Mr. Speaker I want to begin by associating myself with the condolences being offered to the Member for Grand Turk North on the passing of his younger brother Dudley and also the entire Lightbourne Family, especially Myron, Michael, Mary, Brenda, Linda, and Carl. This was our first COVID-19 related death, and one death is one too many for us. We all have to continue to do whatever we can to mitigate against this virus and to prevent other deaths from occurring.
The Ministry of Health, Agriculture, Sports, & Human Services continues to closely monitor the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic which commenced preparation and awareness as early as January, 2020. We understand this is a stressful time for people in almost every part of the world, and our people here in the Turks and Caicos Islands want to know what is been done, and what they can do now to protect themselves and their families. To date, our Dash Board numbers, show that there are now 8 confirmed positive COVID-19 individuals. 61 tests have been completed for SARS-CoV-2, and out of that 53 were negative for SARS-CoV-2 not. A total of 331** persons have been released from quarantine/observation, and 63 persons are now remaining in quarantine.
TESTING -Currently our COVID-19 Testing is being done at reference laboratories outside the TCI; in the Bahamas, and in Trinidad at Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA). Results from the Bahamas takes 48 hours from the time sent, and from CARPHA the turnaround time was usually 72-96 hours.
There are two main types of test – a PCR test and an Antibody tests;
- The PCR test tell you if you currently have the virus by locating coronavirus gene sequences and creating multiple copies that can then be easily detected. This typical- ly requires a nose or throat
- An Antibody Test- This test can tell whether you have had the virus by looking for the COVID-19 IgG antibodies in the Blood. This requires a drop of blood from a finger prick.
The Ministry has sourced 3 PCR Machines from three different sources, however regrettably due to shipment routes logistics, the arrival dates has been changing. This capacity is something that the Ministry have been vigorously trying to get in place here in the country for the past 6 weeks; Public Health England (PHE) has ordered a standard PCR analyzer (QuantStudio 5) along with the necessary accessories and training. The analyzer is being built by the manufacturer and PHE shall advise when the analyzer will arrive. PHE has procured 10 testing kits (PCR reagents-960 test), The kits are scheduled to be released during the current week. Additional testing kits will be made available during the up coming weeks.
An Order has been placed for a PCR Hood, this equipment is necessary for the manipulation of samples when using the standard PCR analyzer. A rapid closed system PCR analyzer (GeneXpert IV) along with 500 test kits has been procured. This analyzer has 4 modules (4 simultaneous test) and can return a result in approximately 45 minutes (prep time not included). The vendor has informed that the analyzer will be ordered during the current week and we can expect to receive the equipment during this week of the 6th April, 2020. A standard PCR analyzer (QuantStudio 5- 96-well) is also on order. The vendor has indicated that delivery would be in 2 weeks.
Mr. Speaker, No one in the Ministry of Health is comfortable with testing being done outside the country, however we are grateful for the two previously mentioned partnerships.
Mr. speaker this lesson is a bitter sweet moment for me; Bitter because were not equipped to deliver this coronavirus testing, like many of the countries who already had PCR machines in their Laboratories to facilitate testing, and only had to order the specific testing kits and reagents.
Sweet because now persons realize why it was a bad idea to close down, disassembled, and take to pieces the Government Laboratories that Myself and others like Carol Mills, Shanwell Gardiner, Tanya Parker, and other Lab staff at that time had taken years to build capacity in both Grand Turk & Providenciales, to bring to an iso 7000 accredited Laboratories which at that time tested for just about everything of Medical Importance, with all the specialized analyzers and safety equipment. It was the wrong thing to do, it was a bad thing to do, and now all can realize why they should have listen to us and not destroy that critical in country capacity, that especially now is greatly needed.
ADDITIONAL BEDS / ISOLATION SITES
The Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Ministry of Infrastructure have aggressively sought out addition Bed/ Isolation capacity to add to that which between the 2 hospitals, Cockburn Town Medical Center and Cheshire Hall Medical Center. We have been successful in sourcing and additional 45 apartments (70 rooms) on the Island of Providenciales. In Grand Turk the Government is in the process of finalizing and additional 16 rooms. In South Caicos and North Caicos, potential properties have been identified and the negotiation process commenced. This will give the country greater capacity to care and treat those that may become infected. The saying goes, “It is better to have it and don’t need it, then to need it and don’t have it.” The Ministry of Health has also assisted with the transfer of three long stay patients from Cockburn Town Medical Center to the Wellness Center thereby freeing up additional bed space for surge capacity.
PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT
The Ministry current has in stock approximately 8,000 N95 masks, with an additional 12,000 in shipment. We will also be placing another order for 30,000 masks, as this initial 20,000 will be for all the frontline staff; which include The Health teams, Police, Immigration, Prison Officers, Wellness Center Workers.
Currently there is 5 ventilators in Providenciales , and 2 ventilators in Grand Turk. We have actively been sourcing and additional 10 ventilators, which is delayed in arrival due to shipping logistics.
Additional Human Resources are being requested through the Cuban Consulate to augment existing personnel at the Hospital and the MOH. Feedback is expected to be received on this request in this week. The specialists sought after to support ICU capacity includes physicians and nurses as well as medical officers, public health nurses, EMTs and EHOs to support the MOH.
The Ministry continues to work with Public Health England, participating in weekly virtual meetings as well as dialogue with Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and PAHO for technical assistance. needs.
Measures Taken/ Ongoing;
A comprehensive COVID-19 preparedness and response plan has been developed inclusive of standard operating procedures for airport surveillance, mass gatherings, contact tracing, the operations of the Health Emergency Operating Centers and the quarantine center etc. In addition, plans have been drafted and disseminated for the Prison, Detention Centers. Wellness Centers, and Funeral Homes. Guide lines for health care practitioners both n the public and private sector have been drafted and circulated.
The TCI Hospital has also activated its plan and commenced emergency operations whereby routine services have been suspended and enhanced screening of all clients entering the hospitals has commenced. Revised schedules for clinic services including primary health and dental have been published for all islands and a mental health hotline has been established in order to provide psychological support to those in need which is manned by the Mental Health and Substance Dependence Department mental health professionals.
The Government of the Turks & Caicos Islands is urgently take all necessary measures to slow and prevent the further spread of the virus, and to avoid our health systems from becoming overwhelmed due to seriously ill patients with COVID-19. In addition, we encourage all persons to stay informed about what’s happening in your community and to always follow the directions of Ministry of Health and other Responding Government Authorities.
WORLD HEALTH DAY
This week, April 7, 2020; World Health Day is celebrated; This year awareness is being brought to Nurses and Mid wives in their role in the fight against COVID-19.
PLEASE HELP SLOW THE SPREAD OF COVID-19
Follow these steps to help keep you and others safe:
~Practice social distancing
~Wash your hands often
~ Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
~ Clean and disinfect household surfaces
~Cover your coughs and sneezes
~Wear a mask to protect yourself and others
~Build your Immune System.
WE ALL MUST DO OUR PART, IF WE ARE TO BEAT THIS VIRUS