BUDGET ADDRESS 2020: Hon. Edwin A. Astwood

Mr. Speaker, as the representative for Grand Turk South & Salt Cay, today I proudly stand to give an update on the illustrious three and a half years of achievements and progress in providing health care services that the Ministry of Health, Agriculture, Sports and Human Services has achieved, and the path we will travel together in the coming fiscal year and beyond.

As I recall and review my first ministerial budget address in our newly elected government in April of 2017. I could never have imagined the unprecedented events and battles that we were destined to fight on behalf of the people of the Turks & Caicos. Mr. Speaker, at that time we had no way of knowing that we were just in the calm before the storm, and Mr. Speaker, the storms did come.

Mr. Speaker, over the last four years it’s been quite a ride, we have watched mother nature as she destroyed our islands of the TCI and other countries in the region. Unlike in the past, she left no island untouched, and in order to make sure her destruction was precise, she did it twice.

Never in the recorded history of the Turks & Caicos have we ever seen anything like that; airports gone, buildings gone, homes gone, trees gone, telecommunications gone, electricity grid gone, beaches gone, lobster and conch gone. But, Mr. Speaker, with God’s help, and against all odds, this PDM government restored the country.

Mr. Speaker, we did not just restore the country, we did it in record time, and had the country reopen for business.

Then Mr. Speaker, while successfully responding to the natural disasters, the manmade disasters begin to happen. Almost every week there was a fire burning down a building, especially here in Grand Turk; fires at the prison. The few remaining historic buildings that Irma & Maria did not take, the malicious persons setting fires did; countless fires at the dumpsites were being done by mischievous and hateful people; the water system pipes were vandalized and destroyed nightly in Grand Turk. But Mr. Speaker through all of this, with God’s help, and again, against all odds, we restored the country.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, in the last 3.5 years, we were faced with the threat of new vector borne diseases, in particular Zika, which crippled our tourism sector for the region, and again with God’s help, and against all odds, this government recovered the country.

In the last four years, we have sadly lost far too many of our citizens, some who were in the most productive years of their lives. Many were the result of lifestyle disorders like, heart diseases and high blood pressure. In response to this occurrence, Mr. Speaker, the government changed its strategic priorities to the strengthening of Primary Health Care.

To that end, Mr. Speaker, my Ministry had completed, built and opened two clinics in North Caicos, commissioned the mobile clinic and non-emergency vehicles, increased the number of Primary Healthcare doctors and nurses, extend the clinics’ opening hours, all fostering increase access to health care and the promotion healthy lifestyles and healthy choices.

Mr. speaker, we executed the ground breaking move of pulling Sports from the Ministry of Education and Youth, and anchoring it with Health. This was an awesome thing to do, and made perfect sense; besides a few environmental factors and some genetic predispositions, your health is directly related to physical activity, food consumption, and mental state; such as stress, anxiety, or happiness.

This government is also addressing the external environmental factors that influence health. To that end the Ministry is embarking on to cleaner forms of energy, reduction in emissions and reduction in unhealthy fumes into the air we breathe. The government is currently in the process of seeking proposals for the cleanest methods for handling the country’s solid waste. 

Mr. Speaker, over the past 3.5 years, my government has also put in place other policies & guidelines for healthier lifestyles such as; salt and sugar uptake, School Nutrition Policy, School Fitness Policy, Sports Policy (which includes sports for health benefits), Agriculture Policy (which promotes the production of safe and healthy food), and Mental Health Regulations.

These laws, policies, guidelines, and provisions will yield much future health benefits to our people and the environment, creating a healthier and happier TCI.      

Mr. Speaker, notwithstanding of all the destruction, devastation and demolition in the last 3.5 years, this government never resorted to laying off people, cutting back on spending, freezing hiring, freezing promotions, cutting out allowances or any of those reactive measures. We simply put our leadership and resolve to the test and perform Mr. Speaker. And in Performing, we are restoring; restoring gratuities, restoring employment opportunities, restoring business opportunities.

