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TCI: From 11 to 30 COVID cases in a week

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#TurksandCaicos, July 20 2021 – One week ago, Turks and Caicos was at 11 active cases of the Coronavirus. Today, that figure has nearly tripled with 30 active cases and most of these new infections are guests to the country.

Nine new cases were recorded over the weekend; at least seven were tourists. When TCI was at 21 active cases on Friday; one person who caught the virus worked at the airport, one worked at a bank, three were from the Civil Service and 12 were tourists.

When the health minister, E. Jay Saunders held a press conference on Friday he informed that 40 per cent were male, 60 per cent female; most of the 21 infected were from the age group of 20 to 59, 75 per cent and the large majority had no idea they had Covid-19 because they were non symptomatic. 

While it may have been a bit more reassuring to hear – at that time – that most of those infected were in the tourist category; it was still concerning to learn that three people caught Covid-19 because they were in contact with an infected person. 

The other five cases were community spread; people whom the Department of Epidemiology could find no link to the current cases. 

Hon Saunders, Deputy Premier said there is concern though Health is neither panicked or surprised as the July 1 softening of restrictions allowed people to come together in party environments, which would naturally result in a spike. 

All of the new Covid-19 cases are charted for the island of Providenciales. 

Party Responsibly; Roll Back could be Rapped Back!

The current relaxed restrictions are not written in stone; residents could see the roll back, rapped back if cases were to begin an exponential boom. 

Deputy Premier E. Jay Saunders, who is also the Minister of Health on Friday assured there would be no change to the current curfew (which is set at 1 a.m.) or business operation hours, (which is midnight) and capacity rule (which is 70 per cent) if residents looked at Covid-19 control as a partnership and helped to keep numbers of infections down. 

The Minister is asking people to be responsible amidst the pandemic and there is still a pandemic going on. 

Cases are surging globally, again particularly as a result of the Delta variant which is 60 per cent more infectious.  Turks and Caicos, said Saunders has not seen the Delta variant.  What Turks and Caicos will see, however, is a departure of the Cuban medical brigade by the end of July and the hospital is now trying to find ways to fill the personnel gap this group leaving will create.

Currently, no one has had to be hospitalised for Covid-19 among the 30 new infections recorded.  Turks and Caicos’ daily increase remains in the single digits but if that were to change to double digits and grow to 30 to 50 cases active; then more stern restrictions will be re-introduced, promised the Minister.

Health Department needs boost; Contract Tracing not done on Tourist infections

At least three tourist families make up the cases of Covid-19 which have been recorded among guests to the Turks and Caicos Islands.  Such an unusual occurrence is this,  it has many asking questions including whether or not the guests were vaccinated and whether these guests were exposed to the coronavirus at the same resort or at the same event or while enjoying the same service. 

The latter fact is unknown, and in speaking with E. Jay Saunders the Minister of Health, Deputy Premier he revealed that the health team is concerned.  He also said, the fact that he is unable to report what is ground zero for these cases, exposes a defect.  That defect, is the Epidemiology Department must be better resourced so that it can carry out its contact tracing activities more vigorously.

Saunders says he is prepared to make the investment to improve the capacity of Epidemiology. 

So, at this stage… it is unclear if the three guest families are connected in any way, which could explain the anomaly.  None of the infected in this recent rash of new infections are break-out cases, which means the people now appearing as new infections for Turks and Caicos are all unvaccinated, said Hon Saunders.   

Caribbean News

CARPHA Receives Support to Further Strengthen its Capacity to Address Infectious Diseases Surveillance and Response in Member States

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#Trinidad&Tobago, May 17, 2022 – CARICOM Member States are poised to benefit from a fund to strengthen laboratory systems and networks, and human resources capacities in health sectors to accurately detect, characterize and treat infectious diseases.

Financing for the project “Strengthening Health Systems in CARICOM to Address Infectious Diseases” is provided by the Republic of Korea through the Republic of Korea-CARICOM (ROK-CARICOM) Cooperation Fund, through the CARICOM Secretariat. Under this grant valued at US$656,743, CARPHA will be able to execute a series of interventions to the benefit of its Member States.

The launch of the project took place on 13 May 2022, at the headquarters of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).  In attendance were the Honourable Terrence Deyalsingh, Minister of Health, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago; His Excellency Dongil Oh Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago; His Excellency Dr. Douglas Slater, Assistant Secretary-General Human and Social Development, Caribbean Community (CARICOM); and Mr Jinwoo Jung, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of the Republic of Korea to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

Speaking at the ceremony Dr. Lisa Indar, Director, Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control, brought remarks on behalf of Dr. Joy St John, Executive Director of CARPHA.  Dr. Lisa Indar expressed appreciation for the continued support of the Republic of Korea. She acknowledged the role played by the Korean Embassies in Venezuela, and in Trinidad and Tobago in accessing these resources under the Republic of Korea-CARICOM Cooperation Fund.  Dr. Indar highlighted the benefits of the project stating:  “The project will support Train the Trainer workshops in the Shipping of Infectious Substances conducted and certified by the International Air Transportation Association (IATA), as well as supporting the enhancement of biosafety and biosecurity measures in our Member States and the conduct of training under the Caribbean Regional Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programme (CR-FELTP).”

