Good evening Turks and Caicos, it’s the Governor speaking.
A Sunday evening update for you. We’ve had three night curfews and we’ve now had two ‘day time lockdowns’. Weekends are traditionally slow here, so the next step is how we transition into what, at any normal time, would be a working week.
Psychologically, please continue to imagine there is no change as Sunday becomes Monday. For the vast majority of the population you have a slow start and a reflective day ahead of you tomorrow.
The Premier’s day of prayer surely helps set the tone. For those for whom faith is important take the opportunity afforded to you tomorrow to hear, on the radio, from many pastors representing many different traditions of the Christian faith, phoning in, in English Creole and Spanish. One of the great hopes of this period is we come out of it more united than we began. Tomorrow - with the whole Christian tradition coming together virtually on the Island - is a good starting point.
Away from this, since you have time, you may want to think about the number of people you have met over the last 14 days. Try doing the contact tracing on yourself, for yourself. Jot the number down. Add these together with all the contact your family has had and find the total. Just from doing that I hope you’ll be able to see the extraordinary decrease we now have - across the Islands - in terms of risk. This big thing we have done has a big reward attached. Stay the course.
When we make a mistake worth saying we did. The advice last night in the Premier’s address wasn’t where we presently are around our approach to outside exercise although we might well get there. Had I been speaking, I could easily have said the same; there’s quite a lot to think about just now based on different contingencies. We are working at great pace and - in practicing what we preach - we are now working remotely.
I think TCI can draw the right conclusion that if the one thing the Premier and myself have managed to, inadvertently, say differently over the last weeks, relates to whether you can or can’t exercise in your yard, then we probably are as tight as any Government is in the world. Not to excuse - we both hate it when it happens - but I hope that reassures.
So for complete clarity: the rules are these, agreed between the Premier, myself and Commissioner and underpinned by law. You may exercise outside so long as you are alone or with a member of your family unit presently living under the same roof. You may only be out for a total of 1.5 hours per day between 5am and 9am and 5pm and 7pm. And it must be exercise that’s obviously physical exercise that you can justify to the Police.
Vigorous walking, running, cycling all make sense. We really need you to use your common sense and judgement. Don’t interact with others when you are out - not one. The good news is that the Police report people are being responsible and this is not something that people are taking advantage of - in fact far from it. Let’s keep it that way because what the Premier said last night is her, and my, fall-back position.
While we want tomorrow to feel as it did today, we also need to put in place the very minimum needed to allow the country to function. It’s not an uninteresting exercise working that out. So a central National Security Team has been working through those who will have a slightly different ability to be on the roads. At present we’ve managed to limit that - excluding the Police and Uniformed services - to around 2.5%.
It’s been a big task and we needed a relatively small team to work together on it to ensure consistency. We will continue to work late into the night. Our aim was to reply to every employer and carer - but even working through the night - trying to make good decisions and contacting many directly to ensure we understood circumstances - we won’t achieve that. We’ve broken the back of it though. If you have not heard from us you do not have exemption to be out tomorrow unless security guard, more on that in a minute.
Those who have been agreed, will, from dawn tomorrow, be on a centralised database that is held at 911. Make sure you have photo ID and make sure you understand exactly what the exemption means for you; normally it covers the movement from your home to work, and return, at times linked to your employment. It’s dynamic and over the coming days it can be added to or subtracted from. We stared with some very straightforward principles:
The big providers of those services that truly are essential: supermarkets, electricity, water distribution, communication providers, fuel services, ferry services, air services, and a small number of public servants were agreed but generally with much reduced lists than originally submitted. If you are an employer in this group and haven’t heard by daylight tomorrow, resend your email; we will prioritise but I do think we’ve caught this.
We took a big decision on Restaurants and Takeaways and they will not be permitted to open, yet. We need to understand both the spread of the virus over the next few days and the amount of footfall on the streets and roads during this period before we make decisions. The Police have issued their own release on this. If you identify a Takeaway is open, then please dial 911. They will have lost their chance, instantly, to be considered when we review later.
In terms of those offering individual care to those who require it, we’ve agreed - but with very strict conditions lined to routes, dates and times - the vast majority of requests. Worth saying a very big thank you to those who care for those who need it - it’s been genuinely heart-warming to see how families do support the most vulnerable here. If you are on the exemption list, because you ‘care’, you are by definition meeting the most vulnerable to COVID 19, so please overdose on all the advice that’s been given about protecting yourself, to protect them.
In terms of security guards, the major security providers have their answer. We have not been able to issue answers for all those who employ individuals or very small numbers. For the next couple of days, the Police will provide a grace period, to those in security uniform, who can show they are travelling from their home - to their place of work - at a time that makes sense in terms of normal shift changes. We will tighten that up as quickly as we can. AT the moment it’s a matter of volume
In terms of hotels, our position is that - if staff are living as a community in a hotel - they need to remain as that community. Within it we ask employers to be hyper responsible in terms of social distancing but also breaking groups down into manageable units so if one gets infected not all get infected.
Our hotels are excellent at planning and logistics and we need as much thought going onto this as they can. We are very wary of allowing movement in and out of these almost self-contained communities - certainly for the first week or so - so we have done all we can through limited exemptions and encouragement to seriously reduce connectivity.
Construction is to stop. Period. We can review but if the Police find any construction site open, arrests can be made. Construction - except for construction linked to the preparation of facilities to support our emergency preparations - are not an essential service.
Where there are groups who can organise as a group we’ve asked them to make recommendations to us not as individuals but as a collective so the role they must fulfil as a community – to the community - can be delivered in the safest possible way to them and others.
For those who have raised requests regarding visiting property - of which there were hundreds - it can only be done in responding to an emergency.
For the next few days - similar to Takeaways - Do-it-Centre on Provo and Grand Turk will be closed but they can be called out by essential services, repairs to Hospitals would be an example. I hope you can see what we are doing here.
We are all in this together and one of the most encouraging things I’ve witnessed have been the pubic clearly using their judgement, the Police using theirs, and the police and Community working as one to get through this.
There’s going to be the odd person, not that hard to spot, who will be arrested and car confiscated because they are a danger to themselves and others. But a common consensus is now emerging that to get through this we have to do it as a self-regulating, community in deep cooperation with the Police. With laws that underpin certainly but where personal judgement plays its part.
This might be another marvellous change that occurs during this period. The building of trust that we all support each other - the Police and the community - in getting through this period together.
I was really struck when I first got here by the greeting: ‘All’s well’ - I really liked it - and thought how neat it was. Just tonight, given everything, “All is well”. Day two is drawing to a close, day three is about to begin. Let’s make sure we can barely tell the difference.
Good night Turks and Caicos, be safe.
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