COVID-19

Mr. Speaker, after overcoming all the challenges and obstacles of the past 40 months, and restoring the wealth of the country, today we face a greater battle, referred to as the Invisible Killer; COVID-19. Mr. Speaker.

My Ministry and I commenced sounding the alarm about this virus as early as January 20, 2020. At that time, it was only being reported in China. Many persons did not care to listen. We published newspaper articles, went on radio shows, held press conferences, and still many choose not listen.

Mr. Speaker, only when it reached the United States persons started paying attention, and panic began. This panic was amplified by the many authors of false information geared to cause public hysteria.

However, Mr. Speaker, it is important to state that we had the listening ear of some. Unlike others, the Honourable Premier, and Cabinet members took our warnings serious, and immediately appropriated funds to the sum of some $430,000, for the Ministry to commence preparation work.

The Public and Environmental Health Board was further called to action for additional meetings, focusing only on COVID-19. I want to state publically and commend the work of this board; Mr. Speaker, all recommendations and measures for mitigating against this strain of Coronavirus came from this awesome performing board. The recommendations then came to the Minister of Health, who then presented them to Cabinet for acceptance of, and action, the recommendations.

Mr. Speaker, if it were not for the recommendations of the Public & Environmental Health Board, the swift and correct decisions of Cabinet, and the immediate implementations of those recommendations by TCIG; Things would have gone bad for this country Mr. Speaker. All the epidemiological models show that the results would have been CATASTROPHIC for our country; many of you in this Honourable House, and many others, would not have been with us today.

Mr. Speaker, an additional $2,000,000 has been appropriated to immediately assist the Ministry of Health in the continuing fight against this Pandemic; and if more money is needed, we made certain that it would be made available.

With the additional $2m, Mr. Speaker, the Ministry will further increase its human resources in the area of general practitioners, medical technologists, public health nurses and registered nurses.  Additional PPE’s is also being sourced to ensure there is a stockpile for TCIG and the hospitals.  Also Mr. Speaker, with preparations well on the way to commence in-country testing, the Ministry is focusing on ensuring that the government laboratory is fully equipped with all of the necessary supplies and equipment for widespread community testing.

Mr. Speaker, with the Ministry Strategic Priorities (page 3.203/Budget Book) already geared towards the fight against both communicable and infectious diseases; if we now further focus on diseases like COVID-19, and prepare for the emergence of other new diseases, and the reemergence of old and existing diseases.

  • Strategic Priority #3 states – reinforce and strengthen public and environmental health programs in an effort to prevent disease.
  • Strategic Priority #9 states – establish a robust health information and surveillance system for the timely collection, analysis, and dissemination of data to support evidence-based decision-making.

Performance of Ministry

Speaker, I want to commence this segment by giving a big thank you to the Ministry’s team on behalf of my government and the people of TCI.

Nonetheless Mr. Speaker, permit me to further take you on an “Against all Odds” journey of success and progress of my Ministry, and to direct all attention to the departments, units, and statutory bodies under the Ministry of Health, Agriculture, Sports, & Human Services;

The Primary Care Department

In 2015/2016 the budgeted amount for this department was $1,949,017 This government, against all odds, has increased that, year by year, now to a sum of $2,838,920. The staff compliment in 2016 was 40, today it is now 53.

Major achievements last financial year include: -

  • Built, completed, and opened two new clinics in North Caicos;
  • Implemented the Human Papillomavirus vaccine for young girls.
  • Use of the mobile clinic for enhanced community outreach
  • Repairs have commenced to South Caicos clinic.
  • This year, adding two medical officers, two registered nurse midwives, and a migrant health manager.
  • Last year – extended hours at the primary health care clinics
  • Implementation of digital immunization records

For this Year 2020/2021 we will see: -

  • Addition of five Community Health Nurses
  • Piloted, in two schools, the School Nutrition and Fitness Policy.
  • Development and implementation of an EVASI manual-for ensuring the safety of Vaccines.
  • Development and implementation of new child health records.

Sports Department

In 2015/2016, the budgeted amount for this department was $846,715 This government, against all odds, has increased that, year by year, now to a sum of $2,172,489; and not only have we increased the budgeted amount, we have rightfully returned them back to the Sports Commission. The staff compliment in 2016 was 13, today it is now 30.

