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Loopholes and Lawsuit-fears paralyzed officials on Super-Spreader Events

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#TurksandCaicos, August 27, 2021 – The Disc Jockeys hosting the party concert weekend events were out-smarting law makers and jumping through loop holes admitted Minister of Health Jamell Robinson, who hosted a press debriefing on Wednesday to confront  the myriad of issues related to the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Government and Police had been criticised for not shutting down potential Covid-19 super spreader events and residents learned that the fear of being sued prevented action to end an August 20th weekend concert series, where American recording artist, Trina was the feature.

“We were alerted about the events taking place.  So we had a meeting and discussed, well was this permitted through us?  The answer was no.  So the next question became, okay, can it go forward?  And out of that discussion, we found that because of the location where the events were being purported to happen that there was a loophole in the regulations.  Such that if you had the event at a normally operating business location, you would be able to get the capacity of 70 per cent vs the required permitting of 50 people.”

Super spreader events are suspected of being at the source of the recent surge; after all, numbers of new cases have been trending up since restrictions were relaxed in July.  Warnings have been issued, threats have been levelled to suspend business licenses for social gathering and mask wearing breaches therefore this time, it is hoped the newest raft of rules will work.

“On further discussion, we said well if this event can take place under the law what is the plan to risk manage it taking place.  So, we had a conversation with the compliance team and in that discussion, we also found out that the international artist who was visiting the country, had already received a temporary work permit to be in the islands. Not only did we have a loophole, we had one arm of Government issuing a permit for that person to be here when the other arm of government had no clue this was taking place,”explained the Minister of Health.

Instead of applying for their events to the Ministry of Health, the promoters danced past the Environmental Health Department and regulators leaving officials paralysed by reasonable fears of costly lawsuits.

“We can take the risk of quote on quote, shutting that event down, which many persons cried out and asked us to do.  We would have left the government liable for not only the cost of the event being put on but also for defamation and damages to the promoter and the organisers of the event.”

The Minister said, certainly a law suit would have been imminent but now those loopholes are plugged.

Following a Cabinet decision, even more scrutiny will come for events which allow 50 people in attendance, as Dr. Nadia Astwood, the Chief Medical Officer will also have to approve the application.

Temporary work permits for performers, artists and entertainers are on freeze, indefinitely.

Additionally, since these events usually draw party-goers and revelers, a new mandate and tighter rules are in force as of next month.

“There will be no nationwide lockdown,” said Minister Robinson, “All night clubs and bars should will reduce their occupancy to 50 per cent of their registered capacity.  Patrons at night clubs and bars must provide proof of being fully vaccinated. Bars and clubs to be responsible for verifying identity and vaccination status of all participants and a log book kept with the same and shared with the ministry of health and the environmental health department every Monday.”

Identity tags for patrons will also be introduced; a measure to come on stream by September 14.  All other new measures take effect from Wednesday September 1.

Health and Police promise a better response to suspect and risky party events in future.  The Ministry of Health has informed they do not know if these events have led to the coronavirus surge, hospitalizations or deaths due to a lack of cooperation in the contract tracing process.

 

Bahamas News

Over 68,000 STAYED HOME in Bahamas Elections; We have BEST and WORST for Voter Participation

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#TheBahamas, September 21, 2021 – The just-concluded General Election in Bahamas has presented a new shift in governance.  The former ruling part, Free National Movement, lost nearly all the electoral seats it secured in the 2017 general elections.  However, this seems a swap of the Progressive Liberal party’s score in the 2017 general elections in which the former ruling party (FNM) won nearly all the parliamentary seats.

68,000 STAYED AWAY

While the FNM secured 35 out of 39 seats in the 2017 ballot, leaving only four slots for the Opposition, the 2021 elections presented “new day” with the Opposition clinching 32 parliamentary seats, leaving the former ruling party FNM with only seven slots.

However, the election results showed a significant drop in voter turnout compared to the 2017 election results. Out of 194,494 registered voters in The Bahamas, only 126,414 voted, translating to 65 per cent voter turnout.

PREVIOUS ELECTION HIGHER

This was different from the previous election in which 160,407 out of 181,543 registered voters cast their ballots, translating to a remarkable 88.36 per cent voter turnout.

Being the first election in the island nation since the Covid-19 struck the Caribbean; the dismal voter turnout could be attributed to the severe impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in The Bahamas and the current countermeasures taken by individuals to avoid contracting the deadly virus.

It could also be voter apathy.

BEST IN SHOW

Despite coronavirus prevalence in the country, North Andros & Berry Islands, Cat Island, Rum Cay & San Salvador, and Mangrove Cay & South Andros constituencies recorded an impressive voter turnout of 77.99 per cent, 76.11 per cent and 73.06 per cent respectively.

North Andros & Berry Islands had 2,126 out of 2,569 registered voters cast their ballots, followed by 1,255 out of 1,622 in Cat Island, Rum Cay & San Salvador, and 1,706 out of 2,164 registered voters in Mangrove Cay & South Andros.

