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Health Reports:  94 per cent of new COVID cases from SCHOOL START amongst teachers and students



#TurksandCaicos, October 19, 2021 – A return to in person learning has been an indisputable plus for Turks and Caicos children and families, but it has not come without some concerning statistics amidst the ongoing pandemic.  The Turks and Caicos, on Friday learned that students and teachers accounted for 213 of the 227 cases of Covid-19 detected between September 6 and October 16; that equates to 94 per cent of cases.

“We continue to see a higher proportion of cases among children when compared to time before the current surge. Since schools reopened on Sept 6th 2021, we have detected a total of 213 cases of COVID19 in the TCI. Of these, 47 (22 per cent) have been among school/nursery/kindergarten age children between the ages of 0 – 17 years. Of the 47 school aged children, 40 said they attended a local school/nursery,” said Dr. Nadia Astwood, Chief Medical Officer of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

At least four schools had to make sudden changes in how they delivered education and the pivot was pivotal.

Clement Howell High school in Providenciales reverted to a hybrid learning system after at least one teacher tested positive for Covid-19.  Students were permitted some days in school, and other days out of school and joining class virtually in order to ensure physical distancing could be optimized.

Ona Glinton Primary school in Grand Turk opted to send just one class home after being PCR tested by the Ministry of Health staff.  This isolated students who may have been exposed to a case linked through contact tracing, while allowing the students to still attend their classes virtually while their school mates went on with in-person learning completely uninterrupted.

In both cases, no outbreak was discovered and any threat was neutralized thanks to the easily activated back-up plans.

During a National Health Update on Friday October 15, Dr. Astwood spoke of the collaboration which continues between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education in order to ensure school campuses are safe, but also that children are getting the best possible education.

Results on examinations for hundreds of students proved that in school, in person learning is most ideal for children. Many struggled to keep pace through the virtual platforms, others lacked the access to virtual platforms and for families which have now returned to the work field, it is critical that schools are in session on campus.

“We do work very closely with the Ministry and Department of Education. So we share information on the testing of students, we work closely with the principals of the schools so anytime there is a positive case we communicate with them, provide advice and do the testing,” said Dr. Astwood.

Mask-wearing continues to be mandatory, so is physical distancing and the ramped-up hygiene protocols.

“We continue to encourage the uptake of the vaccine amongst school aged children as another protection,” added the CMO.

The Pfizer vaccine is available to Turks and Caicos generally for first time takers, to all residents 12 years and older and a booster shot program for priority groups was rolled out in early October.

While there were education and Q&A opportunities for the education sector prior to the resumption of in person learning across the country, which in this 2021-2022 Academic Year was a first for the Turks and Caicos since the start of the pandemic, sessions continue to be held to support the school system.

“We have updated the guidelines for the schools in terms of the Covid -19 response, yesterday (October 14) the Deputy Chief Medical Officer would have held a meeting with teachers, principals and vice principals in the Ministry of Education, to go through some of those update protocols so there are trigger points on which way we go and when,” said Jamell Robinson, Minister of Health for the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The minister was addressing a media question related to what would necessitate a closure of schools or an end to in person learning amidst the ongoing, potentially deadly Cornavirus pandemic.

“The gist still is, face-to-face is better and its ideal but we don’t want to have our children in any additional adverse environments clearly, but there are guidelines in place to dictate what takes place at which school. Because it can go as far as all out shut down and changing, as well as just the shutting down of a class itself or just isolating a few students.  There is flexibility there, so it isn’t a one size fits all and it wouldn’t be a decision that’s taken across the board for schools across the country, it is more a case by case basis,” explained Minister Robinson.

The CMO reinforced the message, strongly intimating that it would take a rampant outbreak in order to alter the current plan, which she feels is working very well.

“We are trying not to disrupt education. Children have suffered around the world because of the pandemic, not being in educational settings.  On line learning is not been ideal but where there have been instances where we have had to children home for online learning we have done so, but not to shut the entire schools.  We have not been seeing what we have seen in other Caribbean countries, which are huge outbreaks in schools.  We have been seeing sporadic cases in the schools and so the public health team has been doing the relevant contact tracing etc, but again it hasn’t been a huge spread that we are finding in the classes.  And I think that speaks to the measures which are in place.”

