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Edwin Astwood weighs in on PNP Government management of Covid-19 resurgence

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#TurksandCaicos, January 15, 2022 – It is clear that the Hon. Premier and his Cabinet have lost all control of the spread of COVID-19 in the Turks & Caicos Islands. We all have seen a lack of action, and a lack of complete information, and the lack of innovation and proactivity in response to Pandemic.  The local picture of COVID-19 is now worse than it has ever been. We are seeing a lack of urgency and a lack of leadership in response to this new COVID-19 wave in our beloved Turks and Caicos Islands.

The daily COVID positive numbers being reported continues to be alarming high, and making things worse is the fact that the reported numbers do not include the lateral flow COVID positives, which are roughly 4 times higher than the daily reported positive numbers of the dashboards.  It is suspected that for every one case reported on the dashboard, five lateral flow COVID-19 positives go unreported, and not positive persons not followed up or monitored.   Also, there is no requesting of contacts to report for testing, no compliance or enforcement of regulations being carried out and they are not visible as complaints are been heard by the Public at large.

It is also very alarming to hear the government now resorting to handling the responsibility of the management of the Pandemic to the individual person, as they are now vigorously pushing this “personal responsibility “tag line.

  • COVID-19 is a “public health” disease, which caused a “global Pandemic”, hence it is the responsibilities of all Governments in all countries for public health. Our elected Governments has to bear the responsibility of safeguarding our citizens and borders, bear the responsibility to make decisive, timely, and proper decisions, bear the responsibility of strengthening the country’s public health response, bear the responsibility for preventing the spread, and bear the responsibility of increasing and improving the treatment and care options. This is the Elected Government’s work, not the personal responsibility of our citizens.

It is evident that the Government is suffering from Decidophobia, which is the irrational fear of making decisions.

With all the advances and information available, with all the infrastructure that had to be put in place (Lab PCR testing, High Dependency Units, Oxygen Generators, Vaccine availability, epidemiological software, private providers lab testing, approved rapid COVID-19 testing, travel portal, proven compliance and viral spread mitigating measures, the Hon. Premier and his Cabinet response shamefully underperforming in their response to the work they said that they came for; they are definitely not ready for the Pandemic work!

The Hon Premier and his Cabinet has not provided for the increase and expansion of Health Care Professionals in the Turks & Caicos Islands, to prevent the possibility overwhelming of the Health Care System.

The Government has not learned from the first two waves of the pandemic, and has not been proactive (anticipating possible future outbreaks and increase in positive COVID-19 Cases, and preparing for the occurrence ahead of time, like we do each year for hurricane season).  What we are seeing now is them being reactive (trying to take action after the damage is done, and great increases in positive cases are happening).

 

The Government has not:

  • expanded Government operated testing facilities, in particular in Grand Turk, who is now receiving Cruise Ship Passengers. By now a testing site should have been place near the cruise center.
  • The Government has not implemented any lifesaving early treatment options that have been approved, and are available.
  • The Government has not made proper adjustments to the country’s COVID-19 mitigating measures, that can prevent high increases in viral spread and hospitalizations, while protecting livelihoods.
  • The Government has not provided complete and timely information to our people, bringing the people along by providing credible, evidence based scientific information, that can cultivate buy in and restore trust.
  • The Government has not expanded the availability of face masks, like was done with condoms during the peak of the AIDS epidemic (where condoms were made freely available in all public places- Public and Private offices, restaurants, bars, etc.)
  • The Government has not increased policing and compliance activities (which now appears to be nonexistent).
  • The Government has been slow to respond and to make suitable adjustments to the measures before the further progressing of the spread of the virus.
  • The Government has been inconsistent in the restrictions that are in place; preventing and closing down some forms of gathering, while allowing others which has the potential to be a “super spreader” event.
  • The Government has not any advancements to the monitoring and tracking of COVID-19 positive persons.
  • The Government has not adapted nor adjusted their policies on vaccines, natural immunity, vaccine mandates, with all the new knowledge information available now. There has been no updating or coming up with a different plan from the knowledge of vaccinated and bolstered individuals are still becoming infected, and still able to spread the virus, and still being hospitalized. Rather it appears that the Government’s only focus, is to promote the vaccine as if that is the only measure that is needed.