Major achievements last financial year include: -

  • The purchasing of the national stadium for people of the TCI, both the young and the adults. This is huge Mr. speaker.
  • Installation of tuff at Grand Turk Parade Grounds
  • Installation of Down-Town Ball Park back wall.
  • Purchase and disseminate sports equipment to all government schools in the TCI.
  • National Stadium repairs: building #5.
  • Leeward Green Park works.
  • Gustarvus Lightbourne Sport Complex repairs.
  • Contracts awarded for resurfacing of outdoor play courts across the TCI.
  • Establishment of core sports.
  • Held for the first time, Inter High School Athletic Competitions in all islands
  • Held for the first time Track and Field qualifying meets leading up to Nationals.
  • Sponsorship of our elite athletes to cover the cost of high performance training and attendance at competitions.
  • Provided funding and training for various Non-Governmental Sporting bodies.
  • Held record numbers summer sports camps in all islands
  • The Sports Department launched the National Sports Policy in February 2019.

For this year 2020/2021 we will see: -

  • The building of an indoor sports facility in Grand Turk.
  • The resurfacing of the track at the National Stadium
  • The installation of the Parade Grounds lights
  • The construction of the Chalk Sound Fitness Park
  • The completion of the Leeward Palms Green Fitness Park.
  • The completion refurbishment of basketball courts in all islands

Department of Agriculture:

In 2015/2016 the budgeted amount for this department was $784,572. Against all odds, this government has increased that, year by year, now to a sum of $1,016,110.

Major achievements last financial year include: -

  • Expansion of agricultural services and farmer training programs.
  • Conducted a farmers’ business training workshop, Providenciales
  • Commissioning of the newly upgraded government farm on North Caicos.
  • Built farmer capacity to include field trials, data collection and greenhouse technology,
  • Development agriculture incentive packages,
  • Worked on the submission of Animal Health and Plant Health Regulations,
  • Expand and enhance the monitoring of surveillance systems to mitigate the risk of pest invasion and proliferation,
  • Expand veterinary clinics to ensure the continued rabies free status of the TCI,
  • Reduce the stray dog population
  • Boost public safety from fears of contracting zoonotic disease.
  • Conducted its first seed and plant give away on the island of Grand Turk.

In 2018/19

  • The Agriculture Policy was developed, approved and implemented.
  • “The Eat What You Grow, Grow What You Eat” programme was launched.
  • The School and Home Gardens programme was launched.

For this year 2020/2021 we will see;

  • An urgent and aggressive approach to assist persons in developing farming, both commercial and back yard farming.
  • The establishment of an Agro Park in Grand Turk.
  • The completion of the Farmers Market, Providenciales.
  • Farm equipment for Government Farm, North Caicos assisting with the preparation of land for farmers.
  • Veterinarian services returning to the island of Grand Turk.
  • Plant and Seeds Give Away Programmes throughout the TCI.
  • Strengthening of framework to facilitate agriculture incentive packages to farmers.

Special Needs Department

In 2015/2016, the budgeted amount for this department was $440,008.  Against all odds, this government has increased that, year by year, now to a sum of $2,414,577. The staff compliment in 2016 was 48, today it is now 54.

Major achievements last financial year include: -

  • The continued strengthening of partnerships with the Ministry’s SNAP Centre for special needs children with its corporate sponsors.
  • Continued work with the One World Foundation which provided assessments for children with special needs.
  • Held a vacation Camp Mission Possible for children, which was the first of its kind camp held in TCI. This therapeutic camp, facilitated by a cadre of speech and language pathologists, behavioral therapists, occupational therapists and a pediatric physiotherapist. The focus was on each campers’ abilities and not their disabilities.

For this year 2020/21 we will see: -

  • $500 for the acquisition of a facility for a Special Needs School, Grand Turk
  • Deputy Director of Special Needs
  • Increase access to early simulation and intervention for developmental delays in children.

