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TCI Health Officials & Carnival will work on Post-Covid Protocols for Safe Cruising

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#TurksandCaicos, June 19, 2021 – The hope is that the crippling impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on the Travel and Tourism Industry is over.  Another hope is that as cruising resumes, every worst case scenario played out in table top exercises would have given governments and industry leaders advance solutions for a safe resumption of the cruise industry.   

“We have not been operating yet in the US. Our first ship will sail from the US, officially, in July.  You may have heard of some ships operating in the Caribbean home porting out of Bahamas and St Martin, but no one is cruising as yet, out of the US,” said Marie McKenzie, Senior VP of Government Relationships at Carnival Corporation. 

Carnival Cruise Line executives on Thursday evening, in speaking at a public meeting held in Grand Turk, gave assurances that the company has done well to build-in new safety protocols, with nearly a year and a half to re-calibrate.

“Not until recently, in late May, early June did the CDC really start working with us on the required protocols for us to operate,” explained Marie McKenzie. 

“During those 17 months, we have been making changes on our ships in order to have the facilities that to not only test or identify Covid cases but also to quarantine and do contract tracing if necessary, so today our ships – and frankly, I can honestly say, the entire industry – has done a lot of work to prepare the ships to be able to operate in the event that there is a Covid case on board.  For us to operate and never believe we will never have a Covid case is really not realistic; Covid is here to stay with us everyone.”

The Turks and Caicos Islands Government has also had to re-engineer what matters to visitors in terms of safety and what is necessary to keep the resident population out of Covid-19 danger.  Turks and Caicos has managed to reach impressively low levels of infections and high levels of vaccine uptake.

Statistically, the TCI has recorded 2,423 cases of the coronavirus, with nine cases currently active in Providenciales only.  The Ministry of Health informs, up to June 17, some 57 per cent of adults had received their first shot of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine.

“One of my roles today, and I will be working with the Hon Saunders (Minister of Health) – your Ministry of Health team.  We work with destinations to agree on what those protocols are for entry into your country.   So before a ship shows up here in Grand Turk, I would have worked closely with your health teams to make sure that not only are we meeting the CDC requirements to operate but also the requirements of the Turks and Caicos Islands.” 

At this stage, only operating businesses in Grand Turk are outfitted for new public health requirements in a post-Covid world; hand sanitisers, temperature testers, physical distancing markers, log books and signs requiring face coverings.  If these requirements continue in the final quarter of 2021, when the Government hopes cruising to Grand Turk will resume, then it means there is a vast body of work to be undertaken ahead of the ships’ return.

Mrs. Mckenzie explained that in her role as the liaison with the various Governments of Carnival cruise ports, she has already started having these meetings.  Carnival, she said, has confidently communicated their standards.

“Your government has already asked us to share what we are doing for protocols on board our ships so they can review that and determine when it is safe for us to return.  A ship is not just going to show up here, without addressing the realities of the world today, which is that we are living in a world with Covid.” 

Mrs. McKenzie, in response to a pointed question, informed that no protocols have been set for Grand Turk vendors who will either be stationed at the Cruise Center or those who will engage in activities with guests; decisions of that nature are going to be made in tandem with Governments. 

“It’s not a unilateral decision of Carnival; I can tell you the ones (destinations) we are visiting today we do not have a requirement that everyone that interacts with our guests must be vaccinated.  However, some destinations, their government is requiring that whoever is working in tourism or interacting with guests visiting their islands must be vaccinated.”

The reply was met with applause of many who attended the public meeting, held at the Parade Grounds.  Marie explained that Carnival Cruise Line, in all of its decisions is being guided by the science. 

“The reason we made the decision on the ships (for vaccinations), what’s really driving that is one, the CDC requirement –which I shared is the regulatory body which dictates how we operate – but the second reason we are doing that, is most destinations in the Caribbean are requiring that we have ships arrive with fully vaccinated persons.”

The last time a cruise ship was docked at the Grand Turk Cruise Center was March 6, 2020; the Carnival Magic came in but no guests were permitted to come off.

Crime

Warning! Pedophile loose in Provo; Hunt on for child sex stalker

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By Deandrea Hamilton

Editor

 

#TurksandCaicos, May 11, 2022 – A man, posing as a jitney driver, has sexually assaulted a school girl and now warnings are issued and police are on the hunt for the pedophile.

The information from the Royal TCI Police has been a double shocker; firstly because a letter was leaked exposing that officials were aware of the situation but there had not been more urgent notice the public and because the suspect is among us and is still at large.

The leaked communication was dated May 12, 2022.  It came from woman police, Irene Butterfield, Assistant Superintendent of the Royal TCI Police and was issued to Edgar Howell, the Director of Education for the Ministry of Education.

On Friday, that notice was shared with parents in English, Creole and Spanish.  It was leaked the day prior.