The Government has failed in protecting the family islands with a small and older population, in particular Salt Cay and Middle Caicos, from viral spread.

No one wants to go through another lockdown, and we do not want to see our country in one. Lockdowns are bad for our economy and for our people, as was explained by the Deputy leader and myself in our last PTV interview.

No one want to see another person lose their life from being infected with COVID-19, when there are effective early treatments options available.

We the PDM again urge the Premier and his Government to make the appropriate decisions that could prevent further increases in positive cases, further deaths, further economic losses, and further time away from school and work.

Bahamas News

Polio is back; 65 million missed shots in another COVID fall out

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#USA, August 4, 2022 – For the first time in almost a decade a new case of polio was recorded in the United States. The case which ended in paralysis emphasizes the danger the region faces as vaccination levels drop to 30-year lows.

The World Health Organization warned in early July explained that vaccination in the region of the Americas and the rest of world was dropping rapidly because of various spin off effects precipitated by the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Over 65 million infants missed out on basic vaccines in the last three years thanks to disruptions in routine healthcare, lockdowns and other circumstances. The effects are already being felt as once eradicated disease like measles and polio are once again emerging.

The Pan American Health Organization announced earlier this year the Americas are now facing another measles outbreak after having been declared free of the disease in 2016.

Dr. Jarvis Barbosa, Assistant director of PAHO said vaccination levels are now as low as they were in 1994 for measles and polio and Brazil has had several outbreaks of measles.

In the case of the United States an unvaccinated young adult developed the disease after contact with another individual vaccinated with a live version of the vaccine.

The breakout polio case in the US sent shockwaves across the country because of the severe nature of the disease. Polio is an extremely dangerous disease with no known cure. It causes paralysis in as many as 1 in 200 infected and that paralysis is permanent.

Normally very few school age children would be at risk in the Americas as the vaccine is required to start school but with the gap in vaccinations many more children are now at risk.

Polio was one of the most feared diseases of the 20th century, paralyzing and killing hundreds of thousands, especially children. Thankfully vaccinated individuals are not at risk and as such the WHO is advising that the best way to protect against polio is vaccination.

 

Photo Caption:  Child in Benin takes Polio vaccine, UNSDG

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Health

Kansas first to establish Roe v Wade Laws following US Supreme Court decision to remove ABORTION as a right from Constitution

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#Kansas, USA, August 5, 2022 – Voters in the state of Kansas have moved to uphold abortion rights in their state. Kansas legislators will now be prevented from putting restrictions or bans on abortion. In order to do so they would have to call for a constitutional review, a lengthy drawn out process.

“Kansans stood up for fundamental rights today. We rejected divisive legislation that jeopardized our economic future & put women’s health care access at risk,” Laura Kelly, Kansas’ Democratic Governor tweeted on Wednesday.

Kansas is the first state to put the issue on the state ballot since Roe v Wade the case making abortion a constitutional right was overturned at the Supreme Court level and US media

President Biden proclaimed his support for the bill encouraging congress to write Roe v Wade into law.

Roe v Wade was overturned on June 24, nearly 50 years after it was won.

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Caribbean News

CARPHA Supports Breastfeeding as a Long-Term Strategy for a More Productive and Healthier Region

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August 5, 2022 – Exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months benefits the infant, mother, family, community, country and environment,” states Dr. Joy St. John, Executive Director at the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).  “Therefore, breastfeeding is recognised as an effective strategy in achieving regional and global goals on health, nutrition, food security, economic growth and environmental sustainability.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recommend that breastfeeding be initiated within 1 hour of birth, continued exclusively for the first 6 months of life, and that nutritionally-adequate and safe complementary (solid) foods be introduced at 6 months together with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond[1].

Early initiation of breastfeeding is critical to newborn survival, reducing their risk of morbidity and mortality[2]. Breastmilk provides optimal nutrition for infants for their physical and mental growth and development, along with antibodies to prevent and mitigate childhood illnesses[3].