Mental Health & Substance Abuse Department

In 2015/2016, the budgeted amount for this department was $1,067,006.  Against all odds, this government has increased that, year by year, now to a sum of $1,606,994. The staff compliment in 2016 was 14, today it is now 24.

Major achievements last financial year include: -

  • In collaboration with the World Health Organization, launched the mhGap initiative which fostered mental health discussion and support, which scaled up services for mental, neurological and substance use disorders for countries especially with low and lower middle incomes.
  • Launching of the department’s own website for getting information to all who might secretly and confidentially require it.
  • Launched for the first time the Driving Under the Influence Programme.

Activities underway this financial year 2020/21 include: -

  • Funding of $300,000 for completion of the mental health facilities, Grand Turk
  • The completion of the Mental Health Strategic Plan,
  • Completing the Public Service Drug and Alcohol Policy,
  • Developed the Employee Assistance Programme,
  • Developed the National Suicide Plan
  • Strengthening mental health awareness
  • Monitor and evaluate the Mental Health Gap Project.

The Environmental Health Department

In 2015/2016, the budgeted amount for this department was $4,563,364.  Against all odds, this government has increased that, year by year, now to a sum of $5,634,103.

Major achievements last financial year include: -

  • Trained approximately 1000 food handlers.
  • Completed and submitted draft Food Regulations.
  • Developed and implemented training programme for Environmental Health Staff (National Examination Board in Occupational Health and Safety); certificate and diploma programme for environmental health and vector control officers.
  • Mapped mosquito breeding and infestations sites and implement the use of GIS mapping (geographic information system).
  • Conducted mosquito insecticide resistance testing.
  • Capacity building training provided by Public Health England, CARPHA and PAHO on the areas of vector control, plant health, port health, chemical and radiological hazard preparedness and response.

Activities underway this financial year 2020/21 include: -

  • Funding of $540,000 for the procurement of garbage trucks for Grand Turk and South Caicos.
  • Upkeep of all public cemeteries in the country
  • Wide air quality monitoring
  • Strengthening of Communicable Disease Surveillance Systems to deal with new and reemerging disease outbreaks.

The Emergency Medical Services

In 2015/2016, the budgeted amount for this department was $817,004.  Against all Odds, this government has increased that, year by year, now to a sum of $1,409,096. The staff compliment in 2016 was 20, today it is now 34.

Major achievements last financial year include: -

  • The refurbishment and reopening of the ambulance base in Providenciales.
  • Recruited additional EMTs thereby increasing the complement of trained staff.
  • Increased the staff complement to three (3) EMTs on the islands of South Caicos and North Caicos which also serve Middle Caicos.
  • Local training of new EMTs and recertification of existing EMTs.
  • Establish a much needed Quality Assurance/Quality Improvement Committee.
  • Activities underway this financial year 2020/21 include;
  • The arrival of one additional ambulance.
  • Addition of five emergency technicians.

The National Public Health Laboratory

In 2015/2016, the budgeted amount for this department was $239,371.  Against all odds, this government has increased that, year by year, now to a sum of $399,604, with much additional financial resources being directed for the fight against COVID-19.

Major achievements last financial year include: -

  • Increased voluntary blood donation through increased public service messages and forming partnerships.
  • Participated in Antimicrobial Resistance Training and contributing to the forming of the Antimicrobial Resistance National Action Plan.
  • Appointment of Mr Samajeo Williams as the Chief Medical Technologist. Mr Williams hails from the nation’s capital and trained in the UK.
  • Embarked in proficiency testing for its services.
  • In 2018/2019, the laboratory director was recruited, temporary space located to house the laboratory, and general equipment, materials, and supplies were acquired for commencing operations.
  • Two years ago we had moved them out from just having a desk in the Ministry’s office to their own space; and now to a bigger space.
  • Activities underway this financial year 2020/21 include;
  • The acquisition of three PCR Analyzers, one already in place.
  • Additional specialized equipment for the preparation extraction process of viral specimens.
  • Relocation for achieving the much required additional space

National Epidemiology Research Unit

In 2015/2016, the budgeted amount for this department was $310,630.  Against all odds, this government has increased that, year by year, now to a sum of $437,857.