The project also enables the procurement of a KingFisher Flex Purification System and the required reagents, which will be housed at the CARPHA Medical Microbiology Laboratory.  This equipment is a primary step in the PCR process and will contribute to the CMML’s continued pandemic response for COVID-19 detection, as well as ongoing surveillance for diseases such as Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika viruses, and routine respiratory surveillance of influenza and non-influenza viruses.

In 2006 relations between the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Republic of Korea (RoK) were strengthened through the Agreement for the Establishment of a Consultation and Cooperation Mechanism between the Government of the CARICOM and the Republic of Korea.   Since then, there has been a steady growth in understanding and collaboration between CARICOM and the Republic of Korea.

“The Republic of Korea has been very responsive to the needs in our region, providing over 1.5 million US dollars’ worth of resources for Health Systems Strengthening to address Infectious Diseases and support for our regional COVID 19 pandemic response. This tangible demonstration of solidarity in health at a time of need was much appreciated,” stated Dr. Douglas Slater, Assistant Secretary-General, Human and Social Development, CARICOM, speaking on behalf of Dr. Carla Barnett, CARICOM Secretary General. He further stated “History will show that Korea was one of the first larger economies to reach out to us in our time of need, an action we cannot and will not forget.”

In his remarks, His Excellency Dongil Oh, Ambassador of The Republic of Korea to the Republic of Trinidad underscored CARPHA’s role of converging the various Health Ministries and capacity-building for medical staff across CARICOM Member States, which has been central to responding and mitigating the health and socio-economic effects of COVID-19 in the Region. He added “I am firmly convinced that this project will serve as a critical stepping stone for CARICOM Member States to bring infectious diseases under control.”

Speaking at the ceremony Honourable Terrence Deyalsingh, Minister of Health, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago praised the work of CARPHA during the COVID-19 pandemic.  “The launch of a project of this kind underlines the need to establish robust and resilient healthcare systems in the CARICOM region. This partnership with the Republic of Korea will help us strengthen  not only a national response in Trinidad and Tobago, but also a CARICOM response”.  He added “Strong healthcare systems bolster, not only the supply and delivery of quality healthcare to CARICOM residents and citizens, but can curb the potential detrimental and irrevocable effects of current and future pandemics.”

Currently, CARPHA is executing another project funded by the Republic of Korea.  Through a Memorandum of Understanding with CARICOM, CARPHA is procuring personal protective equipment (PPEs) for nine (9) of its Member States valued at US$400,000 which is part of a larger support of US$1M provided to 15 Caribbean Countries.

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Health

Department of Mental Health & Substance Dependence Launches New Mental Health Month Observance

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#TurksandCaicos, May 16, 2022 – In accordance with its mission to provide access to quality services, and advocate for the mental health and substance use needs of individuals of all ages in the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Department of Mental Health & Substance Dependence will host the first annual, Mental Health Awareness Month starting May 1st -31st 2022.

Mental Health conditions affect individuals, families and entire communities. Unfortunately, some individuals are reluctant to reach out for help due to stigma and the harsh negative perceptions surrounding mental illnesses. Around the world, people with mental illnesses also experience disparities in income, employment, education, homelessness, and most tragically – life expectancy. Outdated misperceptions, myths, and prejudice lead to many of these outcomes.

Mental Health Month is an opportune time to increase awareness about any and all barriers that make it difficult for persons to access help and to seek to dismantle them. The theme chosen for the month of May is “Together for Mental Health”.

 “If we are going to be successful in ensuring that all persons suffering in our communities with mental disorders are helped, it will take a concerted effort. It will take all of us joining together to make this happen” – Dr. Alicia Malcolm, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Dependence”.  

Over the past 10 years, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Dependence (DMHSD) within the Ministry of Health and Human Services has led numerous initiatives to improve the lives of people living with mental health conditions and to promote acceptance, support, prevention and recovery from mental disorders. These include:

  • The Development of a National Suicide Prevention Plan 2019-2028
  • The Development of the Mental Health Ordinance 2016
  • Mental Health Telehealth Services
  • Virtual Grief Support Group Sessions
  • Construction of a Mental Health Facility which is set to open in 2022
  • Mental Health training for various stakeholder groups
  • Development of the Department’s website and social media pages
  • Production of numerous videos and PSA’s

Mental Health Month gives us all a valuable opportunity to reflect and celebrate the tremendous strides this country has made in promoting mental health and increasing the public’s knowledge that effective services and support are available.

During the month of May, DMHSD will bring awareness through videos, educational digital materials, social media engagement and community activities.

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Education

Masks on for Students in TCI, Education extends face covering rule

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, May 14, 2022 – Mask mandates may have been dropped throughout the country but students will have to continue to mask up for classes for the foreseeable future.

The Ministry of Education has extended the mask mandates for students in school, alerting institutions of the decision just this week.

Students will be made to keep their masks on until the end of the school year in July.

Another defence in the ongoing Coronaivurs Pandemic, is the Ministry of Health’s increasing push for child vaccinations against Covid-19.

Vaccines for children ages 6-11 are now available in the TCI, however uptake has been low.

The Education Ministry has not released any communication on precisely why the mask mandates are being extended for students but the decision comes following a rise in Covid-19 cases on the islands.

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