the expeditious action to advertise the director vacancy underscores the need to shore up human resources at the lab, which is the key agency guiding and influencing national decisions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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.

Caribbean News

Grants for farmers

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#TurksandCaicos, January 31, 2023 – Good Morning to my colleagues in government, I recognize……..and most importantly good morning to the farmers. It is my pleasure today to have you here at this award ceremony.  For the very first time in Turks and Caicos, farmers are getting relief for hurricane damage.

This shows that the government is committed to ensuring that the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands have access to a constant and nutritious supply of food, reduce the food import bill and retain money in the local economy. Food Security is the foundation of all human needs. Given the threat to the global supply chain and growing inaccessibility to enough nutritious food, the Government is committed to supporting the farmers to produce local food, to supplement the food requirement of the country. My government’s priority is to provide an enabling environment, to facilitate local investment within the Agriculture Sector as outlined in the People’s Plan for Empowerment

In February last year (2022) my government launched the Agriculture Finance Support Programme (Agro-Grant Incentive). This Finance Support Program for farmers is the first program of this kind in the Turks and Caicos Islands and shows Government’s mandate is to invest heavily in local food production through providing financial support. My government has allocated US$250,000.00 in this first year to promote agriculture development. This Finance Program has 3 areas of support

  • Improvement Programmes – to upgrade farms, Existing registered farmers who wish to perform farm upgrades can receive a maximum of $20,000
  • New Farm Start Up/Young Entrepreneurs– For new or younger farmers between the ages of 18-25 years can receive a maximum of $15,000
  • Disaster Relief – this is specifically in response to National Natural Disasters “Acts of Nature” inclusive of earthquake, hurricane and storms and other approved natural disasters. The value of this grant will be 10% of the assessed damages (up to a maximum of $20,000 USD

To date 12 farmers have received grants in the first 2 categories. Today we are here to give disaster relief to those registered farmers who would have suffered from losses due to the passage of hurricane Fiona in September last year.

Government knows that Farming is an expensive business, farmers livelihood depends on the investment they make on their farms. We live in a small island state that is vulnerable to natural disasters such as hurricane. These disasters can have devastating effects on farms, destroying years of productive work and effort farmers would have put in.

Government in recognizing the important contribution farmers make to Food security and the vulnerabilities they face has moved into action to provide much needed support towards the rebuilding of the farms. Today 15 registered will be receiving funds for disaster relief to assist with their rebuilding efforts. This monies I know will be used for the purposes granted.

I want to thank my Cabinet colleagues and Premier for supporting the continued efforts to grow the Agriculture Sector.

My department of Agriculture recognizes farming is dynamic and as such has lobbied Cabinet for continued support. I am pleased to say that in August last year through a Cabinet Paper, government had approved amending the Agriculture Policy to provide full exemption of import duties for farm vehicles registered farmers can now apply through the department for this support. At that meeting we also agreed for the Department of Agriculture to develop a comprehensive Agro-Incentive Program to support farming in the TCI.

Once again I would like to commend the farmers who are benefiting today for their hard work and dedication and look forward to serving you as your minister

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New rules in place for Pleasure Crafts entering and leaving the TCI

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#TurksandCaicos, January 31, 2023 – As of 1st February 2023, the owner or master of a pleasure craft (like a yacht or other vessel for recreational use) before sailing to or from the Turks and Caicos Islands MUST use SailClear (www.sailclear.com) to submit information about their voyage to the Customs and Immigration at least 24 hours before arrival or departure.

SailClear is an online yachting clearance system designed to facilitate the clearance requirements of Customs and Immigration throughout participating regional territories. Registering for a user account is simple. Once an account has been activated a user can begin entering his voyage details and other information related to crew, passengers, weapons and stores. This submitted information is immediately available to Customs and other authorities.
SailClear allows the user to edit the information if travel plans change.

Arrival

On arrival, display the International Pratique Q-flag and travel directly to the port of entry to satisfy the face-to-face requirement.

