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Caribbean News

Trinidad and Tobago has First Confirmed Case of UK COVID-19 Variant



Port of Spain, PRESS RELEASE (January 25, 2021) – The Ministry of Health (on January 21) advised the population that Trinidad and Tobago has its first confirmed case of the COVID-19 Variant of Concern (UK) – Variant B117.

The patient is a returned national who travelled from the United Kingdom.  As per existing quarantine protocols, the national provided a negative PCR test which was taken 72-hours prior to departure from the United Kingdom. Upon arrival in Trinidad and Tobago, the national was immediately placed in state quarantine, in a single room. The patient was transferred directly to an isolation area at the Couva Hospital and Multi-training Facility once the positive COVID-19 result was confirmed.

The presence of the variant was confirmed via a gene sequencing study at the Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of the West Indies, which has been testing COVID-19 positive samples collected since September 2020.

The population is reminded that previously, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago updated its quarantine protocols for retuning nationals from the United Kingdom from 7 days to 14 days state quarantine. This protocol will continue to be implemented and returning nationals from all other high-risk countries will be subject to 7 days state quarantine and 7 days home quarantine.

Members of the public are asked to note that research has suggested that this strain of     COVID-19 is more easily spread from person to person than previous strains (estimated to be  50% more transmissible).

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Caribbean News

Building community, economic, and environmental resilience through the Turks and Caicos Islands’ Covid-19 recovery



TCI community survey released as part of a new project launching



#TurksandCaicos, January 25, 2023 – The social, economic, and environmental impact of Covid-19 in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) is the focus of a community survey being officially launched today as part of a new European Union funded project: Resilient Community Recovery from Covid-19 in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The TCI Government Department of Environment and Coastal Resources (DECR) and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) are working together with key project partners, including the TCI Fishing Co-operative, TCI National Trust, and Invest Turks and Caicos, to identify sustainable livelihood ventures that simultaneously improve the natural environment and provide opportunities for the people of TCI to establish new skills and job opportunities.

This project has been funded through a €939,422 grant from The Caribbean Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) Resilience, Sustainable Energy and Marine Biodiversity Programme (RESEMBID), a €40M programme financed by the European Union and implemented by Expertise France, the development cooperation agency of France.

The community survey released today will help to inform the development of training programmes to reach at least 150 community members across the islands through a locally led Community Hub established by the project.

The experiences of businesses in TCI will also be collected in a separate survey to understand how different sectors have been affected by the pandemic and to collect ideas for building a more resilient economy. This survey will inform the development of a Natural Capital Investment Plan to signpost opportunities for sustainable investment in TCI.

According to visa service provider Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), TCI experienced a US$452 million loss from tourism revenue during the pandemic, reducing the economy by 23%. Reductions in tourist activity at the start of the pandemic and measures such as social distancing impacted job opportunities in the tourism sector and industries that depend on tourists, including local fisheries that rely on the demand from hotels and restaurants.

Whilst tourism has resumed in 2022, TCI continues to be affected by Covid-19. The tourism and fishing industries are still some of the most vulnerable to future hazards. This project will identify training opportunities to diversify the economy in both new and existing sectors, to help TCI build back from the pandemic in an environmentally conscious and resilient way.

DECR Director Lormeka Williams, MSc, said:

“The Department of Environment and Coastal Resources’ remit has expanded with the responsibility of Climate Change; and the environmental and climate pressures following the Covid-19 Pandemic have shown considerable impact in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The RESEMBID Resilient Community Recovery from Covid-19 in the Turks and Caicos Islands project is supporting needs for skills training and development within and beyond the Department, to help us recover more sustainably and responsibly from the Pandemic. We look forward to the positive effects and impacts the project will have on those affected by the Pandemic.”

TCI Fishing Cooperative Chair Pastor Oscar Talbot, said:

“We are grateful to be a part of this project, as it highlights the importance of sustaining livelihoods post Covid-19 and beyond of the most vulnerable.”

