Reacting to data that shows that 90 of the 133 persons infected with the COVID-19 diseases since July are tourists, the Turks and Caicos Islands, as of September 1, will not admit any tourists into the country unless fully vaccinated.
New Minister of Health and Human Services Hon. Jamell Robinson made the announcement at a news conference on Thursday. The news conference was held to update the country on the latest COVID-19 state in the country and the government’s combat measures.
To that effect, Minister Robinson urged the Tourism Ministry to market the Turks and Caicos Islands as a ‘Vaccination-only destination’.
He outlined that all visitors aged 16 and above should be fully vaccinated on arrival in the Turks and Caicos Islands. This means that visitors will only be allowed inside the country 14 days after they have gotten their second vaccine dose.
He noted further that all fully vaccinated tourists who tested positive while on vacation in the Turks and Caicos Islands are to self-isolate at their own expense for a period of 10 days and undergo a COVID-19 mandatory test on day seven prior to being released.
The minister concluded that unvaccinated returning residents must submit a prearrival negative COVID-19 result and then along with members of their household’s quarantined for 17 days, then to undergo a mandatory test on day five of their isolation.
“Based on that (tourists to local population ratio), we know that we have to put measures in place to deal with that large portion of COVID positives, and one of the ways of doing that is to ensure that all tourists coming to the Turks and Caicos Islands are vaccinated,” Minister Robinson said.
He added: “What this will allow us to do is to market the Turks and Caicos Islands as a vaccination-only destination. So, that says to the world ‘we are a safe holiday destination’.
“That gives confidence to persons boarding that plane that are vaccinated that once they get into the Turks and Caicos Islands, the people that they interact with, who are other visitors, will be vaccinated, and the adults we have, at least 67 percent or seven out of every 10, are fully vaccinated.”
The measure, however, has not gone down well with many, including at least one former head of government, along with some in the tourism industry.
Former premier Michael Misick believes the move was ill-informed, rubbishing it as a United States duplicate.
“I think this is a bad move and the new minister is off on the wrong footing. If someone is tested and is negative, it should be enough to enter the country. This will have a dramatic impact on tourism. We cannot copy everything the United States does. They have 350 million people and trillions of dollars at their disposal. I am going to watch this movie,” Misick stated.
Immediately after the announcement, some resorts began to receive cancellations. The percentage of those cancellations are not clear though.
In the meantime, Minister Robinson revealed that 16 fully vaccinated persons have tested positive with COVID-19 in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Vaccinated persons tested positive for COVID-19 are referred to as ‘breakthrough cases’.
“Nine of them are visitors and seven are residents,” Robinson pointed out.
He said though that the breakthrough cases represent a mere 0.03 percent of the vaccinated population.
In the meantime, Minister Robinson boasted that the Turks and Caicos Islands has done well so far in getting the vaccine shots into persons arms in comparison to most of its neighbours.
He crowed that so far, 23,486 persons, representing the adult population were fully vaccinated in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
He urged the resident population to get fully vaccinated prior to any external travel due to the resurgence in COVID cases globally.