#TurksandCaicos, August 27, 2021 – The wall of defence which approved vaccines had given to their takers has been compromised, significantly. Health agencies around the world continue to warn that the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines has been cut down, 30 to 60 per cent since the emergence and insurgence of the delta strain of the coronavirus. While the continually changing facts about the virus and the vaccine have caused a boom in uptake, it has also resulted in increased skepticism about the integrity of information.
Doctors speaking to the Turks and Caicos general public however advise waiting or rejecting the vaccine is a dangerous posture to take.
Dr. Denise Braithwaite Tennant, CEO of the TCI hospitals was, on Wednesday night during a press conference, adamant that the vaccine still holds up with an 88 per cent rate of keeping you out of hospital and an over 90 per cent rate of keeping you from dying as a result of this fittest and fastest mutation.
“Fifty-six per cent of those patients required high-flow oxygen to care for them along with our other therapies and 44 per cent required use of the ventilator. That is high.”
The Turks and Caicos Islands Government (TCIG) still struggles to reach its initial target of a 70 per cent vaccination rate, on the way to herd immunity of 85 per cent. The marks are missed as vaccine interest has waned.
“Despite the accessibility of the vaccine throughout the country to residents, including 12 to 15 year olds the pace of the vaccine roll out has significantly slowed in recent weeks despite our best efforts. An analysis of the data captured in our electronic immunisation register highlights that approximately 35.8 per cent of 16-24 years age group, 39.4 per cent having received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine,” said Dr. Nadia Astwood, TCI Chief Medical Officer (CMO).
The CMO informed this group is concerning as the youth are more likely to flout health protocols like mask wearing and are the ones populating social gatherings. The CMO believes the high un-vaccinated rate has the potential to hurt a return to face-to-face learning at school.
Dr. Braithwaite Tenant shared demographics of some of the more recent hospital cases including 60 per cent being under 60 years old, 70 per cent being women and 70 per cent having pre-existing conditions like hypertension, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Turks and Caicos hospitals has been supported by Government in a temporary human resource solution, as it struggles to identify long-term medical staff.
“We have the continued support of the Cuban brigade with us, which helps us with our buffer supply. We have had progressive recruitment of our nurses to hire. We’ve been in Canada, the UK however we have aggressive ongoing recruitment to replace these vacancies.”
The motivation for her passionate plea for residents to get vaccinated emerged from health report on the current situation in Turks and Caicos amidst what was confirmed as the “third wave” of the coronavirus. Knowledge shared about the herculean task to get TCI residents to medical treatment abroad coupled with an over capacity Providenciales medical facility are hoped to move more people to get the jab.
“I would like to thank the team at the National Health Insurance Board , who worked around the clock, under challenging circumstances to find ICU care and ICU beds for our patients when the hospitals in their networks were themselves, experiencing their own demands to provide care to their community,” she said as more light is now being shed on the chronic threat which exists to the Medical Treatment Abroad Program.
Dr. Denise Braithwaite-Tenant, informed her main facility is at 105 per cent capacity and while the majority of the beds are not taken up by Covid 19 patients, they are still full.
“You can see that during this pandemic with its peaks and troughs, bed capacity is often challenged as a result of the increased hospitalisations and surges. It’s very important that you are aware and kept abreast because I hope this information will help you to make a decision about the Covid-19 vaccine and the importance it plays – as Dr. Astwood mentioned earlier – in the reduction of hospitalisations and the saving of lives to protect our small, but very hearty health care system and hospital.” said Dr. Braithwaite-Tenant.
The Cheshire Hall Medical Centre (CHMC) located in Providenciales is a 20-bed facility; currently 21 of those beds were, up to Wednesday, occupied. The Cockburn Town Medical Centre (CTMC) in Grand Turk is a 10 bed facility; 90 per cent of capacity is currently in use. Both centres have sufficient oxygen supply, using the newly installed oxygen generation system which has been a major stride in TCI health care.
“However, we do have our expansion beds available both in our day room and our outpatient; extra beds have already been pre-deployed and they are available,” she said about the Providenciales hospital.
One of three COVID patients at the CHMC had to be medically evacuated; the remaining patients were undergoing oxygen and other therapies. As many as eight have had to be put on ventilator, 56 per cent of the COVID patients have needed high flow oxygen and 70 per cent of those hospitalised with the coronavirus have been women.
Turks and Caicos is now with 69 active cases, nine of them new and all of those were identified in Providenciales. There are two people hospitalised for the virus.
US Changes its mind, now all FOREIGNERS must be Vaxxed
#USA, September 21, 2021 – The US Embassy yesterday confirmed in a press release that foreign travellers to the US will be required to be fully vaccinated for Covid 19 and the new rule will come to force in early November.