From the Police issued WARNING:  “The Safeguarding and Public Protection Unit is actively investigating a report of an unknown male who is operating what appears to be an illegal jitney.  H e picked up a school girl and subjected her to a sexual attack.  The victim is now safe and being cared for.  We are seeking the assistance of families and communities in disseminating this information that is of vital importance to both government and private schools to put measures in place for the safety of children after school.  Parents and guardians are asked to be aware and take precautions and make provisions for their children to be collected safely from schools by someone who is trusted and to desist from allowing their child / children to ride home in illegal jitneys.”

The original letter said the “Safeguarding and Public Protection Unit is actively investigating a report of an unknown male, ‘pedophile’ who is operating what can be an illegal jitney and frequents schools, picking up children and committing sexual acts.”

The Police was asking the Education Department to disseminate the information to all public and private schools so that parents were put on the alert.

While the letter is dated May 12, which was on Thursday, what  the public does not know is how long ago this investigation was opened; how many children would have been sexually assaulted and how intrusive were those attacks.

On Friday, the Royal TCI Police issued a statement and its contents lent more insight, but were extremely disturbing as the public now has official notice that a girl was sexually assaulted and it seems the attack was enormously traumatizing.

The victim is now safe and cared for says the Safeguarding unit and the male is unknown and was operating a jitney when the unsuspecting child climbed into the vehicle for what now can only be called a ride from hell.

“Se les pide a los padres y tutores que sean conscientes y tomen precauciones y hagan provisiones para que sus hijos sean recogidos de manera segura de las escuelas por alguien de confianza y que desistan de permitir que sus hijos viajen a casa en taxi colectivo ilegales. También se les pide a los padres y tutores que escuchen a sus hijos y les enseñen a no guardar secretos inseguros.”

This is the warning in Spanish and it also asks parents to ensure their children are not keeping secrets about what may have happened to them.

Make sure whoever is around your child, says the release, is a trusted person and to desist from allowing your children from riding in illegal jitneys.  You get in the tone of the statement, it is simply not worth the heartache and damage which can be done.  Specially trained officers are on standby to deal with these cases, when they present themselves and this includes confidentiality.

Sadly, in the absence of proper or sufficient legal public transportation, illegal jitneys, which are manned by unregistered and unknown individuals are a customary go to for thousands of residents who need to get around the island.  These jitneys are an illegal mode of public transport, but they operate unencumbered.  Legal community cabs are now in service, but the sector is slow growing, unable to meet the current transportation demands.

“Nou mande paran ak ak moun ki responsab yo tou pou koute pitit ou yo epi anseye yo pou yo pa kenbe sekrè ki pa an sekirite. Pifò abizè kiltive relasyon solid ak timoun yo anvan yo pwogrese pa yon ofans seksyèl. Souvan, yo kòmanse teste limit yon timoun lè yo aji nan yon fason ki pa apwopriye avèk yo tankou achte kado pou yo, ba yo lajan epi fè yo santi yo espesyal. Paran ak moun ki responsab yo ta dwe fè atansyon ak siy sa yo epi avèti lapolis. Inite Sovgad RTCIPF la gen ofisye ki resevwa fòmasyon espesyal ki pral trete nenpòt rapò avèk anpil konfyans. Yo pral koute w epi sipòte moun ki pi vilnerab yo.”

The largest portion of the expatriate community in Turks and Caicos is of Haitian origin; the warning in Creole calls for better stewardship of children even as parents try to get them to school and while there was no information provided on the perpetrator, there were numbers provided to contact the Unit.

Contact 232-6696 or 338-4013. 

“Parents and guardians are also asked to listen to your children and teach them not to keep unsafe secrets. Most abusers cultivate strong relationships with children before progressing to sexual offences. Often, they start by testing a child’s boundaries by being inappropriate in other ways such as buying them gifts, giving them money and making them feel special. Parents and guardians should look out for these signs and alert the police. The RTCIPF Safeguarding Unit has specially trained officers who will deal with any reports in strict confidence. They will listen to you and support those most vulnerable.”

Schools have now posted and issued the warnings to parents.

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Bahamas News

WHO says COVID deaths THREE TIMES higher

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

May 14, 2022 – Weeks ago the world marked an awful milestone 6 million COVID-19 deaths now the WHO says the real number may be almost three times higher.

In a recent press release the organization said new estimates from its data show that the full death toll or excess mortality associated directly or indirectly with the COVID-19 pandemic between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2021 was approximately 14.9 million but might be as high as 16.6 million.

The organization explained that,  “Excess mortality is calculated as the difference between the number of deaths that have occurred and the number that would be expected in the absence of the pandemic based on data from earlier years.”

Basically the excess mortality rate tells us how many people will be alive were it not for COVID. It is important to know what that figures including spikes associated with omicron are not included in this data set so the number could very well be higher.

“These sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director of the organization.

