Caribbean News

Unhappy Anniversary

#TurksandCaicos, February 5, 2021 – This week, one year ago, the Turks and Caicos Ministry of Health held its first press conference informing on the newly detected virus we now know as Covid-19. 

“Thank you for being here for this press conference on viruses that may or potential viruses that can affect us here in the Turks and Caicos Islands.  We have a team from the Ministry of Health here and also we have Dr. Braithwaite-Tennant from InterHealth Canada, TCI Hospitals. 

We have the director of Environmental Health, the acting director of Health Service and the director of disaster prevention training and myself as the Minister of Health,” said Hon Edwin Astwood on January 31, 2020 when he made himself and a team of health officials available to respond to questions on the very novel, Novel Coronavirus which was at the time clawing its way to the top of all news reports around the world.

“We are closely monitoring what is going on with this virus, this new strain of the coronavirus which is happening here and around the world. From January 20, the Ministry of Health had put out our first release.”

Looking back, it is clear from very early on, there was criticism from members of the Public about the perceived lack of information coming from the Ministry regarding the coronavirus.  Minister Astwood defended the team and offered that news interviews had been given, supplies were being ordered and Cabinet had already met on the TCI’s early response to the contagion.

“Cabinet paper reached Cabinet this week.  For extra manpower, whatever supplies that we think may come up in the even this virus reaches our shores.”

Well the virus did arrive.  The first recorded case was on March 23, 2020; said to be a visitor from Italy who mysteriously vanished and about whom no one ever really knew anything about.

At that time, first case individuals were called “Patient Zero”; however this initial positive for the coronavirus in Turks and Caicos did not appear to have contact with those presenting in future positive diagnoses for COVID in the territory.

The country has since recorded 1,590 cases; nine people have died within the Turks and Caicos and the country has lost citizens living or being treated abroad to Covid-19. 

Covid has stifled growth, smothered civil liberties, turned working parents into teachers as schools remain on a virtual learning system and shoved the economy into a recession, officially marked by the Ministry of Finance in October 2020. 

Findings of an economic study, published online in January 2021 reveal that it has cost the Turks and Caicos $452,466,000; nearly half a billion dollars in a hit to tourism. 

“The Turks and Caicos Islands closed its borders to tourists from 23rd March 2020 until 22nd July 2020, resulting in the collection of islands becoming the country to face GDP losses of 37.8%. The Turks and Caicos economy is majoritively dependent on US tourism visiting the luxury holiday destination, meaning this travel ban alone is thought to have cost the country an estimated $22 million a month.” – According to Official ESAT, which conducted a study of the financial toll of the pandemic to travel and tourism worldwide.

Turks and Caicos ranks number three for highest GDP loss, globally, according to this study. 

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