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TCI Gov’t & Beaches mediation to start Nov 18; another delay looms in re-opening of the resort

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Beaches Resort Turks and Caicos with Covid19 signage in place for proposed Nov 18 opening; Photo by Magnetic Medai

#Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands – October 25, 2020 — The reopening date of Beaches Resort Turks and Caicos may again be delayed as the Turks and Caicos Islands Government (TCIG) will not be ready for sessions to resolve the multi-million tax dispute until November 18. 

A mediator is selected and while the unnamed Queen’s Counsel attorney-at-law has said he can accommodate meetings from November 8, TCIG is unable to make the date. 

November 18 is the day Beaches Turks and Caicos is scheduled to reopen.  Beaches Resort has announced that it will not reopen, however, until their matter is resolved.

The Premier – in speaking to media – asked Beaches Resort to stop bashing the Turks and Caicos Islands Government; Beaches in effect is saying ‘no’ to relenting on its robust language and unflattering characterisations of TCIG’s handling of the ongoing legal matter with the release on Saturday (Oct 24) of yet another strongly worded statement.

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“Heartless, vindictive and incompetent is what the TCIG have proven themselves to be. Their eyes are blind and their ears are deaf to the extreme hardship and suffering of the citizens of the TCI,” said Beaches Resort Turks and Caicos, which added, “The TCIG advised that they are not available until November 18, 2020. Even after the mediation, Beaches understands that the matter will then need to go to the House and Cabinet for approval. The end does not appear to be in sight.”

It is a volley of high voltage remarks which is polorising the people of the Turks and Caicos who either find the lingering impasse, irritating or irrational.

Beaches Resort continues to point to government inaction as inexcusable and its Board refuses to reopen without the multi-million dollar tax  row being settled.  It is a reality which has caused negative economic ripples as other major resort employers remain closed, airline arrivals are jeopardized and the thousands who depend on tourism and the consumption, services and entertainment linked to it, are financially depressed.

“Beaches for four years has been waiting for the Government to resolve a very simple matter in a fair and equitable way. Beaches made themselves available for mediation the week of November 8. Given the seriousness of the matter, we would have thought that the TCIG would have made themselves available at the earliest opportunity – any responsible and caring government certainly would have.”

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Some residents are cringing at the labelling and one comment circulated on WhatsApp captures the tone of those who believe Beaches Resort has gone too far.

[SIC]“Beaches benefitting more from us, than us from them.  They’ve exploited us wayyy too long bringing in their staff from JA.  Trust me another company ready to take yah place Beaches you get too demanding.  You’re too cocky.  Yu need us.  We don’t depend on you.  We are the most sought after you know that.”

But has the resort and investor overstepped its boundaries? 

Those urging a resolve to the matter are dumbfounded at the lack of expediency on the part of Government given how much is at stake.

 The Turks and Caicos Hotel and Tourism Association, on October 21 said this:   “The effects of this unfortunate situation have the potential to be far-reaching. At an extremely fragile time where all Caribbean countries are fighting for the rebounding of their tourism product, travel partner confidence is essential. Unfortunately, this can be quickly lost with our partners, with frustrations being felt by those working diligently to sell Turks and Caicos to a limited market, only to have to manage cancellations with no real answers to provide to travelers.”

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The Turks and Caicos on October 1, officially entered a recession according to Premier and Finance Minister Sharlene Robinson.  It is also true that the Turks and Caicos, has been ranked #1 in the world – according to the World Travel & Tourism Council – for having lost the most earnings, percentage wise, as a result of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on travel and tourism. 

Given these unprecedented circumstances; the plummeting cash in the Public Purse and the insistence by the TCIG that Beaches Resort does indeed owe over $25 million in unpaid taxes, many had hoped for more immediate movement toward mediation.

Health

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

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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

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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  

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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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