Major achievements last financial year include: -

  • Implemented, in collaboration with CARPHA, web-based surveillance system to ensure all hotels report on communicable diseases and syndromes in a timely manner.
  • Implemented/maintained Event Based Surveillance (EBS) System including training personnel.
  • Spearheaded the development of a Communicable Disease Surveillance Manual for TCI in collaboration with other stakeholders and partners.
  • Conducted training workshop on measles outbreak response to prepare key stakeholders.
  • Facilitated death certificate training for physicians in collaboration with CARPHA.

Activities underway this financial year 2020/21 include: -

  • The completion of a Cancer Registry
  • Development of a Cancer Plan

Contract Performance Management Unit

In 2015/2016, the budgeted amount for this department was $272,445.  Against all odds, this government has increased that, year by year, now to a sum of $559,559.

Major achievements last financial year include: -

  • Produced a series of radio and newspaper advertisements relating to the complaints process whereby patients’ complaints can be lodged and addressed in collaboration with the hospital.
  • Conducted a series of workshops to refresh the committee’s understanding of the project agreement between TCIG and IHC.
  • Strengthen partnership with InfraCo as it relates to facilities management
  • Work towards implementing the recommendations which will be approved by TCIG and IHC from the Zero Based Budget report.
  • Participating in the steering committee for Sexual Assault Referral Center.

The Dental Department

The department is now providing dental services throughout the Turks and Caicos Islands.

 Major achievements last financial year include: -

  • School Dental Health Programme (School children 0-18 yrs.)
  • Her Majesty Prison Programme
  • Wellness Center Programme
  • Ante-Natal & Post-Natal Programme
  • Oral Health Promotion Programmes (radio & television)
  • SNAP Center Programme
  • Facilitated a dental consultancy to advise on the expansion of dental services for the TCI, including implementing research into the prevalence of dental caries.

Activities underway this financial year 2020/21 include: -

  • Procurement of furniture and equipment for the dental services in the new clinics in North Caicos.
  • Strengthening of the School Dental Health Programme
  • Development of an Oral Health Policy
  • Development and implementation of a Dental Needs Assessment

Pharmacy

In recognizing the need to ensure that we comply with international health standards, during the 2018/20 financial year, the government recruited a National Pharmacist.

Major achievements last financial year include: -

  • Conducted stakeholder consultations for changes to the Food and Drugs and Control of Drugs Ordinances.
  • Developed a National Pharmaceutical Human Resources Plan for hiring pharmacy technicians.
  • Ensure the rational use of medicines by healthcare workers and patients in order to maximize therapeutic benefits.
  • Improved the capacity and performance of the Primary Healthcare facilities and central storage facility, for allowing an efficient supply chain management in medicines.
  • Developed a National Pharmacovigilance Programme including public service announcements for drug recalls.
  • Produced quarterly bulletins that are educational, informative and highlights the achievements of National Pharmaceutical Policy goals.

Health Promotion and Advocacy Unit

In 2015/2016, the budgeted amount for this department was $413,698. Against all odds, this government has increased that, year by year, now to a sum of $689,297.

Major achievements last financial year include: -

  • Developed a strategic network for comprehensive public education, public awareness, and advocacy campaigns on healthy lifestyle choices and improved self-management of non-communicable diseases.
  • Continued work on gathering risk factors for NCDs through finalizing the STEPS Survey project,
  • Developed and implemented initiatives in order to achieve the global targets for reduction/elimination of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV),
  • Establishment of validation structures to support regional verification of the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and Syphilis.

Activities underway this financial year 2020/21 include;

  • Health Promotions on COVID-19 transmission and mitigation
  • Completion of the STEPS Survey

Health Disaster, Education and Training Unit

This unit continues its efforts to prepare the health sector to respond to disasters, natural or manmade:

Major achievements last financial year include: -

  • Conduct and facilitate multi-sectoral trainings and workshops: Mass Casualty Management, Emergency Care and Treatment, Proper Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), Response to Chemical Incidents, Logistic Support System-LSS,
  • Held multi-sector stakeholder meetings to finalize and update disaster plans,
  • Develop new health sector plans to include chemical hazard response, public health management of illegal sloops and mass gatherings.
  • Safe hospital checklist applied to all existing hospitals and health facilities.