There are around 4,500 children who make up the student population of the Turks and Caicos, according to 2020 figures.  That only 47 students have been confirmed with Covid-19 is both a relief and commendable.

“We’ve been very fortunate.  Most of the cases (in children) are very mild illness, sort of more cough and cold.  The children that we have identified (with Covid-19) have been managed at home and none of them have needed (hospital) admission for Covid related illness but we have been watching international data, which shows that with the Delta variant, children are more likely to be hospitalised and have, you know, in some cases more serious events,” explained the CMO as she expounded on whether children have been severely impacted by the disease.

The report has been more heartbreaking for school faculty, especially in the public school system.  The Education sector, in September, lost a primary school senior administrator and seasoned educator; she died of Covid-19 just weeks into the new academic year.

Parents continue to be advised to keep their children home if they are experiencing cold or flu like symptoms.

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Bahamas News

Bahamas and Germany Enter Agreement to Facilitate Direct Airlift



#TheBahamas, December 4, 2021 – The governments of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, and of the Federal Republic of Germany entered into a technical bilateral Heads of Agreement aimed at fostering closer ties between both countries.  A central feature is an Air Traffic Agreement to facilitate direct flights from Germany to The Bahamas, which would in turn facilitate movement of goods and services, ease of direct shipment as opposed to going through a third country, among other things.

The HOA was signed during a ceremony at the Ministry of Works & Utilities on Tuesday, November 30, 2021.  The Hon Alfred Sears, who served as Acting Minister of Tourism, Investments & Aviation, and His Excellency Dr. Stefan Keil, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to The Bahamas signed the agreement.  Also present were: Permanent Secretary Reginald Saunders, Ministry of Tourism Investment & Aviation; Luther Smith, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Works & Utilities; Bacchus Rolle, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Works & Utilities; Melanie Roach, Director of Public Works; and Carl Christian Illing, Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany, Bahamas.

Mr. Sears said it was a pleasure both countries entered into such an agreement, which he deemed would bring together, two peoples.

The Bahamas and Germany formed diplomatic ties in 1974 and have enjoyed successes in commercial enterprise, tourism and family ties as many Bahamians live in Germany.

“This relationship has been growing and this (agreement) represents the ease of travel, business and social interaction between our two countries,” Mr. Sears said, adding that Bahamians consume and use German products namely vehicles, pharmaceuticals and other items.

In other areas, Mr. Sears noted that The Bahamas is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world susceptible to effects of global warming. He thanked Germany for its role in the recent COP26 held in Glasgow, Scotland, during which that country pledged some twenty million Euros for disaster risk reduction initiatives.

He recalled Hurricane Dorian, which struck Abaco and Grand Bahama from September 1-3, 2019 and, as a result, residents in the path experienced storm surges 20 feet high, many lives were lost, clinics, other public buildings and infrastructure were damaged and/or destroyed, and The Bahamas lost a large portion of its GDP.

“The commitment of Germany resonates with us,” Mr. Sears said, “as we rebuild and build the infrastructure stronger.”

The minister shared the possibility of acquiring more vehicles from Germany, targeting more stopover visitors from there with projection of higher spend and enjoyment of more cultural activities.  Permanent Secretary Saunders supported this, by confirming that direct air travel is being facilitated through the agreement.

Ambassador Keil too acknowledged the close relationship between both countries, and that the technical agreement will further strengthen those ties.


By Lindsay Thompson


Photo Caption: Photos show Minister Sears and Ambassador Keil during the signing ceremony at the Ministry of Works & Utilities, November 30, 2021.

(BIS Photos/Yontalay Bowe)



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Caribbean News




The fastest internet just got even faster…for the same great price


Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands – 1st, December 2021 –  Digicel+ is gifting The Turks and Caicos Islands faster home fibre speeds for Christmas, and beyond. Fulfilling the brand promise of Simply More (more power, more speed and more reliability), customers will now benefit from up to 2x faster download speeds on broadband and bundle plans.

