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Opposition Leader says: Government Failing with the Re-opening of Schools



#TurksandCaicos, September 13, 2021 – There is nothing more important for a Government to do than to protect its citizens, especially the most vulnerable and the young.  The Government exist to protect its own citizens. to protect their Health and wellbeing, and protect the economy.

And we know how critical it is to get our children back to school. It is especially critical for their mental health and their development. In achieving this, the Government must ensure that schools can open with confidence, both in capacity and in the broader public health indicators that exist. Safety of our children and our families should be driving the decisions of the Government every step of the way.

Our first job must be to care for our children, and provide a safe learning environment. However, the PNP Administration’s readiness for the reopening of Schools this week was frightening to observe. All occurrences showed that this PNP Administration was not adequately prepared, and did not provide the schools, through the Department of Education, the much needed budgetary support in human resources, adequate safety materials and supplies. In addition, they did not provide the schools with any enhanced and improved health and safety guidelines.  They should not put your child and your family at risk.

The Three questions that are being asked are; Have all our schools been made safer for our children to return? Have all the schools and classrooms been inspected, and their safety protocols reviewed, to ensure adherence to the established COVID mitigation rules? The third question that is being asked is: have all school transports in good working condition for those schools that have a school bus to transport our students safely with the necessary health protocols in place.

I was expecting to see a new or enhanced plan for overcrowding and social distancing being employed at our schools? Why haven’t class occupancy been cut down to about 12-15 students? Why isn’t there staggered lunch breaks, chording of students, staggered class start times? Or does the Government think that the Pandemic is over with, and we could get by with doing the bare minimum?

The Government had every opportunity to be more than ready to mitigate against all the known challenges that the Pandemic presents. It would have been in everyone’s best interest if the Government has budgeted for the hiring more teachers, and more staff for the schools, which would enable decreasing class sizes, hence providing our students and teachers with a safer environment.

They should also consider hiring of additional custodians and cleaning staff. There are many persons out of work who would happily fill these positions.  School Nurses should also be hired at all schools; for providing disease preventing and screening services, and for ensuring the proper functioning of the school health programs. Budgetary provisions should be made in order to specifically provide materials and supplies for school clinics (sick-bays). Instead we are hearing a shortage in the number of teachers and staff members across our Islands. Why was this shortage not address long before schools opened?

I was also expecting to see additional layers of protection being added to the Governments School Reopening Plan, which ensured the further protection for our children and the staff at all school levels. This should have included budgetary investments for improving the air quality and air ventilation systems in our class rooms. It is not too late to address this, simply reallocate funds, and get it done.

Temperature checks has continued, but is this still a reliable and effective indicator for CoVID-19, especially in young people who are usually asymptomatic?

Mask wearing is good, and it continues to be in the protocols. However, why has there been no budgetary investment in providing the students free access to a higher quality of mask. This should now be routinely provided at all schools for all our children. I hope that is would be considered and agreed on.

I was also looking for policy or plan for the monitoring and screening of the students and teachers, especially those who may be asymptomatic. Where are the screening kits, along with quality PPE for all schools?  What effective protocols were implemented in the schools for detected and preventing possible outbreaks, and what are the improved school based surveillance systems in place? What are the triggers for action, and the contingency plans in the event of a spike in cases at a school?  Has all this been communicated and disseminated to parents, teachers, and students?  Are the schools capable of ensuring that children wear their mask, keep social distancing, and wash their hands for seven hours a day. We know that our little ones are not the ideal group to dictate strict guidelines to. All this should have also been comprehensively thought through and acted on.

We expect the Government to continue to act, invest, and add new layers of protection in order to ensure that all classes are safe for our children and the staff. They must execute the best decision in the best interest of our students, including those under the age of 12, who are not allegeable for vaccination.

As our children return to school, and as schools around the world are reopening, many scientists are warning of an increase number of COVID cases, and also warning that the greatest number of new cases will be in children, as many of our adults are now vaccinated. We are all aware that children spread viruses amongst themselves on a normal basis, in preschools, daycare centers, primary and secondary schools. And then they bring it home to the family. And if their family members are immunocompromised, or have certain disorders, or is unvaccinated the results could be life-threatening.

In some countries where schools have already reopened, COVID cases have already spiked, particularly in those under the age of 18, as the Delta variant is increasing in circulation. However, those countries are reporting of not seeing an increase in hospitalizations in that group.