Activities underway this financial year 2020/21 include: -

  • Sourcing and procuring of COVID-19 supplies and equipment
  • Sourcing and procuring of disaster management Supplies and equipment.

Health Policy and Planning Unit

Major achievements last financial year include: -

  • In collaboration with PAHO held a successful ‘Health in All Policies’ workshop for members of the House of Assembly and heads of department from across government.
  • Recruitment of a Health Planner for institutional strengthening within the unit
  • Formulated a draft Health in All Policies Strategic plan.
  • Identified and engage champions for HiAPs and healthy lifestyles.
  • Developed legislative/policy framework.
  • Provided updates on Ministry’s legislative agenda.
  • Supported the development of the Health Services Authority (HSA).
  • Supported the implementation of the NCD Action plan.
  • Conducted work with PAHO on the biennial work plan and monitor implementation of the exiting joint plan of work.
  • Developed Draft National Health Policy

Nursing Services Unit

Achievements this past financial year include: -

  • Participated in the monthly Nursing and Midwifery Council meetings responsible for regulation of nursing and midwifery education and practice.
  • Developed and adapted the vision, mission and values for nursing and midwifery utilizing the National Nursing Policy Manual 1996.
  • Developed nursing practice standards in coordination with Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)and senior nursing managers
  • Increase promotion of the nursing profession as a “valuable career choice” to primary and secondary school students.

Policies

In the last year budget submission, the Ministry indicated that it would advance an aggressive policy and legislative agenda including approval of subsidiary legislation by March 2020 to strengthen governance, regulations, standards, programs and services. The Ministry is pleased to report that a number of these initiatives have been progressed.

  • The Health Professions (Amendment) Bill was passed. This bill brings into existence the Health Professions Authority (HPA) which has replaced the Health Secretariat.
  • The appointment of the three (3) health professions councils: The Medicine and Dentistry Professions Council, the Nursing and Midwifery Professions Council, and the Allied Health Professions and Pharmacy Professions Council.
  • The Health Appeals Tribunal has been appointed.
  • The Health Regulations Authority – will be commencing operations later this year and will ensure that health facilities are inspected and is in compliance with established standards.
  • The Sports Commission Bill has been passed
  • Health in All Policies – held a HiAP conference for the public sector
  • Mental Health Regulations - approved.
  • Veterinary Professions Bill are proceeding with public consultancy.
  • Animal Health (Amendment) Bill 2018 drafted.
  • Veterinary Professionals (Registration) Bill 2018 drafted.
  • Animal (Welfare) Regulations 2018 drafted.
  • Animal and Animal Products (Import and Export) Regulations 2018 drafted.
  • Animal Establishment Regulations 2018 drafted.
  • Public Service Drug and Alcohol Policy- drafted and sent for PAHO review.
  • A draft National Suicide Prevention Policy was completed.

Closing Discussion

Mr. Speaker, from what was presented, all can see that my Ministry has had, and is having, a very busy and productive year. However, Mr. Speaker, in addition to the much work that has already been done throughout the year, the last 10 weeks has been a true test for the Ministry, a true test for the country, and certainly the entire world.

Mr. Speaker, this has been a time of change, and change continues, and we should know that the one thing that is constant in this world is change. We have to accept and embrace change, learn to live with it, adjust to the new normal, adjust to the new way of living in our communities, adjust to new ways of life in our country, and indeed adjust to life in this world.

Mr. Speaker, we know of many examples of human discoveries, and examples of human atrocities, that has instantly changed the way we live in the world. One need not think hard to recall agents of change, like the invention of the telephone, that changed how we connected with people; the invention of air planes, that change how we, and diseases, travelled around the world, and the time taken to do so.

Very recently, Mr. speaker, we have seen how the internet and mobile phones have changed the way we live our lives, and the access we have to information and to each other. If I was to go just a few years back and to have a conversation with my grandfathers: Richard Robinson and Lewis Astwood, and to tell them that in the year 1995 everyone would be walking around with a telephone that can fit in their shirt pocket, they would have thought that I was crazy.