South-east Asia and the Americas were the worst hit by the pandemic in terms of death toll.

WHO data shows 20 countries, containing approximately 50% of the global population, account for over 80% of the estimated global excess mortality for the January 2020 to December 2021 period.

These countries are: Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Germany, India, Indonesia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Italy, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, the Russian Federation, South Africa, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United States of America (USA).

 

WHO COVID DEATHS Photo caption:  File photo in Jakarta;  at a time when there were fears about running out of space to bury its dead.

(Supplied: Arbain Rambey)

 

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TCI Opposition Leader ‘Missed’ A lot; Leader of Government Business delivers Roasting Rebuttal during Budget Debate

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By Deandrea Hamilton & Dana Malcolm

Editorial Staff

 

#TurksandCaicos, May 14, 2022 – With so many pages in a mammoth sized document which captures all of the national spending for the upcoming fiscal year, it is possible that the Leader of the Opposition missed important allocations.

When Edwin Astwood, Leader of the Opposition PDM stood to respond to the Budget Communication delivered on Tuesday May 3, he blasted the government for a number of areas he claimed was underfunded.

Akierra Missick, who is the Government’s Lead in the House of Assembly, rebutted his remarks and accusations as untrue and pointed to a lack of research and thorough examination of the Budget on Astwood’s part.

“Some amazing comments were shared by my colleague opposite, the Leader of the Opposition …he knows some facts need to be cleared up,” said Hon Akierra Misick, who is the Minister for Physical Planning and Infrastructure Development and the Member for the Long Bay and Leeward District of Providenciales.

During his submission on the Budget, there were harsh words about insufficient funding to the Royal TCI Police, however, the Minister said the statement is untrue.

“I heard the Police Commissioner himself say it during the Appropriations Committee, he has presented a Budget is accepted and adopted by the Executive, by the Budget Department, by the Ministry of Finance.  Of course there will always be a scope for increased funding in every single budget, in every single department but there must be a balance and National Security is a priority of this Administration and it is reflected in our budget because you would note, in the Budget Book the Police force funding for last financial year was $27 million this year it is increased to $31.5 million, which is an increase of $3.6 million.

So to say that that is not us putting our money where our mouth is just plain untrue,” said the Minister who defended spending on national and border security.

She also pointed out that the Opposition Leader must have missed the announcement of at least three new vessels.

“In the capitals projects pages he would note that there is a vessel for national security, secretariat alone; in the police budget he would note that there is a vessel for the police. In the DECR budget, there is a vessel for the DECR and maybe he missed it in the Capital Projects pages which shows that the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office of the UK Government is investing $1 million in the DECR equipment and resources to assist us in protecting our borders.”

She assured there is allocation for CCTV cameras and a whopping 229 percent increase in training for Police officers.

“Their increase in the training alone shows that we are pouring our time and energy into the resources of the police force to assist us in our national security goals. On the heels of that, my brother colleague must have missed that under the Border Force initiative, again contained in our Budget, we are installing two radar stations one in the North West Point area, one in the Leeward Long Bay area; again to assist with meeting our national security goals and needs.”

In respect of Edwin Astwood’s strong remarks on the infrastructural projects or lack thereof across constituencies, she said contrary to his statement work was being done in the constituencies citing the bridge in Salt Cay and, the dump in Wheeland and other projects in Blue Hills, Leeward and Long Bay.

An improvement identified by the minister, ‘street lighting.’

“I know it’s a big book.  I know the Appropriations Committee did the best that they could in the time that they had, so I’m not going to say that my colleague would have intentionally overlooked these vessels in the Budget Book during his presentation but as one who believes in consensus building and building bridges – like I did in Salt Cay, which I will talk about a little later on, ‘cause my brother doesn’t seem to have visited that part of his constituency in the last few weeks to see the work happening in Salt Cay- I’m here to build bridges and let you know we are putting our money, our energy and our time into national security, into police force training, into upgrades.”

She said her ministry was “co-sponsoring” on the construction of a law enforcement recruitment and training center, to the tune of $2 million and she reminded the LOO about several moratoriums to prioritize TCI Islanders’ employment opportunities.

“On the heels of genuine concerns that we would have had about Turks and Caicos Islander businesses having a true opportunity to bid for these larger scale construction works under the large contractors’ business license, the Ministry of Finance took the position that we would freeze large construction licenses that did not have a TC Islander majority ownership in them.

This provides us as Islanders another opportunity for us to get our affairs in order and be the movers and shakers and the builders of the bigger projects in these islands.”

Misick told the Speaker of the $2.3 million investment into smaller contractors and the ministry is seeking to incentivize the hiring of more Turks and Caicos Islanders in the construction industry.

Citing the support to entrepreneurs, the coming review to support livable wages and the cumulative millions directly to TCI homes through her government’s initiatives, Misick said these are a reflection that the Budget is “people centered.”

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