Specifically the update informed: “As announced by the White House on September 20, beginning in early November, all adult foreign nationals traveling to the United States by air must demonstrate proof of full vaccination against COVID-19.”
“This requirement will end the need, as of early November, for travelers from certain geographic regions to obtain national interest exceptions under the current presidential proclamations in order to travel to the United States.”
It is reported that already, in places like The Bahamas lines were longer with news that the requirement for vaccination is mandatory in order to travel to the United States by flight.
“Adult foreign nationals will be required to be fully vaccinated and show proof of vaccination prior to boarding a U.S.-bound international flight.”
Already enforced for cruise lines, which resumed in June, is the requirement for all passengers to be fully vaccinated and pre-tested before boarding.
Increasingly, vaccine mandates are becoming the norm for travellers, club-goers, for dine in at restaurants and on the job.
Turks and Caicos on September 1 activated its vaccinated tourists only policy, which requires travellers over 16 to be fully inoculated with one of four of the top-rated vaccines.
The CDC has not yet advised with vaccines will be on the accepted list; the US Embassy office in Nassau said: “We will look to CDC to guide which vaccines will be accepted, as part of their standard role in determining who is considered fully vaccinated for the purposes of recommended or required international travel protocols.”
We will provide further information for visa applicants and U.S. citizen travelers as it becomes available on our website: travel.state.gov.
In the meantime, Americans who are not fully vaccinated, are cautioned to stay put. In fact the notice advised: “With the new order, unvaccinated U.S. citizens and LPRs or legal permanent residents who return to the United States will be required to do the following prior to boarding a U.S.-bound flight: one, Provide proof of a negative test result taken within one day prior to their departure and Provide proof that they have purchased a viral test to be taken after arrival.”
Vaccine Mandate hits like a HURRICANE; Cancellations crush September prospects
#TurksandCaicos, September 9, 2021 – The Minister of Health is finding it difficult to believe that cancellations are as high as residents are claiming. In a tone deaf presentation the minister pointed to visitor arrival numbers at the airport, the usual September slow down, hurricane hits and nefarious attempts at fearmongering as the basis for his lack of faith on the figures.
“What I am saying is that when you compare to where we usually were, to where we are now, and again we are still in COVID and we’re doing better, and I am also saying that (hey) safety first, and I’m also saying that cancellations happen. Because, usually around September 6 or 8 in the Turks and Caicos, we usually get a big hurricane. So if a hurricane hit the Turks and Caicos Islands right now – God forbid, knock on wood – they would have the same level of cancellations or more. Now this was a decision, one is man-made, one is natural but it is the same result,” said Hon Jamell Robinson, TCI Minister of Health.
The minister was speaking at a Wednesday night press conference where among other things, he got on the defence about claims of cancellations and estimations on losses suffered due to a new travel entry requirement. Visitors, over the age of 16, are now required to be fully vaccinated with Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna or the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, in order to be green-lighted for travel to the Turks and Caicos. Cancellations are estimated to be in the tens of thousands inclusive of resorts, airlines, tours and excursions, boutique activities and concierge services.
The Turks and Caicos Hotel and Tourism Association reports 13,000 cancellations from September to mid-November for 12 of its largest member properties including the Hartling Group, Grace Bay Resorts and Beaches Turks and Caicos. One member, said Stacy Cox, TCHTA Executive Director, reported 5k cancelled vacations.
Similar reports came from smaller business operators which suffered the trickle-down effect of the decision announced on August 12, for activation a mere three weeks later.
“It isn’t a case where anyone is discounting what may have happened in terms of their totality of their cancellations, yes, but it’s not as if them being in the business long term, they haven’t seen these types of scenarios where they have this level of passengers coming into the country because this is traditionally the time, most properties do their renovations,” Minister Robinson on Wednesday.
The minister’s comments were most suited to the larger tourism stakeholders and it demonstrated what the small and micro companies have been vocalizing since the announcement, which came on his debut as the new health minister; that he is out of touch with the wider marketplace and smaller operations.
“I have people cancelling and no one consulted the small businesses. I have lost eight jobs between September and October; that’s $20,000 gone. I have bills to pay, rent to pay and my landlord is not understanding that what happened is outside of my control. No one engaged the small business person and I wish they had.”
A business owner in North Caicos offered that the activation of the new policy was so sudden that even “if guests who had bookings in September wanted to get vaccinated, they would hardly have had the opportunity to do so. It was not thought out, it was just too sudden.”
Another entrepreneur offered the decision may have been more “appreciated if it were 90 days off.”
Several were infuriated that the consultation on the decision was so narrow; banks which “may have to extend me some late payment courtesies because I lost all of my villa reservations informed me they were not asked to consider negative repercussions for borrowers. It was a big blow.”
