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NO MORE PORTAL, NO MORE MASKS, NO MORE TESTS  

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By Deandrea Hamilton

Editor

 

#TurksandCaicos, April 26, 2022 – Well over half a million travel entry approvals have been processed by the TCI Travel Assured portal which will in four days become a relic; put into retirement as the Turks and Caicos Islands demonstrates it is confident the worst of the Coronavirus Pandemic is behind us.

Also gone: mandatory mask wearing and mandatory testing in order to enter the Turks and Caicos Islands for everyone.

The announcement came on Monday April 25, 2022.  There were no new raft of rules unveiled to manage the virus, there were only rollbacks of restrictions and the beginning of COVID Normal for the TCI, which is a leading tourism destination and a UK overseas territory.

 …as of April 18th, 2022 the Turks and Caicos Islands have again lowered it’s CDC Health threat listing to now a level 2. I again thank all the Health Professionals, Frontline workers, the various associations, and you the general public for your role in helping us continue to manage this now over 2 year old Covid-19 Pandemic,” said Jamell Robinson, Minister of Health & Human Services.

Added to the improved health and safety rating by the CDC, the Turks and Caicos Minister in his Monday National Health Update had significant reveals and changes to the Covid 19 Public and Environmental Health protocols.

The rules were approved by Members of the Turks and Caicos Cabinet.

“Approved for a fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to be administered for all adults, prioritizing those aged 60 and over and high-risk immunosuppressed individuals in the first instance,” said Robinson, who added, “Members also agreed to remove the requirement for visitors to have a negative Covid test and insurance. As such, the requirement for all passengers to register their details on the TCI Assured portal is discontinued with effect of 1 May 2022.”

The change which takes effect as of Sunday, also puts the TCI Travel Assured Portal, which was established ahead of a July 2020 reopening of the borders to tourism after the threat of the coronavirus, into retirement.

Now, in order to enter the Turks and Caicos, there will be no need to apply and gain approval through the portal.  Just like in the old days, which was about two years ago, one just needs to buy a ticket and show up at the airline check in counter.

Visitors, however , will still need to be fully vaccinated in order to enter the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Once Covid-19 tanked global travel, countries responded with a pre-approval in order to visit the respective countries.  For the Turks and Caicos Islands, an approval was hinged on a valid test, vaccination card and insurance coverage.  It was painstakingly managed by human power under the remit of the TCI Ministry of Tourism.  The most recent COVID-19 Dashboard for TCI exposes that at the very least, some 478,593 guest travellers passed through the portal process.

The figure above is only part of the picture.  It does not include travelling residents and does not reflect guests who would have visited the territory prior to January 2021 rules when travellers were expected to test negative for COVID for entry and exit.

Masks in Turks and Caicos were already discontinued for outdoor activities; now the government has stepped back from legalizing the donning of face coverings.

“Approved amendments to the Public and Environmental Health Covid-19 Regulations removing the mandatory requirement for face masks to be worn indoors and in enclosed spaces with effect of 1 May 2022,” informed Minister Robison.

Masks are now optional.

Returning residents who are fully vaccinated never had to provide a negative test for COVID; now returning residents who are unvaccinated are exempt from testing also.

Minister Robinson informed, “Visitors must present proof of vaccination and returning residents must present proof of (TCI) residency.”

The significant changes which render null and void the need for a 3-day old PCR test, an antigen test or the wait and hope to get the TCI Travel Assured Portal approval ahead of flights, makes Turks and Caicos a far more attractive and affordable vacation option as the cost to visit and hassle to get in are now gone.

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Ministry of Health and Human Services Conducts Emergency Vehicle Operators Course for Emergency Medical Services Personnel

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Ministry of Health and Human Services successfully conducted Emergency Vehicle Operator Training for Emergency Medical Services Department in March 2024.

The Ministry of Health and Human Services has reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring the safety and efficiency of emergency services across the Turks and Caicos Islands with the successful completion of an Emergency Vehicle Operator Course. Hosted for all members of the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department, this course marks a significant step in the ongoing efforts to provide high quality emergency response services.

Tailored specifically for ambulance operators, the course featured a comprehensive curriculum blending theoretical knowledge with practical skills. Participants underwent rigorous training encompassing critical safety practices essential for effective emergency responses. The amalgamation of didactic instruction and hands-on training enabled operators to navigate emergency situations with precision and confidence, fostering a culture of safety paramount for preserving lives.

In times of crisis, the EMS Department emphasizes the importance of well-trained and composed responders. Equipped with the skills acquired through this specialized course, EMS personnel are better prepared to address emergencies promptly and effectively, ensuring timely assistance to individuals in need.

The course, conducted by esteemed expert Mike Massaro, President of Trilogy Emergency Medical Solutions, ran from March 19th to March 22nd, 2024, across all islands. Mr. Massaro commended the EMS Department members for their enthusiasm and dedication to learning, acknowledging their pivotal role in enhancing community safety.

