HE NIGEL DAKIN CMG, CHRISTMAS MESSAGE TO TURKISH AND CAICOS ISLANDS, 2021
Merry Christmas Turks and Caicos.
For the first time in a year, our kids, Charlie and Fraser, have joined us at TCI, so we’re together for a family Christmas. As we come together to celebrate the season and the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, our first and most important message, from our family to yours, is to wish you a happy and peaceful Christmas. We hope the New Year – and 2022 – will be good for you and yours.
A lot has happened in 2021. The islands entered the year uncertain of what this year would bring, I hope they enter 2022 much more confident about their future.
You may recall that around this time last year there was news that we would be receiving our first batch of vaccine in January. There was as much nervousness as excitement about the prospect. At the same time, we were starting to hear about a new variant of COVID from India – what has come to be known as the Delta variant – which, in due course, would significantly increase our numbers in early 2021. The first part of this year was a race between the distribution of the vaccine against the spread of the Delta variant, the good news was that the vaccine – and therefore TCI – won.
For this reason, because everything that follows is linked, we end the year with 80% of our population vaccinated. We end the year with all visitors to our islands vaccinated. We end with our hotels full and with cruise ships returning to Grand Turk. Schools have reopened. Almost all restrictions have been lifted. We are one of the only places in the world that is expected to emerge from the pandemic debt free. Government revenues are strong because our main industries: tourism and real estate are doing well.
Visitors want to be here – and they have come here when no one else has greeted them – not only because we are ‘beautiful by nature’, but we are now known to be ‘safe by design’.
What a difference a year makes. TCI is now being talked about as one of the few places in the world that will leave the pandemic stronger than we entered, and that is because, in these small islands, we have come together.
What did it look like? The two governments that were in power this year have handled and are handling the pandemic extremely well. Unlike many nations, both political parties were also extremely responsible – and remain responsible – when they occupied the opposition benches. Likewise, TCI’s “mainstream press” kept the public well informed without trying to sensationalize – which would have been easy – but as we have seen elsewhere nationally caustic.
That year, health professionals from our hospitals, local practices, and the ministry worked together. This is when the civil servants literally served, some working extraordinary hours – in the health ministry of course – but also in several other departments and we saw real intergovernmental work. Nobody wants to work 14 hours a day – week after week – seven days a week – but some key staff have done it – they know who they are – and I know they did it for their love of TCI . All uniformed services have played their part, and for that I am eternally grateful.
The private sector rolled up its sleeves and helped find solutions for itself, its employees and for the Territory. The fact that our tourism industry – in conjunction with the Department of Health – developed rapid testing facilities to ensure that our economy was not disrupted, nor our reputation tarnished, when the United States changed its testing requirements going back to school almost overnight was a highlight of the year.
NGOs have done what they always do best and, although this is the slogan of the Red Cross, I think it applies to anyone who works in the charitable sector: they have linked human kindness to the human crisis.
However, the memory that I will keep, as long as I think about this year and even the last, is the stoicism and the dignity of the people of these islands. Hurricane resilience is needed for days, weeks, and in some cases months, but pandemic resilience, for two years, is a whole other story – and it’s not over yet. People here have dug deep, tightened their belts, and the vast majority – the overwhelming majority – have helped solve the problem rather than exacerbate it.
It is not least because of this sacrifice that I am using this Christmas message to ask those who have been vaccinated to now recall. It’s on offer to anyone who had their second shot three months or more ago – a recent change that has been made due to the new variant which is currently spreading rapidly across the world that will hit us over the course of the new one. year and that will push our COVID numbers but – if we’ve been beefed up – let’s reduce our critical illness levels. What we cannot afford now is to wrest defeat from the clutches of victory. We have sacrificed too much and we are now in too good a position for that.
Despite the pandemic, I was able to visit all the family islands this year. It was beyond the whirlwind tour of 22 polling stations, on every island, on election day, including remote locations such as Lorimer’s in Middle Caicos. It was one of the highlights of the year, watching Turks and Caicos islanders exercise their right to vote under COVID testing conditions, and I want to thank all the men and women who helped organize this election and all those who are committed to it. He was praised by international observers and allowed a smooth transfer of power the next day. Government-to-government management of the pandemic has gone just as well.
Of course Mandy and our son Fraser have seen a lot more of the islands in the past two weeks than I ever will. This footsteps4good was able, in a 12 day trip – walk on land and row across the ocean – accept help when safety demanded it – connect the beauty of these islands, including some of its most remote islands. more remote, with all the inhabitants of these islands, was not only worthy in that it allowed the islands to actively participate and donate to a charity of their choice, but it was also a metaphor of the power to be “A TCI”. The team hopes the aerial images produced by the trip will tell the story of the blessed land we inhabit.
2021 will also be remembered as the year our own regiment was properly established. The Defense Law was passed on Christmas Eve 2020 – one of the best Christmas gifts I think the Territory could have received – and this year it has gone from selecting and training its first recruits. to their operation and immediate success. It is, I hope, an institution that will endure as long as there are Turks and Caicos Islands – one that offers more places for young men and women in the coming year – and will become something which will symbolize national pride and help strengthen national identity.
Two final thoughts. The first to these children whose school year has been disrupted. While it might be hard to imagine at your age, the one thing every adult has in common with you is that we all went to school. We all remember the lessons we didn’t like and the teachers we liked or maybe even vice versa. We all remember the times we spent in the playground and the friendships that were created and in which we have invested a lot.
Because of COVID, we know you gave up a lot in the first part of this year – a lot that couldn’t be replicated through distance learning because school is so much more than that. . All any of us can say to the government is that your sacrifice was part of why we are now where we are, and so when you look back to 2021 – let’s say twenty years from now – know the role you played. Like last year, you were beautiful.
And finally, to the younger ones watching. Don’t worry, Santa Claus is coming. He is doubly vaccinated and boosted, just like his elves. He has the right travel insurance and we know he’s signed up for his COVID test in Lapland. There is, I am told, a dedicated member of staff ready to wipe out Santa Claus through the TCI travel portal. There had been no quarantine for him last year and not this one. I believe his journey into the night sky begins in Salt Cay, then in Grand Turk, Caicos Islands, ends in Providenciales before setting off, in the blink of an eye, to the Bahamas. But who knows how he does what he does, or where he goes?
The point about the magic of Christmas – for young and old – is that it reminds us that there are still mysteries, some related to faith, which are unknowable, but which are important to the way we live. our lives and how we think about each other. We look forward to worshiping as a family on Christmas Eve and reflecting on both the religious majesty and the childhood magic that this season brings as we prepare for the new start that Christmas promises for all of our futures. , and may the new year deliver us, as the clock strikes midnight on the 31st.
And with that, our thoughts are with our family and yours, at this special time of year – and we hope that 2022 brings you all that you hope for, and in particular that it brings you kindness.
A very merry Christmas to you all.