The Minister said his visit to the airport on September 4, which was after the new vaccine mandate policy took effect, there were 1,274 passengers on Saturday. The figure topped the best daily total in September 2019, when a slightly lesser 1,131 guests were recorded.
“The highest passenger arrivals for any day during September (2019) was 1131;so despite all the fearmongering, coming from certain quarters within the TCI, we are simply experiencing a pre-Covid slow season. No more, no less.”
However, records reflect that from September 3- October 15, 2019, Beaches Resort, which accounts for 70 per cent of visitor arrivals, was closed therefore passengers were expectantly less in number.
This year, Beaches Resort is opened with no plans to shut for the season.
In fact, we found that in 2018, while Beaches Resort remained open, 12 other major properties including Gansevoort, Point Grace, Meridian Club and Ocean Clubs were closed.
In September 2017, Turks and Caicos was scarred and debilitated by hurricanes Irma and Maria and in 2020, the pandemic and a closed Beaches Resort plunged arrival numbers and helped the TCI sink into an economic depression.
These factors are very likely among the reasons the year 2021 was proving to truthfully be a banner year for many.
With keen interest in Turks and Caicos vacations, visitors were flocking to the destination in almost pre-pandemic fashion. Pent up demand, low infection numbers, high vaccine uptake, proximity to the U.S. and the natural allure of the islands was drawing a healthy number of tourists. With that interest came more cases of Covid-19.
The PNP Administration, in its fortnightly Cabinet Meeting came to the controversial decision after reviewing a six week period where 68 percent of infections or 90 of 133 people with coronavirus were tourists.
Tourists, including vacation home owners in the Turks and Caicos would have to be fully vaccinated once over the age of 16; returning residents who were vaccinated needed to prove they were fully vaccinated prior to departure from the islands and returning residents who were unvaccinated, had to provide a negative PCR or Antigen test in order to get approve through the TCI Assured portal.
Additionally, these residents are now required to quarantine with their entire household for seven days, a test is required on day five of the return.
The Cabinet also agreed to shorten the time for negative tests, from five days to three days; this is mandatory for everyone except vaccinated returning residents.
“This actually provides us with some breathing room, to be able to get the cases down as well as reposition our brand because it is not as if we haven’t done it in the past,” explained Minister Robinson who added, the high vaccination rate and vaccine only tourist policy are great selling points which can increase interest in the destination.
Though pressured to do so, the Minister was reticent about fingering the entity or entities he believes is guilty of “fear mongering.”
There was no information from the Minister on what Government is doing to now track if there are new bookings as a result of the vaccine mandate.
Bahamas announces detected ‘Variants of Concern’ for Public Health
#TheBahamas, September 9, 2021 – On Wednesday (September 8) the Ministry of Health received results from the FIOCRUZ Laboratory in Brazil that confirms the presence of the highly transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19 in The Bahamas.
The National Reference Laboratory submitted ninety-eight (98) SARS-CoV-2 virus-positive samples to the FIOCRUZ Laboratory for genomic sequencing. The samples were collected between 6th May 2021, and 8th August, 2021, from individuals on New Providence, Grand Bahama, Abaco, Andros, Eleuthera, Exuma and Bimini.
Genomic sequencing showed the following: Variants of Concern (VOC) Lineage Number of Recovered Sequences:
Alpha B.1.1.7 39
Delta B.1.617.2 (including sub lineages AY*) 41
Gamma P.1 1
The new sequencing results confirm that the Delta variant is the predominant variant in The Bahamas, followed by the Alpha and Gamma variants.
It is noteworthy to mention that the Alpha variant is more transmissible than the original COVID19 virus, and the Delta variant is known to be more transmissible than the Alpha variant. Consequently, all major health facilities in New Providence and Grand Bahama are experiencing increased numbers of cases, hospital admissions and deaths due to COVID-19. 2 The health care system of both the public and private sectors is now severely challenged and over-burdened, and as a result, non-COVID-19 cases requiring health care are at risk of not being able to access life-saving health care.
Given the predominance of these highly transmissible variants in the country, it is essential to seek medical care early and avoid home remedies that delay accessing medical care. Do not delay seeking medical help if you experience signs and symptoms of COVID-19.
Contact your healthcare provider or nearest public health clinic for more information. Members of the public are strongly urged to avoid gatherings of groups of more than five people, remain physically distant – at least 6ft apart – from others, wear a mask at all times, and wash your hands regularly.
Additionally, we strongly encourage all citizens and residents of The Bahamas to be vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccinations are proven to be safe. They are known to decrease the severity of illness, hospitalizations, and deaths, if infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and all its variants. To book an appointment visit vax.gov.bs or make a walk-up appointment.
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