But, Mr. Speaker, imagine if I had told them that with in the near future that with your telephone you would be able to take pictures, pay bills, purchase items, scan a photo and a document, send a letter instantly to anyone and anywhere in the world, have a text conversation in real time, or make a video call; seeing the person wherever they may be in the world. They would never comprehend any of that; and that is exactly how new changes become new norms, new ways of living.

Mr. Speaker when we look at atrocities that changed the world; again we do not have to think hard or long. When the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, on October 12, 1492, pulled over the horizon and sailed between the island of Grand Turk – or San Salvador, depending on which school of history you subscribe to – life in the “New World” was changed instantly, especially for our native inhabitants the Lucayan people. 

Also Mr. Speaker, when the Spanish, Portuguese, and English stole, took, and misappropriated millions of Africans – fathers, mothers, children, leaders, spiritual healers, warriors, builders, story tellers – and brought them to this side of the world as SLAVES, their lives were instantly changed; “Stolen from Africa, brought to America, driven from the main land to the heart of the Caribbean.” The life as our forefathers knew it changed instantly to one of servitude, bondage, prosecution, oppression, suppression, and repression.

Mr. Speaker, diseases and viruses are NOT NEW to changing the way human beings live their lives, or changing the world as we know it. In the realm of infectious diseases, a pandemic is the worst case scenario. When an epidemic spread beyond a country’s borders and spreads to other countries, that’s when the disease officially becomes a pandemic.

Throughout history, some pandemics that have shattered and devastated the human population, and in the process they changed history, and changed the way people lived, are:

430 BC, Athens – the earliest recorded pandemic happened during the Peloponnesian War.

165 AD, Antonine plague – symptoms included fever, sore throat, diarrhea and, if the patient lived long enough, pus-filled sores.

541 AD, Justinian Plaque – killing 50 million people, 26 percent of the world population.

1350, The Black Death – responsible for the death of one-third of the world population.

1665, The Great Plague of London – this bubonic plague led to the deaths of 20 percent of London’s population.

1889, Russian Flu – killed more than 360,000 people in Europe.

1918, Spanish Flu – this avian-borne flu that resulted in 50 million deaths worldwide.

1981, HIV/AIDS

First identified in 1981, AIDS destroys a person’s immune system, resulting in eventual death by diseases that the body would usually fight off. 35 million people worldwide have died of AIDS since its discovery.

2019: COVID-19

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization announced that the COVID-19 virus was officially a pandemic after barreling through 114 countries in three months and infecting over 118,000 people. And the spread wasn’t anywhere near finished. Today globally there are 2,285,210 confirmed infected, with 155,124 deaths.

Mr. Speaker, we witness how the events surrounding 9/11 changed how we travel around the world; the screening processes, long lines, background checks, and the tighter security measures, which we all adjusted to, and had become the new norm.

This new coronavirus has changed how we physically interact with each other, and how we view global supply chains; THIS CHANGE HAPPENING RIGHT NOW WILL TO SOON BE JUST THE NEW NORM, THE NEW WAY OF LIVING.

In 165 AD, Marcus Aurelius' Roman Empire was hit with the Antonine Plague. Despite the distance of so many centuries, it's was eerily similar to Covid-19. It caused widespread panic, but Marcus Aurelius was a beacon of sanity and stability during these times. He made the people of his empire a priority, as this government is doing right now. He did the best he could to deal with a pandemic that eventually killed between 10 and 18 million people in his empire; there was widespread panic, the virus crossed borders and oceans, doctors were baffled, travel was rerouted or cancelled, festivals, gatherings, sporting events all cancelled, the economy plunged; sounding familiar? The people looked to their Emperor; first he said that all the people should remain calm. He wrote that, “All of this has happened before, and all will happen again. The same plot from beginning to end”.

And so, Mr. Speaker, we, ourselves, will get through this; under the leadership of this tried, tested, and proven PDM government; we will get through this, Mr. Speaker.

