TCI News

PCR Testing crisis; Gov’t low priority for travellers leaves terminated work permit holders stuck in TCI

File photo: Covid 19 Testing in UK from UK.gov

#Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands – September 2, 2020 — Work permit holders and other travelers who wish to leave the Turks and Caicos are stuck because of increasingly stringent airline and country entry requirements which demand a negative COVID-19 PCR test.

Individuals who need to travel are prepared to undergo the requisite test locally, even at a cost but the Ministry of Health is not prioritizing these requests and has yet to authorize any private laboratory in order to fill the void.

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It is a vexing dilemma, explained veteran travel agency Marco Travel.

“It is a very serious problem here in the Turks and Caicos.  We also have people who would just like to be tested for their own peace of mind.  It is impossible to get onto a flight now without the negative for COVID-19 and it is forcing people who are legally supposed to leave to be here without a job, without any way to make a living,” said Chloe Zimmerman, CEO, Marco Travel.

During a Ministry of Health press conference on August 26, the Health Minister Edwin Astwood informed that Accu Diagnostic had been assisting the Ministry with testing for the coronavirus.

Less than a week later, on August 31, the Ministry issued a statement informing that only its Public Health Laboratory is authorized as an up to standard testing facility within the Turks and Caicos Islands.

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“At this time, no lab other than the National Public Health Laboratory has completed all of the requirements for performing Covid-19 testing.” It went on to warn, “Any testing which is carried out without the relevant written approval of the Ministry of Health is considered an offence in accordance with the Public and Environmental Health (Testing of COVID-19) Regulations 2020.”

It was a confusing contradiction. 

Magnetic Media obtained this explanation from Minister Astwood on September 1.

“Accu laboratory has been reporting positive results to the Ministry from last week and in speaking with the owner/director they have to replace a filter on their biosafety cabinet, then have it recertified, and submit the certification report to the Ministry for signing off.  They informed me that this task is scheduled to be undertaken and completed today, and is hoping to in operation soon after and persons will be at liberty to seek their services,” said Edwin Astwood, Minister of Health.

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Accu Diagnostics seems to be mere inches away from full confirmation, and has been nearly there before. 

Still, until this or any other facility is approved as a government endorsed facility, the Ministry of Health could be accused of holding up international travel for its own citizens, legal residents and yes, now illegal residents who make up the hundreds furloughed or fired as a result of the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Residents have expressed that government must take a more energised approach to ensuring there are private testing centers and/or laboratories established in the Turks and Caicos to assist with the critical testing during the pandemic.

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