VERY LOW SHOW

The bottom three constituencies in terms of voter turnout include Bamboo Town, which had 3,436 out of 5,838 (58.63 per cent) registered voters cast their ballot, followed by Garden Hills with 3,033 out of 5,287 (57.09 per cent), and   Central & South Abaco falling at the bottom of the list with 1,844 out of 3,271 (55.96 per cent).

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COVID Works programme launched by Ministry of Physical Planning & Infrastructure Development

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#TurksandCaicos, September 21, 2021 – The Minister of Physical Planning and Infrastructure Development, the Honourable Akierra Mary Deanne Missick and the Physical Planning & Infrastructure Development team are pleased to announce the launch of the COVID WORKS Programme, that went live on September 1, 2021.

The Programme seeks to support many who have lost jobs and livelihoods, while providing labour intensive work for economic exchange opportunities for persons to be engaged.

Works are set out in three (3) levels and comprise a variety of categories example, cleaning, road works, demolition and general construction to name a few.

Level 1 – value $1,500 – $9,999

Level 2 – value $10,000 – $39,999

Level 3 – value $40,000 – $70,000

Turks and Caicos Islanders with valid business licenses are also being encouraged to submit proposals to the Public Works Department for consideration for works throughout the islands. 

Commenting on the launch of the programme, Hon. Missick said, “We are very much mindful of the impact that restrictions introduced by Government in an effort to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, has had on the islands, many continue to experience financial hardship. Whilst, the hospitality and construction sectors in Providenciales have rebounded well, as an Administration, we cannot rest knowing that other industries are still limping along.

As a result, during the remainder of this financial year, the Turks & Caicos Islands Government has now launched the COVID Works Programme to provide an opportunity for Petty and Small Contractors to assist the Government in the enhancement of our communities, through programmed works, to the benefit of all of us as residents”.

The Minister went on to note, “This Programme is set to the tune of US$5,000,000.00, and works will be rolled out across the Islands in batches, as we have to ensure that we do not go beyond the allotted expenditure and that financial oversight and transparency are maintained.”

The initial batch of works for South Caicos, which comprised the following, was returned and evaluated on Monday, September 13, 2021 and included:

South Caicos 

Demolition- Queen’s Shed

Demolition- Distribution Concrete Tank

Demolition- Old Clinic Building

Demolition- DECR Building

Demolition- Library Building

Repair of Water Cistern

Works for Grand Turk included:

Grand Turk 

Demolition- Blood Bank Building

Demolition- Geriatric Ward Building

Demolition- Kitchen Building

Demolition- X-ray Building

All returning bids must be sent to the COVID Works email at tcigworks@gov.tc

Kindly note that as of Monday, September 20, 2021, the following works are planned to be released:

Grand Turk: 

Beach Cleaning (Eastern portion of Grand Turk)

Street Cleaning (All areas)

Providenciales:

Beach cleaning (Areas of Shore Club and Five Cays)

Street Cleaning (All areas)

A number of other works for Middle & North Caicos, as well as Salt Cay will be released shortly. This is a six month program that will spread throughout the TCI and we encourage persons to continue to register via tcigworks@gov.tc or the local Public Works Department and District Commissioners’ offices, to be eligible for this opportunity.

These works will continue on a monthly basis and the programme will come to an end in March 2022.

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Bahamas News

BAHAMAS: Nine new Cabinet ministers sworn-in

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#TheBahamas, September 21, 2021 – Prime Minister the Hon. Philip Davis today introduced the first set of new Cabinet ministers with portfolios covering the Attorney General, Foreign Affairs, Education, Works and Public Utilities, Health and Wellness, Government Affairs, Agriculture, National Security and Legal Affairs.

The nine ministers were sworn-in on Monday 20 September 2021 by Governor-General the Most Hon. Sir Cornelius A. Smith during ceremonies held at the Baha Mar Convention Center.

“They are the initial members of a Cabinet which will reflect the breadth and depth of the competencies and characteristics of our team: experience combined with innovation; expertise combined with a willingness to see things anew; integrity and a strong sense of purpose,” said Prime Minister Davis.

“They are receiving these appointments because of their determination to get things done.”

Among the new Ministers sworn-in on Monday were:

  • Senator the Hon. L. Ryan Pinder, Attorney General;
  • Hon. Fred Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Public Service;
  • Hon. Glenys Hanna-Martin, Minister of Education, and Technical and Vocational Training;
  • Hon. Alfred Sears, Minister of Works and Utilities;
  • Dr. Hon. Michael Darville, Minister of Health and Wellness;
  • Senator the Hon. Michael Halkitis, Minister of Government Affairs and Leader of Government Business in the Senate;
  • Hon. Clay Sweeting, Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs;
  • Hon. Wayne Munroe, Minister of National Security; and
  • Hon. Jomo Campbell, Minister of State for Legal Affairs.

“I am confident that these first-appointed members of our Cabinet team are ready to deliver on the promise of a New Day for our Bahamas,” said the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Davis pledged to move with urgency to address the economic and health crises that are faced by The Bahamas.

Many thousands of Bahamians are out of work, people are losing too many loved ones to the COVID-19 virus and Bahamian schoolchildren are falling behind, said Prime Minister Davis.

“I want to be clear: we are not here to tinker at the edges of these problems,” said the Prime Minister.

“We are here to meet them head on.”

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