This is all about a better experience for customers, and not about the cost. This free upgrade gives Digicel+ customers an even better home fibre internet experience, for anyone, on any device. And as part and parcel of the digital lifestyle, Digicel+ is the gateway to a Smart Life, which means that state-of-the-art Smart Solutions like Smart Homes and Smart Security are no longer just concepts, but a powerful reality.

Addison Stoddard CEO of Digicel TCI said, “This Christmas, we’re excited to reward customers with a super slick, superfast, super reliable home fibre experience, underpinned by service delivery that is, of course, second to none. Our entry-level plans are the fastest on the island and this puts us head and shoulders above any other internet offering in the country.”

The upgraded packages now start with download speeds of 50Mbps, and go up to 300Mbps for the speed demons and heavy gamers out there. This allows the Turks and Caicos Islands to connect to the global knowledge economy, have amazing entertainment options, and power their personal and professional experiences, thanks to these new superfast internet speeds.

Addison Stoddard continued, “It’s more of what our customers expect; more of what they want and it’s another way that we can be a part of our customers’ digital lives – at home, on the go, anywhere and everywhere. Simply put, Digicel+ is simply more.”

Over the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has solidified the importance of having a steady, powerful and reliable home internet connection, mainly due to many schools going online and parents working remotely. Now, with even faster internet speeds, customers get the best home fibre experience every time. This provides opportunities for MORE working, MORE schooling, MORE gaming, and MORE streaming with Digicel+.

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Bahamas News

Guys, Have 2 Minutes? Here’s How to Check Yourself for Testicular Cancer



Testicular cancer is a rare form of cancer for men in The Bahamas.  It is highly curable — if you know it’s there!


November 30, 2021 – Men…how often do you perform a self-exam to check yourselves for testicular cancer?

While it’s a relatively rare form of cancer, young men aren’t exempt – in fact, testicular cancer occurs most often in young and middle-aged men. The good news is, it can usually be treated successfully.

The most common symptom of testicular cancer is a lump on your testicle. But that’s not the only sign of this disease.

Men who have testicular cancer may experience several different kinds of symptoms, says oncologist Timothy Gilligan, MD, a Medical Oncologist at Cleveland Clinic who specializes in treating testicular cancer.

Testicular cancer most frequently strikes men younger than age 44, and is the most commonly diagnosed cancer for men ages 15 to 34. It is almost always curable if found early, Dr. Gilligan says, and it is usually curable even when at a later stage. So it’s important to know signs and symptoms.

Here, Dr. Gilligan says, are five possible signs of testicular cancer you might not know about:

5 Testicular Cancer Symptoms That Aren’t a Lump  – Know what to look for and catch it early

  1. A feeling of heaviness or pressure in your scrotum.
  2. Change in testicle size or firmness.Certain types of testicular tumors can reduce testosterone or increase estrogen in the body, which can result in a change in testicle size or firmness.
  3. Swollen legs.When a tumor spreads to the lymph node, it can constrict blood flow in the veins and result in a blood clot. The clots often occur in the legs, which causes them to swell. You might even experience blood clot symptoms such as pain and difficulty breathing.
  4. Lower back pain and shortness of breath.These are symptoms of advanced testicular cancer, meaning the cancer has spread to lymph nodes behind your stomach. Shortness of breath also may signal that the cancer has spread to your lungs, which may make it harder for air to move in and out.
  5. Breast growth or tenderness.In rare cases, hormone changes also can cause breast tenderness or growth of breast tissue. Some tumors can secrete high levels of a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), which stimulates breast development.

If you experience any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor right away, Dr. Gilligan says. If your physician diagnoses you with epididymitis or orchitis and the symptoms do not resolve quickly with antibiotics, request an ultrasound to evaluate for a testicular tumor.

“While up to 95 percent of men with testicular cancer are cured, it’s important to get care quickly if you’re experiencing symptoms because testicular cancers usually grow fast,” Dr. Gilligan says. “If there is disease, the earlier it is treated, the greater than chance for success.”


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