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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.

Health

The Ministry of Health and Human Services Warns Public About Heat-Related Illnesses Amid Rising Temperatures

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With the summer heat intensifying, the Ministry of Health and Human Services is urging the public to take precautions against heat-related illnesses, which can pose serious health risks. Heat-related illnesses include conditions such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat rash. Vulnerable populations, such as young children, the elderly, and those with chronic medical conditions, are at increased risk.

Understanding Heat-Related Illnesses:

  1. Heat Stroke: A life-threatening condition where the body’s temperature rises above 103°F. Symptoms include confusion, hot and dry skin, rapid pulse, and loss of consciousness.
  2. Heat Exhaustion: Symptoms include heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness, nausea, and fainting. If not addressed promptly, it can lead to heat stroke.
  3. Heat Cramps: Painful muscle spasms, usually occurring in the legs or abdomen often due to heavy sweating and loss of salt and water.
  4. Heat Rash: Skin irritation caused by excessive sweating, presenting as red clusters of small blisters.

Prevention Tips

  1. Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids, especially water. Limit alcohol and caffeine, which can dehydrate you.
  2. Stay Cool: Spend time in air-conditioned environments.
  3. Dress Appropriately: Wear lightweight, light-coloured, and loose-fitting clothing. Use hats and sunscreen when outdoors.
  4. Limit Outdoor Activities: Limit strenuous activities during the hottest parts of the day, typically between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Plan outdoor events for the cooler morning or evening hours. Take frequent breaks in the shade or indoors if you must be outside.
  5. Check on Vulnerable Individuals: Ensure that family members, friends, and neighbours, especially those who are elderly or have health conditions, are staying cool and hydrated.

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Health

Food Safety: Prepare for the Unexpected

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World Food Safety Day 2024

 

Foodborne diseases (FBDs) remain a public health concern in the Caribbean and across the world, with one in 10 people worldwide falling ill from contaminated food each year[1]. Increasing numbers of FBD cases and outbreaks have been reported across CARPHA Members States (CMS), especially in the tourism and cruise ship industry.  FBDs can cause morbidity, mortality, and economic burden of countries; it can also pose significant economic, social, and reputational impact on trade and tourism.

The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) joins the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) to commemorate World Food Safety Day on June 7th.  The theme for 2024 “Food safety: prepare for the unexpected” reiterates that food safety is a collective responsibility, and everyone needs to play their part.  

 At all levels, we must be prepared to intervene if food safety is compromised, such as:

  • Governments can update national food safety emergency response plans, strengthen national food control systems, increase surveillance and coordination capacities, and improve communication.
  • Food businesses can improve food safety management plans, collaborate, and share lessons learnt and improve communication with consumers.
  • Consumers can ensure they know how to report or respond to a food safety incident.

Dr. Lisa Indar, Director, Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control Division at CARPHA stated that “Food safety is crucial for supporting economic productivity in the tourism dependent, vastly culinary diverse Caribbean region.   CARPHA is contributing to regional food security through improving food borne diseases surveillance and food safety in its 26 Member States.”

In a 2021 WHO study, the incidence of FBD was 1 in 11 during the mass gathering events, such as cricket matches, carnival, food festivals, etc.[2] With this in mind and as the Caribbean is hosting the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup (May/June 2024), CARPHA continues to be proactive and lead the regional public health response.  The Agency has collaborated with both health and tourism stakeholders of the six Caribbean Cricket World Cup (CWC) host nations (Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Guyana, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago) to strengthen surveillance, early warning and response, laboratory, health, prevention and control and food safety capacity in preparation for CWC and other mass gathering events.

During this preparatory phase from February to May 2024, almost 900 food vendors likely to be selling food at the cricket stadiums/and its environs, were trained in Food Safety for Food Handlers for Mass Gathering Events. Additionally, a Mass Gathering Surveillance System was developed and implemented to capture the six internationally recognised potential syndromes, which includes gastroenteritis.

To adequately address FBD and food safety in the Caribbean, CARPHA is implementing an integrated foodborne diseases program, integrating the epidemiological, laboratory, environmental and veterinary aspects of FBD surveillance and response, into a coordinated programmatic approach, regionally and nationally. Its components of surveillance, training, capacity building, outbreak investigation, research, preparation and control, are addressing FBD in a wholistic manner to promote food safety in the Region. CARPHA has also trained and certified over 500 persons in nine of its Member States in advanced food safety and has developed a suite of hospitality, health, food safety and environmental standards, to provide a basis for the development of an effective food safety program for the hospitality industry.

CARPHA remains committed to working with partners and Member States to strengthen regional food safety through multi-sectoral collaboration, capacity building activities, exchange of information and communication.

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Health

Ministry of Health and Human Services recognises International Men’s Health Week 2024, coincides with Blood Donor Day

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#TurksandCaicos, June 8, 2024 – As International Men’s Health Week (IMHW) 2024 approaches, communities and organisations around the world are preparing to raise awareness about the unique health challenges men face and promote proactive approaches to maintaining and improving men’s health. This annual event, taking place from 10 June to 16 June, aims to encourage men and boys to prioritise their physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

The theme for IMHW 2024 is “Stronger Together”, emphasising the importance of community, support networks, and collective action in enhancing men’s health outcomes. By fostering connections and encouraging open conversations about health issues, we can create a supportive environment where men feel empowered to seek help and make healthier choices.

Key Areas of Focus Include:

  1. Mental Health:Addressing the stigma around mental health and encouraging men to seek support for issues such as depression, anxiety, and stress.
  2. 2. Physical Health:Promoting regular exercise, a balanced diet, and routine medical check-ups to prevent and manage conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
  3. Preventive Care:Highlighting the importance of early detection and prevention strategies, including screenings and vaccinations.
  4. Healthy Relationships:Encouraging men to build and maintain healthy relationships is crucial for emotional and psychological well-being.
  5. Work-Life Balance:Advocating for policies and practices that support work-life balance and reduce stress and burnout.

Events and Activities:

Throughout the month, the Ministry of Health and Human will be hosting a series of activities.

  1. June 14: Smart Parking lot, Providenciales- ‘Check your Numbers, know your Status’– this campaign encourages individuals to routinely check key health metrics such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose levels to monitor their risk for chronic conditions.  The campaign aims to empower individuals to take proactive steps toward early detection and prevention of serious health issues.
  2. June 15: Governor’s Beach Grand Turk- ‘Men in the Galley’ – an engaging event where men showcase their culinary skills by preparing healthy and creative dishes. Aimed at promoting better nutritional habits, the competition highlights the importance of cooking at home and the role of diet in maintaining overall well-being. This activity includes physical fitness challenges and health status checks.
  3. June 17: Health Matters Radio Program– RTC Monday 10 am: Colon Cancer in Men.
  4. June 24: Health Matters Radio Program– RTC Monday 10 am: Kidney Disease in Men.

The Minister of Health and Human Services, Honorable Shaun D. Malcolm, commented, “International Men’s Health Week is a crucial time for us to come together and address the specific health needs of men. By working together, we can create a healthier future for men and boys everywhere. Men’s health is not just a personal issue; it’s a community issue. When men are healthy, families and communities thrive. Encourage the men in your life to prioritise their health and seek help when needed.”

For additional information please visit the Ministry of Health and Human Services Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/tciministryofhealth/.

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