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Thorough Report on Connolly’s Ministerial Portfolio in the HOA by new Tourism Leader

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#TurksandCaicos, April 2, 2021 – House of Assembly held a session on Tuesday March 30, but it was during the March 22, 2021 meeting the nation heard from Tourism & Environment Minister, Josephine Connolly who said there is already preparation ongoing on ways to enhance the speed of service of the TCI Assured portal.

“Mr. Speaker, the Ministry and Tourist Board spent most of the last year very much involved with the COVID 19 response and the setting up and management of the TCI Assured Portal. Mr. Speaker the portal continues to assess persons entering the country to avoid the importation of COVID 19. In the coming weeks, we will assess the workings of the portal and work with the Ministry of Health to review the current entry protocols.

Mr. Speaker we expect that over the next few weeks the arrival rates from the United States will increase. Although they will not meet the pre COVID 19 figures, with increases in vaccination it means that we must determine how we will manage the portal in the coming months,” said Minister Connolly who was reporting following a string of departmental debriefings within her ministerial portfolio.

Minister Connolly said new promotions for Turks and Caicos have been launched in partnership with the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, even as the US continues to discourage non-essential travel and as Joe Biden, President of the US, this week announced a fourth wave of COVID infection for the States is looming. 

TCI is working the safe and secure destination angle in its promotions said the Minister, who also encouraged vaccination. 

“Although, Mr. Speaker we know we will not meet the pre COVID numbers, we are still encouraged that the numbers regarding arrivals show increases in arrival. This is not for us to let our guard down. Mr. Speaker we are promoting our islands as a safe and secure destination with clear pre-arrival protocols and a vaccination program. We continue to encourage everyone to get vaccinated. This act helps you and helps our country as well. It will put us on the map as a country that doing all it can to prevent and protect against the spread of COVID 19. Get vaccinated!”

With social gatherings still banned under current health protocols, the Fish Fry, which was successfully staged at the Bight beachside Park is not able to be held, however, when the weekly native show and marketplace does resume, it will be at a new location in Providenciales. 

“I should mention that I was also briefed on the future of the Fish Fry. The Fish Fry is a staple for visitors and residents. Several factors including COVID 19 has put the Fish Fry on hold. I am informed of discussions and decisions on a new site for the Fish Fry and in the coming weeks will be discussing this matter so that we make the best decision possible on the suitability of a new site and timelines to achieve our objectives for this,” informed Minister Connolly.

The Gaming sector is under pressure to morph to a Commission ahead of the expanded casino and gaming landscape which is coming as a result of the RitzCarlton resort due to be completed construction in four months.  Also the Minister for Gaming, Josephine Connolly revealed that the transition to a Gaming Commission is frustrated by a lack of capacity. 

“Mr. Speaker, I am currently continuing my review of this program, I am working toward a speedy placement of key personnel and reviewing several matters to ensure that the Gaming sector is on the right footing.”

The Minister who gave the report in the House of Assembly session on Tourism, Environment & Coastal Resources, the National Trust, Environment & Maritime Affairs, Disaster Management and Emergencies and Gaming said debriefings with each of her departments have been enlightening. 

She said the National Trust needs support with Marketing and Public Relations as culture becomes more intertwined with Heritage for cultural preservation, she commended the DDME as one of the best run government engines but informed that improvements in voluntary support, early warning and communications systems and erasing the issues surrounding shelter management are among her focuses there. 

“Mr. Speaker my aim would be to ensure that we address the shelter management issues and that we establish systems to improve early warnings, stronger volunteer involvement, and communication systems that will ensure that we can communicate throughout a disaster and immediately following. Mr. Speaker the evidence is there that for an effective disaster management response, everyone has to be involved and see themselves as part of the solution.”

Meetings are planned over the next few weeks to establish the Throne Speech promise of organising and expanding the fishing industry – the country’s third industry and the Maritime sector needs new laws, said Minister Josephine Connolly.

“Mr. Speaker my aim is to ensure that the new laws that are drafted are at the top of our Legislative agenda. These new laws will help to modernize the Maritime Sector and improve the safety and security issues surrounding our boats and ship register. Mr. Speaker I am pleased at the effort that the new Director and her team have put in to make sure the Department is ready for the Maritime Audit of our Industry. We aim to marry this industry more strongly with our fishing industry and ensure that the resources that are needed are in place.”

Adding to this, it was explained:  “Mr. Speaker during the next few weeks I will be meeting with representatives from the Fisheries Advisory Committee, the Fishing Corp and all other stakeholder and interest groups. These groups are important to our vision of inclusiveness. I am looking forward to meeting with them and together designing a way forward.”

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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