Participants lauded the interactive teaching approach employed throughout the course, noting its effectiveness in making lessons both engaging and informative. Their positive feedback underscores the value of practical, hands-on training in bolstering emergency response capabilities.

Minister of Health and Human Services, Honorable Shaun D Malcolm commented that “I am confident that the principles instilled during this course will significantly contribute to the safety and well-being of individuals accessing emergency services. By investing in continuous training and development, the Ministry remains steadfast in its mission to deliver safe, efficient and reliable emergency care to the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands.”

For more information, please visit the Turks and Caicos Islands Ministry of Health and Human Services Facebook pagE at https://www.facebook.com/tciministryofhealth/.

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Dengue cases rising in Region 

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Dana Malcolm 
Staff Writer 

As of March 26, 2024, over 3.5 million cases of dengue and more than 1,000 deaths have been reported in the region, now, both the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), are ringing alarm bells about the outbreak as cases swell to record highs.

PAHO on March 28 called for collective action in the region to fight back the growing wave of infections.

“This is cause for concern, as it represents three times more cases than those reported for the same period in 2023, a record year with more than 4.5 million cases reported in the region,” Jarbas Barbosa, PAHO Director said during a press briefing.

For now cases are concentrated in three main countries: Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina which account for nearly all of them, around 92 percent, but infections are on the rise regionally.

According to Barbosa, Caribbean countries must still be vigilant as data is beginning to show increases in areas like Barbados. That is paired with concerns from PAHO that some countries may not be equipped to handle the surge.

Nearly $500,000 was allocated in the 2023 2024 budget to the environmental health department under The Turks and Caicos Ministry of Health and Human Services to help with dengue which had been listed as a public nuisance.

Last year in the Turks and Caicos Islands, only a few rounds of fogging were completed. According to data from the Appropriations Committee around 10% of communities were fogged on schedule. Explaining the low number, representatives of the Environmental Health Department (EHD) maintained that fogging was not the primary defense against mosquito breeding locally.

”Fogging should actually be a last resort, there are preventative measures such as the treatment of swamps, and inspection of residential areas and communities for breeding sites.”

Representatives admitted though that they were still hampered by a lack of resources.

The country declared an outbreak in late 2024. Now there is an ongoing public education campaign to make residents aware of what they need to do to keep their homes safe and free from mosquitoes in addition

The Turks and Caicos Islands EHD also says they have been provided with money to help with garbage disposal in their battle against the vector borne disease.

The Ministry has also contracted entomologists to research what kind of mosquitoes live in the country and how to tackle them.

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31 Turks & Caicos Medical Professionals, Trained in Trauma care

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Dana Malcolm 
Staff Writer 

In a first for the Turks and Caicos and one that some would describe as particularly important, over three dozen healthcare professionals were upskilled in emergency trauma care via Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) certification.

Trauma Care in emergency medicine usually refers to treating patients who are critically ill or have severe injuries and need to be quickly stabilized like gunshot wounds, damaged limbs, crush injuries, and stab wounds.

In 1976 following a plane crash involving a surgeon and his children who experienced substandard trauma care, the first ATLS course was created. It attempts to provide basic training for medical professionals when dealing with acute trauma cases where there is little staff on hand. In fact ATLS is supposed to work with as little as a single doctor and nurse team working together to stop the most critical injuries first, ensuring a better chance of survival.

This is particularly useful for the Turks and Caicos with its small hospitals and limited staff. Health officials admitted this, highlighting what they describe as ‘the pressing need for such training, particularly due to physician shortage, isolated communities in family islands and other barriers to accessing this critical training.’

Recognizing the need, the Hamilton Education Foundation jumped into action, and in collaboration with Massachusetts General Hospital and the American College of Surgeons conducted a Hybrid Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) Demo for 31 doctors in the Turks and Caicos Islands on May 22nd and 23rd, 2024.

Led by Professor Susan Briggs,the foundation describes the course as historic in that it’s the first-ever done outside the United States and says it is;“Crucial for enhancing the quality of healthcare delivery and saving lives in the face of increasing intentional and unintentional injuries.”

With the rise in gunshot injuries in the country, seen through police data since 2020 many residents might be inclined to agree.

While admitting it was difficult to measure if ATLS reduced mortality, a 2016 article published in the National Library of Medicine describes the courses as “very useful from an educational point of view. It significantly increased knowledge, and improved practical skills and the critical decision making process in managing multiple trauma patients”

Rufus Ewing, Former Premier and Executive Chairman of the Hamilton Education Foundation, said, “This initiative aligns with our mission to enhance medical education and improve access to quality healthcare services in the Turks and Caicos Islands.”

The training received broad brush support from the Ministry of Health, TCI Hospital and private sector.

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