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TCI: PDM Leader Astwood chimes in on 200 Imported workers at Beaches Resort

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#TurksandCaicos, March 25, 2021 – “I was made aware of a WhatsApp message circulating in regards to Hon. Camillo Gonsalves, Minister of Finance, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, address in his Country’s Parliament that 200 Vincentians are to be hired for Sandals Resort in TCI and this is scheduled to occur in June/July of this year. Subsequent to Hon Musgrove’s response on this matter I have been contacted by a number of concern citizens seeking clarity of the PDM’s position on this.

When the PDM was elected in December 2016, there were no arrangements with Sandals/Beaches during our years as the Government to allow this Program; Not during my years as Minister of Border Control and Labour and not during the years the Ministry of Immigration, Citizenship, Labour and Employment was vested with the Hon. V. Delroy Williams.

On June 19, 2020 the Minister of Immigration, Citizenship, Labour and Employment placed a freeze on ALL first time work permits, which included both Senior and Lower level positions. This policy was still in place up until the PDM left office. We note the new Government has modified this policy to restrict first time work permits for mostly lower level positions.

On July 23, 2020 the Minister of Immigration, Citizenship, Labour and Employment reminded the general public that all persons whose work permits were not renewed or cancelled must leave the country. There were reminders of this over the next few months as persons were also reminded to register as unemployed in order to get first preference for jobs when they became available.

The across the board restriction on first time work permits, and the reminder for persons who were no longer work permit holders to leave the country was critical, because we as a Government were cognizant that there was significant economic fallout due to this pandemic. We recognized there were many Turks and Caicos Islanders in need of employment opportunities and they should not have to compete with work permit holders for the same opportunities.

While cross training can be beneficial, this arrangement, especially at this current time, should be reviewed closely to ensure it is beneficial to Turks and Caicos Islanders currently working in in the hospitality industry, and those TCIs who are currently seeking employment in the industry.

We believe that as the country continues to restore its economy, Turks and Caicos Islanders should be able to fully capitalize on all job openings and the 100% service charge implemented by the PDM Government.

The June/July 2021 timeline, these 200 persons are anticipated to arrive , as stated by Hon. Gonsalves, is around the same time when many of our students will be graduating from high school and university. Therefore, in addition to Turks and Caicos Islanders who are currently unemployed and underemployed, we will have recent high school and university graduates that will be seeking employment.

Where possible Beaches Resort TCI should fill those 200 available positions with Turks and Caicos Islanders.

I strongly suggest that the Government carries out a country wide employment registration drive to fully capture all Turks and Caicos Islanders who employment status has changed since the onset of this pandemic.  This should also be done in tandem of reviewing the Business Staffing Plans of companies to ensure Turks and Caicos Islanders are placed in positions which allows for upward mobility.

I also note the public statements from those in official quarters stating that this arrangement was agreed by the former PDM Administration and call on the PNP Government to publicly release any and all Agreements with Beaches as it relates to Immigration matters. The public has a right to have full clarity in this matter. In addition, I call on the PNP Government to fully clarify the contradictory reports given by Beaches who stated that it was working out the details with the new government and the Hon Minister Arlington Musgrove who says he will call a Meeting. There is an urgent need for full transparency and clarification on this matter.”

Education

Education Minister announces Platinum Partnerships for internet and tablet program amidst COVID surge

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By Shaniek Smith

Staff Writer

 

#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.

 

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Health

Over 5000 COVID cases on Cruises, CDC investigations launched

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#January 15, 2022 – Cruises have continued across the Americas despite the US Centers for Disease Control dire warning that even vaccinated individuals should be wary of them. Now the CDC informs that Coronavirus cases have been reported on every cruise ship sailing with passengers in U.S. waters.

According to the CDC, all 92 ships with passengers have met the threshold for investigation by the public health agency. In every case, the CDC has either started an investigation or has investigated.

Surges in Covid-19 on land have led to spikes on the high seas, revealed that update on Tuesday. Cases have rocketed from 162 in early December to 5,013 up to December 29th.

The CDC warned travellers including those who are vaccinated to avoid cruising in December, following the announcement videos surfaced of jam-packed cruise ships with unmasked passengers ringing in the New Year.

Meanwhile, Grand Turk is still welcoming cruise ships.  Eleven cruise ships are scheduled to dock at the Grand Turk Cruise Center throughout January, according to the port schedule.

Jamell Robinson, TCI Minister of Health has confirmed that ships have been allowed to dock in Grand Turk with positive COVID cases on board.

He said. “Now in each ship there are stations or places for isolation on board…Just because a vessel has people with Covid-19 on it doesn’t necessarily mean we wouldn’t allow them to disembark.”

The minister explained the number of positive cases recorded on cruise ships that had arrived in Grand Turk was .001 per cent of all guests and they were not allowed to disembark.

So far, Turks and Caicos has turned away at least one cruise liner due to fears of COVID exposure in the capital, which has gone from a handful of active cases to now 111, as of January 14.

The US Centers for Disease Control reported on Tuesday that COVID-19 cases on cruise ships have increased to 30 times what they were in mid-December.

 

 

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Health

New York, US Epicenter for Omicron “turning the corner”

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By Shanieka Smith

Staff Writer

 

#USA, January 15, 2022 – Today, New York is seeing a downward trend in Covid-19 cases, as officials revealed, “we are turning the corner” on Friday in updating on the state of affairs in the city, labelled the epicenter of omicron for the United States.

Before, data from the New York State Department of Health showed that the number of new coronavirus infections per 100,000 vaccinated residents in the State, rose from 29.8 in the first week of December to 222.3 last week.  Also, the rate of new cases in unvaccinated adults rose from 239.6 to 1,583.1 per 100,000.

New York is a key source market for the Turks and Caicos and much of the Caribbean, which is heavily reliant upon winter travellers.  The data showed, too, that vaccine effectiveness against severe infection remained high.

Only 4.59 fully vaccinated adults out of 100,000 were hospitalised with COVID-19 in the week of December 27.  However, that number increased, and the hospitalisation rate for the unvaccinated is nearly 13 times higher.

New York’s rolling positivity rate fell below 20% in recent days, but media reports indicate the death toll in the State hit a startling high of 195 for the first time since the mass vaccination rollout.

 

 

 

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