Whether you are a returning resident or a visitor, you need to comply with the following entry requirements;

  1.  All persons onboard MUST have a valid passport and visa; if required;
  2. You MUST have the relevant permits for the importation of certain foods, animals and prescribed medicinal products, firearms and ammunition and explosives. TCI have strict laws to protect its citizens and the natural environment. Penalties may be imposed if you breach those laws by illegally importing prohibited or restricted items including cannabisinfused products, products containing cannabidiol derivatives, and any oils containing cannabidiol.
  3. You MUST declare cash or other negotiable instruments with a value over USD 10,000
  4. You MUST stay onboard until clearance is given. No person other than a Port Health, Customs and/or Immigration officer is allowed to board the vessel, nor can any person, animal or article leave the vessel until full clearance has been granted. It is an offence to go ashore without prior clearance. Depending on the arrival time, occupants of the vessel may be required to remain on board overnight before being cleared the following day.

In case of an emergency; medical, mechanical or adverse weather conditions, a notification must be submitted IMMEDIATELY on arrival by a crew member, passenger or agent. This will help in expediting the clearance process.
If there is a notifiable illness on board, the Department of Environment Health MUST be contacted via email at thinds@gov.tc and occupants of the vessel must comply with any instructions given.

Departure

Customs clearance is required before a pleasure craft can depart. This is available at any designated port. The owner, master or agent must submit a notice in advance through SailClear to avoid unnecessary delay. It is an offence to depart without clearance.
If you want to extend your stay in the Turks and Caicos Islands, it is the master, or agent’s responsibility to update the outbound notification in SailClear. You must also file a request with the Immigration Department to extend/change your leave to enter before your authorized stay expires.

Charges

The master must pay an inbound fee of USD 50.00 to Customs on arrival and an outbound fee of USD 50.00 to Customs for departure. An overtime Fee is charged if clearance is needed outside of working hours. Overtime Fees

Weekdays 6:00 a.m. – 8:00 a.m. $10.00 per hour
Weekdays 12:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. $10.00 per hour
Monday – Thursday 4:30 p.m. – Midnight $10.00 per hour
Friday 4:00 p.m. – Midnight $10.00 per hour
Weekdays Midnight – 6:00 a.m. $12.00 per hour
Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays $15.00 per hour

The Customs department encourages using credit/debit cards to pay fees as a swipe machine is available.

Failure to Report

The Customs Department and its law enforcement partners are actively monitoring Turks and Caicos Islands waters. Failure to submit an advance notice for arrival or departure to Customs may result in detention, seizure or forfeiture of your boat and/or monetary penalties.

If you fail to report, even if your purpose is non-discretionary (non-optional) such as to refuel, you may face severe penalties.

If you carry any goods for industrial or commercial purposes, your boat becomes a commercial vessel and is no longer a pleasure craft, for that entry. Different customs rules will apply.
For further information visit www.customs.gov.tc/travel

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Are we doing everything within our power in TCI, to avoid creating a school to prison pipeline?

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#TurksandCaicos, January 31, 2023 – These are harsh words to hear, but in a climate where it appears the jails are filling up faster then the schools, we must sound the alarm.

In any given year, we have hundreds of high school graduates leaving their comfort zones with absolutely nothing to do in these beautiful by nature islands.   A very small minority are able to find jobs. Some of the brilliant scholars are often lucky to be awarded the Chevening scholarship, while others may have families in a position to send them off to the local community college or abroad to continue their studies.  What about the majority who are not as fortunate? Where are the hands-on talent workshops available to assist students that may have fallen behind academically?

Building that school to college or trade talent pipeline to attract high school students before they complete their final year is of paramount. We have got to find better ways to augment a pathway forward on this.  Paring the immigration department with labor and offering free 2 year college tuition were both smart moves by this administration. It allows the department heads and leaders to work hand in hand to identify areas of need and be in a better position to bridge those needed gaps.

What more can be done for struggling parents or those where English may not be their first language? Challenges like this may put students at a disadvantage to excel or for parents to assist them academically.