Dr. Gemma Harper, Chief Executive at JNCC said:

“JNCC is delighted to support this project with our partners in the Turks and Caicos Islands. This project will assess the impact of Covid-19 to build the resilience of the Turks and Caicos Islands’ communities, economy and environment against future disruption. Crucially, local communities and businesses are invited to share their experiences of the pandemic through surveys launched today to shape their islands’ recovery. We look forward to supporting TCI’s communities in creating novel opportunities for sustainable livelihoods through this work.”

This project provides the people of TCI with a unique opportunity to shape the islands’ economic and environmental recovery from Covid-19 to create a more secure and sustainable future. To find out more or to complete the surveys, please visit the project webpage or contact for more information.

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Caribbean News

US Coast Guard rescues 55 migrants near Puerto Rico; activity in Mona Passage high



By Sherrica Thompson

Staff Writer



#USA, January 25, 2023 – The US Coast Guard is again warning migrants against illegal voyages by sea as 55 migrants were rescued on Thursday, January 19, after being abandoned and stranded by smugglers on an uninhabited natural reserve of Monito Island in Puerto Rico.

US Coast Guard said the survivors consisted of forty-five (45) men and nine (9) women claiming Haitian nationality, and one man who claimed to be a Cuban national.  All 55 migrants were transferred to Ramey Sector Border Patrol Agents in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.

The rescue involved efforts and coordination with Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG) partner agencies.

According to the  US Coast Guard, watch standers in San Juan, Puerto Rico, received a communication from the aircrew of a Coast Guard HC-144 aircraft during a maritime patrol in the Mona Passage Monday night of a group of people stranded on the rocky cliffs of Monito Island located just off Mona Island, Puerto Rico. 

“Heavy sea-state conditions of six-to-eight-foot seas and the difficulty of accessing the ocean cliffs prevented rescue efforts from taking place until Thursday morning.   Once sea-state and wind conditions improved, the cutter Heriberto Hernandez’s Over the Horizon boat safely approached Monito Island,” the agency explained in a press release.

“The Coast Guard crew provided lifejackets to the group before each migrant took their turns jumping into the water while holding onto a heaving line that was used by the crew to recover them from the water.”

Commander of Coast Guard Sector for San Juan, Captain José E. Díaz, while commenting on the danger of these voyages, urged those thinking of taking part in an illegal voyage across the Mona Passage not to do so by sea.

“The dangers of illegal voyages in the Mona Passage are exponentially increased when smugglers leave their passengers abandoned for days in austere and dangerous environments like Monito Island,” Díaz said.

Adding that: “Most do not realize the danger they are in until it is too late, as these voyages often take place aboard makeshift and grossly overloaded vessels with no lifesaving equipment. If you are thinking of taking part in an illegal voyage across the Mona Passage, do not take to the sea! It may save your life or the life of your loved ones!”

Since October 1, 2022, through December 31, 2022, the Coast Guard has carried out 14 interdictions in the Mona Passage and waters near Puerto Rico of illegal voyagers.

The US Coast Guard noted that 419 non-U.S. citizens, including 327 Dominicans, 91 Haitians and one unknown nationality, were interdicted during this period.

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Bahamas News

Bahamas takes in 396 Haitian migrants; shocking interception



By Sherrica Thompson

Staff Writer




#TheBahamas, January 25, 2023 – In what is being described by Bahamian officials as one of the largest human smuggling incidents in the region, 394 Haitian migrants were intercepted by the United States Coast Guard near Cay Sal Island on Saturday, January 21.

According to immigration officials in The Bahamas, the migrants will be processed on the island of Inagua and later repatriated.

US Coast Guard spokeswoman Nicole Groll described the condition of the intercepted boat to the Associated Press on Monday. She said, “it was grossly overloaded and very much unsafe.”

The officials did not provide any further information on the matter.

The recent apprehension brings the total number of Haitian migrants intercepted in Bahamian waters since the start of the year to just over five hundred (500) persons.

Due to the worsening humanitarian, a surge in gang violence and deepening political instability in Haiti, thousands of Haitians are fleeing their country in search of a better life for themselves and family.

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