The Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) have successfully begun rolling out an extensive COVID-19 vaccine program with the goal of 5,000 persons receiving the first dose of the vaccine within the first month already achieved, leading to 10% of TCI with immune imminently and moving towards proper herd immunity.
The jewel of the Caribbean is to be: “one of the safest destinations in the world”, according to Governor Nigel Dakin. He said: “In the first week we’ve touched multiple members of society: health workers, the elderly, those with underlying conditions, police, prison employees, pastors, Turks Islanders, Haitians and Dominicans. Those with serious needs will be prioritized, but this vaccine is for all persons who are resident in the TCI who want it. If we all embrace the opportunity it will make us not only a regional but a world leader”.
The first group of vaccinations included a cross segment of individuals from across the Turks and Caicos including His Excellency Governor Nigel Dakin and his wife Mandy, Premier Honorable Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson, Deputy Governor Her Excellency Anya Williams and Minister of Education Honorable Karen Malcolm; joined by CEO of the Turks and Caicos Islands Hospitals Dr. Denise Braithwaite and private family medical practitioner Dr. Joe Bowden; Commissioner of Police Trevor Botting; President of the TCI Kidney Foundation Leon Wilson; representative of the TCI Cancer Society Lucille Lightbourne; local historian William “Bill” Clare; representative of the Clergy Pastor Steven Cornwall and representatives of the Haitian and Dominican communities Pastor Alces Dor and Vice President of the Dominican Consul in the TCI Candido Moreno.
The roll out has since been extended outside the high-risk priority groups such as healthcare workers, elderly persons, frontline workers and those with chronic non communicable diseases to include all residents in the Turks and Caicos Islands with a full TCI’s Vaccination Strategy announced and it is hoped that all residents will play their role in protecting themselves and each other by getting vaccinated. Healthcare staff are providing an efficient and seamless process for registration and vaccination. The COVID-19 Vaccine Registration is available to residents at the following site: https://covidvaccineregistration.gov.tc/
This allows all residents in the TCI to register their interest in receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. The Deputy Governor and Co-Chair of the TCI COVID-19 Vaccination Oversight Steering Committee Her Excellency Anya Williams stated that: “I encourage all persons that can, to register on the website to be vaccinated.” To date a total of 6,114 individuals have received their first dose of the Pfizer–BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine.
Alongside the vaccine, Turks and Caicos has expanded its testing capabilities for travelers who need to meet the CDC’s new requirements. TCI has “exponentially increased” its testing facilities in response to the new CDC order, which requires all travelers returning to the United States to show proof of a negative test taken and received within 72 hours before boarding their flight home.
“The Turks and Caicos Islands’ addition of new testing sites makes it easy and convenient for travelers to abide by the CDC’s new rule without disrupting their vacations,” said Ralph Higgs, Minister of Tourism for the Turks and Caicos Islands. “We are proud to meet the latest requirements, in conjunction with our valued partners, to ensure the ongoing safety of our residents and guests along with a seamless travel experience.”
Turks and Caicos has now set up 12 different testing sites across the country, including sites in Providenciales, South Caicos and Parrot Cay. They range from resorts like Amanyara, Seven Stars and the Grace Bay Club to pharmacies and medical clinics.
The rapid Covid-19 testing kits which give results in under 30 minutes will soon be available to tourists and residents to further control the spread of Covid-19 in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The lateral flow devices (LFDs) will help the TCI Government, businesses and the public sector to easily identify symptomless
people who have high levels of the coronavirus. Commonly referred to as rapid or quick tests, each version is put through a rigorous validation programme before being approved by leading scientists in the United Kingdom. The Turks and Caicos Hotel and Tourism Association (TCHTA) has secured a US$1million line of credit to purchase antigen tests to ensure that visitors to the country can get faster COVID-19 results and therefore not experience any delays in returning home. The TCHTA president Todd Foss has announced that 50,000 kits will shortly be arriving, and stated that participating in securing these tests kits is an impressive example of how private and public sector partners can work together.
Hotels and flight operators don’t anticipate any issues with visitors being stranded in the Turks and Caicos Islands because of testing delays or due to issues related to the financial challenges of exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, because of widely available testing and because tourists are mandated to purchase medical insurance coverage prior to their arrival and therefore guests to Turks and Caicos Islands should not have to bear the burden of isolation costs or medical evacuations. TCI is confident in its ability to handle the capacity required to ensure that guests can return home on time and safely.
All travelers to Turks and Caicos need to show proof of a negative test result within five days prior to arrival in the destination and a 14-day quarantine period is not required for visitors once they have tested negative for the virus.
The Turks and Caicos Islands is leading the way fully and actively engaged in the fight against COVID-19, keeping its tourism sector open for business by embracing new technology in testing opportunities and public vaccination initiatives.
Ms. Caroline J. Kerswell (LLM)