Minister of Health Hon. Jamell Robinson has announced that government, as of January 14, 2022, will begin requiring vaccinated visitors and non-vaccinated residents as low as two years old to be tested for COVID-19 prior to arriving in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Minister Robinson, who announced the measures on Thursday, during a news conference at the Premier’s Office in Providenciales, revealed that the procedures were approved at a cabinet meeting on December 29.
“Cabinet approved amendments to the Arriving Passengers Health Clearance Regulations with effect from Friday 14 January 2022, lowering mandatory testing to two years old and above for visitors arriving and unvaccinated residents returning to the TCI,” he stated.
He said cabinet has also approved an extension of the existing COVID-19 measures and protocols, which will come into effect from 5 a.m. on Friday 7 January 2022, and remain in place until 28 February 2022, unless the matter necessitates revisiting before then.
Also, social gatherings and social activities, including public beaches, of more than 50 persons and up to a maximum of 500 persons shall require a permit, adding that bi-weekly testing of front-line staff, to include teachers with an exemption of those that received their booster shot or became fully vaccinated within the last three months.
Furthermore, Minister Robinson declared that cabinet approved amendments to the Public and Environmental Health (COVID-19 Pandemic) Regulations - Power to Quarantine with effect from Friday 14 January 2022, including reducing the quarantine period for vaccinated persons to seven days following the individual is asymptomatic after day five of isolation and provides two negative LFD tests taken 24 hours apart on day six and day seven of isolation.
In the meantime, Minister Robinson is placing the general public on alert to expect a fluctuation in COVID-19 cases for the next few weeks.
He said the expected rise and fall in cases will be due mainly to the number of social gatherings that had been and will be taking place over the festive season.
He said though that the Ministry of Health has already been placed on alert to tackle any eventuality as a result.
“In the coming days and weeks, the number of positive cases is likely to fluctuate, know that we in the Ministry of Health and by extension the entire government are monitoring what is happening and are on top of things. Also note that a key indicator of how things are going is how many people are being hospitalized which better speaks to whether or not our Health system is being overwhelmed,” he said.
With 80 percent of the adult population vaccinated and all tourists required to be fully vaccinated before entering the country, the health minister said the TCI was on a firm foundation.
“The Turks and Caicos has a very strong foundation with over 80 percent of the adult population being fully vaccinated, all visitors having to be fully vaccinated and requiring testing for entry, plus our health protocols i.e. face mask wearing, physical distancing, and personal hygiene,” he said, pointing out that there were areas that needed to be shored up.
“The two areas where we can be even stronger is with the Booster Program which is only at 13 percent of persons having received their third shot and that of community testing.
“I would like to encourage everyone who is eligible for a Booster shot to get one asap. If you have had your last shot over three months ago and you’re 18 years of age or 16 years or older with an underlying condition you are eligible. The Booster shot gives you an added layer of protection against hospitalization, which is very important,” Minister Robinson advised.