Are there any available after school programs? Where there is hope for a better life and constructive things to do, our young people will not be attracted to senseless acts of violence.

Finding ways and means to help students identify and develop their skill sets earlier in life, will also help to prepare them for the next step in their career path.  What’s even more important, is for teachers and administrators to recognize when a student is screaming out for help; often times it’s mischaracterized as criminal mischief.

Students who are having behavioral issues at school may be coming from abusive or dysfunctional households. They may also have mental and/or emotional challenges, and need an intervention that is focused on their specific needs.  We should be doing everything within our power to avoid students from being exposed to the criminal justice system.

In order for a transformation like this to take place, it will certainly require more community-led solutions, parental involvement and stronger support and commitment from civic leaders.

What’s troubling to me and many others, is the rate of incarceration the country is currently experiencing, with many involving our youth. What will it take to shift this trajectory? Is trade school one of the long term solutions?  Just take a look around the country, the mechanism that’s driving our workforce are trade and service related jobs. We should be advocating more for studies in these areas.   Inherently, despite some of our youth being dealt a hard hand in life, most want to succeed; they just need an opportunity.

Many of our young men and women may not have any interest in attending college or university, but have acquired other skills over the years.  Therefore, what opportunities do we have for this segment of the population in terms of further education or trade?

I’m of the opinion, that there are many on-the-job workers who possess untapped skills that only need to be cultivated in their area of interest or expertise.

With that being said, offering vocational education will allow students and young adults to gain the necessary practical experience with a renewed focus in their chosen field of study or career path. This is something they may have otherwise never been able to achieve through traditional classroom learning in academia.

In the 2021 PNP manifesto under education, labor and employment, it clearly states their commitment to the following:

“Create learning opportunities for students that caters to different interest, strengths and learning needs as well as provide the diverse skills that the country requires”.

Henceforth, it’s my belief government should make further provisions to subsidize apprenticeships for our young people, so it becomes more then just platitudes.

Let’s give credit where credit is due, the previous administration was on the right track when a proposal was made to launch a vocational technical school. Unfortunately, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic may have hampered those efforts.

Nevertheless, the idea was brilliant! Let’s put politics aside, this current administration should continue to work extremely hard to embark on this initiative and see that it materializes. It is my belief the return on investment would be priceless.

So, how do we attract more foreign investors in this particular area?

It’s complicated because in most cases, foreign investors are looking for businesses that can generate the fastest return on their investments. With that in mind, it would be in the best interest of our country to offer huge incentives on initiatives such as this to make it more attractive to would be investors.

For example: Annually, a foreign company is hired to come in to train and certify our boat captains on primarily international boating standards.  Depending on the location and whether it’s a new or recertification, the cost could range anywhere from $360-$650 per person, in addition to travel and hotel accommodations.

With ecotourism being the bread and butter for TCI, in addition to having some of the best and brightest boat captains, perhaps this could be a customized curriculum or certification offered at a local trade school.   This particular curriculum should include but not limited to, local regulations best practices and navigational charts for local waters to help mariners better understand the skills they are learning.   This could also be a joint effort between the school, DECR/Fisheries department and TCI Sailing Association, with qualifying personnel to assist with facilitating such training.

Other courses of interest should be offered to include hospitality management, marine mechanics, welders, carpentry, AC technicians etc. Especially trade areas where it would give students an opportunity for apprenticeship on the islands.  Not only will we have a higher level of skilled workers and tradesmen, but it will help to alleviate the need for such high dependency on foreign labor force, in addition to providing a readily available recruitment source.

In short, it is of my opinion, alternative education should always trump building more prisons. Failure to see beyond the erection of hotels, motels and villas in these islands, will leave us with no alternative but to build more prisons. Wouldn’t that be a shame!

Let’s give our youth a fighting chance! As concerned citizens, we have a choice to make, stay silent or let our collective voices be heard. This is what helps to drive governments to action.

 

Ed Forbes,

Concerned citizen of Grand Turk 

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