#Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands – October 10, 2020 – Residents are clinging to the hope that announcements about cash and food assistance in the midst of the coronavirus crisis are still on their way.
It has been a month since the Premier and Finance Minister unveiled a stimulus suite which included payouts to workers who had lost earnings during the Covid-19 lockdown and public service licensees, like taxi drivers who protested that they were not included in a first round of stimulus monies.
The Premier’s Office revealed it would manage food distribution to all 11,000 households across the Turks and Caicos and would bring breakthrough policy change to enable payments from the National Insurance Board (NIB) to its contributors who were unemployed or underemployed.
While the NIB unemployment and underemployment benefits require legislative change, Cabinet has already accepted the broadening of benefits schedule and the House of Assembly must now deliberate and vote on the measure.
Still, the silence since September 10 by Hon Sharlene Robinson, the Premier is deafening and the stall is becoming increasingly painful for households which have seen their individuals earnings plummet.
A press conference, where an update was expected was first postponed and then never materialized.
On September 18, an update from the Office of the Premier reiterated the need for support to residents who are suffering dire financial straits due to the drastic down turn in travel and tourism.
“We have an obligation to our people and we must help our people to survive during this period of great challenge experienced worldwide. Though our revenues are down and our monthly obligations are growing due to rising healthcare and COVID-19 related costs, as a Government, we are obligated to do what we can,” explained the Premier.
Laptops and electronic devices are duty-free to families and the Customs Department has approved suitable applicants for the concession. It was one of the stimulus supports uncorked on September 10.
“With schools switching to online learning as a result of the pandemic, this measure is to assist students. TCIG has provided tablets for many identified by educators and this initiative is to provide further support to parents and students in addition to support given by many private sector donors,” said Premier Robinson.
Previously, food help was coming from the Department of Social Services. On September 10, Premier Robinson had a major announcement which shifted who would provide groceries to families.
“A National Food Assistance Programme for All: 11,000 households throughout the TCI will benefit from this programme, with the exclusion of tourism properties. Those households will have an ability to opt out should they wish to. This will be fully funded by TCI Government under the Ministry of Finance but managed by the Office of the Premier, Local Government and Community Affairs through the assistance of volunteers.”
The ‘National Food Assistance Programme for All’ initiative was praised. To date, however, islanders have learned nothing new and heard nothing more.
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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