By Deandrea Hamilton & Dana Malcolm
#TurksandCaicos, December 20, 2022 – Even as the United Kingdom and the rest of the Caribbean move away from vaccine mandates the Turks and Caicos is still clinging to a rule which bars unvaccinated travellers from entering the islands, including those coming in on cruise ships. On Monday, December 19, the TCI Cabinet approved an extension to the Covid-19 vaccine mandate which should have expired on December 31st, enforcing it three extra months. It now expires on March 31 2023.
On Monday, Magnetic Media had reached out to Shaun Malcolm, current Minister of Health for an update on the mandate and whether it would be allowed to expire to no avail. Upon learning that the mandate had been extended, our news organization reached out again and again, there was no reply to the query.
As it stands now, the Turks and Caicos, heavily reliant upon travel and tourism is the only British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean holding on to the COVID vaccine mandate as a travel entry requirement according to the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association. It is in fact the only Caribbean country listed by the CHTA as still requiring that travellers be fully vaccinated for the coronavirus.
The Ministry of Health has always maintained that it is ‘following the science’ when it comes to decisions on the coronavirus. It has also been strongly intimated, and in some decisions stated by officials that the TCI is following the United Kingdom’s lead in the national response to the pandemic.
This latest decision elicits, however, a new string of questions from residents who are asking for a “reveal” of the evidence guiding the move to continue the mandate. Many feel the rule has run its course and overstayed its welcome.
Stacy Cox, CEO of the Turks and Caicos indirectly confirmed that the vaccine mandate sets TCI apart as a competing tourism destination, expressing earlier this month that bookings for the Christmas season could not be readily calculated “due to us being one of the only islands in the Caribbean that still has a vaccinated guest-only policy for entry while our competitors have dropped all requirements, advertising aggressively and are fully open for business.”
The mandate has also brokered ill-will between the country and unvaccinated homeowners who have not been able to see their luxury investments in over a year. Some of them have reached out to Magnetic Media, frustrated over the decision to treat them as visitors for whom the inoculation is mandatory.
No indication was given that they were considered at Cabinet and former Health Minister Jamell Robinson told us previously that schemes he had created to facilitate them had been rebuffed.
A Carnival Cruise Line blogger has added insight to the fall out about the prolonged vaccine mandate. Writing that among the top concerns about destination Grand Turk is the non-existent access unvaccinated cruisers have to the island.
But Government’s reluctance to alter the steady progress since the early days of the pandemic and the onslaught of Omicron could be attributed to the record setting tourism arrivals, boom in real estate sales and TCIs ability to freeze COVID deaths to 36 along with very low numbers of new cases – 17 as of December 13. Those in favour of the mandate say it is a rule which has not hurt tourism and may be helping to protect a fragile public health system.
Despite, there is new uncertainty about the fate and expectation of expatriate workers, all of whom were required to take the vaccine in order to have their work permits renewed or granted.
There was no indication, in the Cabinet report, whether the law mandating work permit holders to be fully vaccinated would be drawn back or upheld.
Permanent Secretary of Health has promised a statement in the coming days.
Guyana to build regional food hub
#Guyana, September 29, 2023 – Guyana is making moves to become the primary food production center for the Caribbean, going ahead with plans to develop a USD$14 million regional food hub.
In fact, as reported by the Observer, the facility has already been identified on the country’s Soesdyke /Linden Highway.
“We want Guyana to be the food hub, the primary production hub of the Caribbean so that we could supply the Caribbean. What we have, our colleagues in the Caribbean don’t have. We have arable flat land and abundant fresh water,” he said, adding that with the multi-million dollar US investment, the country can, “modernise the infrastructure, and start ramping up the productions.”
Also, the Agriculture Minister pointed out that the project is geared to make for a more competitive local Agriculture industry as well as developing high-yielding varieties, pest-resistant and climate-resilient varieties.
Additionally, in the facility’s development, Guyana, Mustapha said, will work with Belize.
In fact, with more on Belize’s involvement, Dr. Ashni Singh, Finance Minister, informed that the Government is in talks with the Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley about sourcing inputs from northern Brazil and transporting them through Guyana to Barbados and vice versa.
Singh also reportedly revealed that the project will help develop the growing logistics industry in Guyana.
Considering regional food import cost, with this development, Guyana is the leading Caribbean Community country pushing ahead with plans to reduce the multi-billion dollar regional food import bill by 25 per cent by 2025, the Observer says.
Cayman makes striking policy change to include more blood donors
#CaymanIslands, September 29, 2023 – The Cayman Islands overturned a policy that banned blood donation from people who visited the island from or resided in countries where “mad cow disease” existed. This was revealed by Sabrina Turner, Health Minister in Parliament, as reported by CNW Network.
People who resided in Britain from 1980 to 2001 and those who had blood transfusions in the UK after 1980, can now donate blood.
Due to recent risk evaluation, and the current protocol for blood donors, many nations, CNW reports, have re-evaluated and adjusted similar guidelines regarding blood donation, as Cayman Islands has now done.
The now initial restrictions on blood donations for the country was called for and was important as at the time of implementation, “mad cow disease” or as it’s scientifically called, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), was at-large affecting not just cows, but also people, who are able to contract “a version of BSE called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD),” the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says.
The likely reason for the Cayman Islands’ targeted population of those affiliated with living in the UK or getting blood transfusion in the UK, was because most of the people with vCJD lived in the UK, as highlighted by the FDA.
Also, as BBC says in a 2018 report, 1 in 2000 people in the UK is thought to be a carrier of the disease, even though some who are carriers don’t go on to develop symptoms.
However, the change in Cayman Islands’ policy does not mean the disease is no longer out there.
In fact the FDA said, “as of 2019, 232 people worldwide are known to have become sick with vCJD, and unfortunately, they all have died. It is thought that they got the disease from eating food made from cows sick with BSE. Most of the people who have become sick with vCJD lived in the United Kingdom at some point in their lives. Only four lived in the U.S., and most likely, these four people became infected when they were living or traveling overseas.”
Bwa Kalé movement striking back against gangs, nearly 3,000 murdered
#Haiti, September 29, 2023 – In eight months, nearly 3,000 Haitian people have been slaughtered in their home country due to the upsurge and uprising of gangs in the republic which is struggling to hold its democracy in check.
‘Bwa Kalé’, it’s a vigilante movement that has sprung up in Haiti, and the UN says it is driving up murders.
A recent report following an expert visit detailed it.
“Certain groups have formed allegedly to protect their neighbourhoods from gangs. In some instances, these groups have summarily executed people suspected of being gang members. The Bwa Kalé movement demonstrates the population’s lack of trust in the State, especially in the police and the courts. The expert has learned that some members of the police and the judiciary have been complicit with gangs.”
Despite the obvious fear among residents, the UN is warning them not to take justice into their own hands. However, that is easier said than done as Haitians have demonstrated their feelings of abandonment by fleeing the island in mass numbers on illegal voyages and standing up to the gangs themselves.
In the same report, one said: “The State is absent, there are no police or other officials operating there.”
According to AP, a new report to the U.N. Security Council indicated that 2,728 intentional killings were recorded between October 2022 and June 2023, including 247 women, 58 boys, and 20 girls. Bwa Kalé is blamed partially for the increase, as life in the country is described as unbearable.
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