Breastfeeding reduces the risk of over-nutrition (overweight and obesity) and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) for both mother and child. Infants that are breastfed longer, have 13% lower risk of overweight and obesity and 35% lower risk of type 2 diabetes[4]. Women who breastfeed have reduced risks of postpartum overweight and obesity, 32% lower risk of type 2 diabetes, 37% lower risk of ovarian cancer and 26% lower risk of breast cancer4.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, many infants and young children do not meet the WHO and UNICEF recommendations for breastfeeding and ultimately lose out on its many benefits. Only 54% of infants initiate breastfeeding within 1 hour of birth; 37% breastfeed exclusively for the first 6 months of life which is below the global rate (44%); and between 31%-55% of children continue to receive breastmilk up to 2 years of age2.

Breastfeeding, more so when occurring exclusively, allows for healthier mothers and children who can in turn contribute meaningfully to the community and society at large. There is a reduced tax burden on communities and governments to ensure children are properly fed. Additionally, more funding is made available for community and national development. Reports indicate that the total global economic losses of not breastfeeding are estimated to be US$341.3 billion[5].

Breastfeeding is a naturally renewable resource that is environmentally sustainable as it does not require the use of natural resources (not even water!), provides no waste for accumulation in landfills (no packaging or disposal), and it does not pollute the environment[6].

Breastfeeding also contributes to infant and household food security[7]. Infants who are breastfed exclusively, require no other source of nutrition and are less likely to get sick thereby lessening the financial burden on the family. This allows for nutritious foods to be bought for other members of the family. This is especially important during times of economic crises, such as those experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, where many households face unemployment and loss of income. The pandemic has proven to be a global threat to breastfeeding. Two recent studies in Western countries reported a decline in early initiation, exclusive and continued breastfeeding rates due to the pandemic, with one major contributing factor being a loss in support for mothers[8],[9].

Breastfeeding is particularly effective against infectious diseases because it strengthens the immune system by transferring antibodies from the mother to the child.   Mother to child transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through breastmilk has not been found to occur. The WHO and UNICEF recommendations on initiation and continuation of breastfeeding infants and young children also apply to mothers with suspected or confirmed coronavirus disease as the benefits far outweigh any potential risks[10]. Mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are encouraged to practice respiratory hygiene (wearing a mask when breastfeeding), hand hygiene (frequent hand washing, including before and after touching the baby), and routinely clean and disinfect surfaces[11]. If the mother is too unwell to breastfeed, she can be supported to feed expressed breastmilk or to relactate (re-introduce breastfeeding after a period of cessation).

This year’s theme for World Breastfeeding Week “Step up for Breastfeeding – Educate and Support” is aligned with thematic area 1 of the WBW-Sustainable Development Goals 2030 campaign which highlights the links between breastfeeding and good nutrition, food security and reduction of inequalities. It will focus on strengthening the capacity of actors that have to protect, promote and support breastfeeding across different levels of society.

We all form part of the warm chain of support of breastfeeding – whether we are from or represent governments, health systems, workplaces or communities – and have a shared responsibility to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. Let us all inform, anchor, engage and galvanise action to protect and support breastfeeding. A whole-of-society approach is needed to facilitate the development and implementation of regional breastfeeding policies and creating a breastfeeding-friendly environment.

This is in keeping with the Caribbean Public Health Agency’s (CARPHA) life course approach for the prevention of NCDs of which breastfeeding is a key factor.  CARPHA supports breastfeeding as a long-term strategy for a more productive and healthier Region and encourages mothers and families to see breastfeeding as the optimal feeding method for infants.

CARPHA has led training in the WHO/UNICEF 40 Hour Breastfeeding Counselling Course; and training of Health Professionals in the 20-Hour Course for Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative as well as implementation and certification.  The Agency has also supported Member States with the development of National Infant and Young Child Feeding Policies, Hospital Breastfeeding Policies and developed guidelines for anyone involved in the care and management of newborns, and pregnant or lactating women suspected of or confirmed to be infected with the COVID-19 virus.

CARPHA calls upon its member states to take a whole of society approach and implement and reinforce the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. By protecting and supporting breastfeeding, we are also protecting human rights and taking important steps towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, leaving no one behind in the post pandemic world.

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