The Turks & Caicos Government has a wonderful team of brave men and women, on the frontlines every day, ensuring that you and your families can sleep a little easier at night.

We're all part of history, and how we act now in these times is how we'll be remembered by future generations.

It is game time now, Mr. Speaker, everything that I have learned before, all my training in medical laboratory technology experience, extensive knowledge on the characteristics of viruses, the immune system, principles of testing procedures, disease surveillance, my experiences during the hurricane disasters, has prepared me for such a moment like this.

Mr. Speaker, I can only promise that I will continue to do my best to perform my duty to Ministry of Health, Agriculture, Sports, & Human Services, the constituency of Grand Turk South & Salt Cay, and the people of the Turks & Caicos.  

And Mr. Speaker, as we give God thanks for another year. I wish for all TCI residents health, safety, security, and wellness at this time, and look for their continued support as we embark on this journey of meeting the health challenges in this present time. 

Mr. Speaker, I will give A closing message to all of our people. Use your time wisely: don’t let the possible weeks or months of isolation be for nothing. You can’t control how long you’ll need to engage in social distancing, but you can control if you spend that time productively. The version of you who steps out of quarantine at some future date can be better than the version that entered it, if you try.

-None of this is New; We were created for this time, and can pull up our inner strength to manage.

-We don’t control what happens, we control how we respond. Thank you

 

Hon. Edwin A. Astwood

Minister of Health Agriculture Sports & Human Services

MINISTRY OF HEALTH STATEMENT ON CARNIVAL HORIZON DOCKING

The Ministry of Health, Agriculture, Sports and Human Services would like to provide information to the general public in relation to the Carnival Cruise Ship Horizon, which docked in the TCI on Wednesday, 04 March 2020.

CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) UPDATE

The Ministry of Health, Agriculture, Sports and Human Services continues to collaborate with all government authorities on a national level in actively implementing Turks and Caicos Islands preparedness and response plan for COVID-19. The Ministry of Health continues to monitor the situation related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) locally, regionally and internationally. As of January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Please be informed that there are neither suspected nor confirmed cases of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) reported in Turks and Caicos Islands.

COVID-19 is the disease caused by the new coronavirus that was previously unknown before emerging in December 2019. It is believed to have originated with animals and spread to humans at a live animal market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

HEALTH MINISTER COMMENTS ON CORONAVIRUS

A new SARS-like virus is being spread In China. It is a new form of the Coronavirus. Officials in China say that this new strain of the virus has been traced to a seafood Market.

THE MINISTRY OF HEALTH MONITORS NEW STRAIN OF CORONAVIRUS

The Ministry of Health, Agriculture, Sports and Human Services (MoHAHS) is closely monitoring international alerts concerning a new strain of coronavirus (2019-nCoV), causing severe respiratory tract infections.

Turks & Caicos Islands host 61st CARPHA Conference

The Ministry of Health Agriculture and Human Services in collaboration with the Caribbean Public Health (CARPHA) will be hosting the 61st Annual Health Research Conference. This is the first time the conference is being held in our ‘Beautiful by nature Turks and Caicos Islands,’ at Beaches Turks and Caicos, 23-25 June 2016.

TCIG Host Mass Casualty Management Training Course

The Ministry of Health Agriculture and Human Services through its National Health Emergency Management Unit remains committed to providing a comprehensive approach to health emergency management in response to public health threats including natural and man-made disasters affecting the Turks and Caicos Islands.

World Blood Donor Day

“Blood connects us all” this is the theme for world blood donor day 2016, which is celebrated across the world on June 14th. It focuses on giving thanks to blood donors and highlights the dimension of ‘sharing’ and ‘connection’ between patients and blood donors.

Small bite, BIG Threat

There has been a significant amount of rainfall recently and residents are reminded to remember the 3 D’s to the prevention of vector borne illnesses like Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya. The TCI has no reported cases of Zika let us keep It that way by eliminating all mosquito breeding sites.

TCIG Recognizes National Cancer Survivor Day

National Cancer Survivors Day is observed on the 5th June, this day has been identified to nationally celebrate with persons who have beaten the odds and are surviving cancer.

COVID-19 UPDATE