Due to this increase in children mixing, which increase to increases in adult mixing, an increase in transmission opportunities will be presented to any coronavirus present.

The good news is that even though coronaviruses do affect children, those between 1-18, have far much lower rates of hospitalization and death, compare to other age groups. They often don’t develop any symptoms at all, and those that do tend to be mild such as a cough, low grade fever, of fatigue, and the majority would make a very rapid recovery. However, we must keep our guard up, and continue to be vigilant, and continue to monitor the symptoms, disease manifestations and severity that new and re-emerging variants present.

I encourage us all to continue to lift up in our prayers all parents of school aged children during this difficult time period. Also prayers for the students, asking for them to be provided with the resilience and the energy to overcome all these changes and disruptions.  And prayers for the principals, teachers, administrators, asking strength for their continued dedication and effort, and for their personal safety.

We need to get it right, and safely open and operate our schools, and protect our students, teachers, and staff, and keep community transmission low, or not occurring at all. We must Protect our Future.


Woman dies on Tuesday; 32nd Covid Death for Turks & Caicos



By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer


#TurksandCaicos, January 20, 2022 – The Turks and Caicos has recorded its 32nd death related to COVID-19.

A Ministry of Health press release informed that the individual who was in quarantine in Grand Turk and requested emergency aid on Tuesday; response came from the public health team in Grand Turk.

The person, who we are told is a special needs young woman – was unvaccinated and had underlying medical conditions.

The death rate in the Turks and Caicos of both vaccinated and unvaccinated persons has climbed alarmingly this year.  In the 21-month period from March 2020 when the country recorded its first case to December 2021, there were 26 deaths recorded in the TCI.

In the 19 days since the start of 2022 that number has increased to 32; which means six deaths already in January.


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Bahamas News

Cruising should slow down says PAHO



By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer


‘Slow down on Cruising’, that’s the word from the Pan American Health Organization, PAHO in their latest recent press conference.

Dr. Ciro Ugarte Director of Health Emergencies at the PAHO was referring to the Bahamas but made sure to note that the advice was highly relevant to many countries in the times of omicron.

“In the context of intense transmission, due to the Omicron variant as we have highlighted several times. It is just logical to suspend or at least limit the cruise ship traffic as an outbreak on board might end up exceedingly high and probably will go beyond the capacity of local health services”

Both the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos are experiencing a massive uptick in cases and several warnings regarding cruise travel have been issued by the US Centers for Disease Control.

Cruising just resumed for many regional countries this past Summer, Turks and Caicos was among the latest to restart on December 13.

A stop to sailing would be devastating to economies, however, ports of call like Grand Turk which are reeling with rocketing case numbers of COVID are urged to consider the suggestion of slowing down on ships by PAHO.

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Caribbean News

Cayman gets its second ‘Sir’; former Premier Alden McLaughlin knighted on Jan 1



By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer


#Cayman, January 20, 2022 – Former Premier of Cayman Alden McLaughlin was knighted at the start of 2022; named in the Queen’s New Year Honors List. He is only the second Caymanian to have ever received a knighthood from her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Sir Vassel Johnson, received the honour in 1994; he was Cayman’s first Financial Secretary; he died in November 2008 at the age of 86.

Current Governor, Martyn Roper extended congratulations saying, “This is an outstanding personal achievement for former Premier McLaughlin, one of the most important and impactful political leaders in Cayman over the last 21 years. It is a significant moment for our islands. This historic award is only the second ever Knighthood to a Caymanian since the first in the 1990s. It is a strong signal of the respect in which Cayman is held and a visible demonstration of the progress Cayman has made as a vibrant democracy with strong good governance foundations.”

Sir McLaughlin, who is also now a QC attorney, served two terms as premier and had a career in politics that spanned 21 years. McLaughlin is known for his role in modernizing Cayman’s constitution.

Current premier G. Wayne Panton described the occasion as a unifying moment for the country saying, This is a day of celebration and great pride for all Caymanians as a son of our soil has been bestowed one of the highest honour.  Today marks a new and most unique storyline in the history of the Cayman Islands.  In considering the rarity and magnitude of this occasion, this is certainly a unifying moment for our community.”

Sir Alden McLaughlin, 60, was appointed as a Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George on January 1, 2022.


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