By Hayden Boyce Publisher & Editor-in-Chief
By Hayden BoycePublisher & Editor-in-Chief
The world-famous Beaches Resort Villages and Spa on the island of Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos Islands, has been ordered by health authorities to close and not take any new guests until June 9th because of the mystery virus that has plagued more than a dozen hotels in this high-end Caribbean tourist destination.
The temporary closure was ordered today Saturday June 2nd, following a number of high-level meetings between Beaches officials and a Government delegation and after it was reported that close to 60 guests at the hotel were affected by severe diarrhea and vomiting in recent weeks.
This action came at a time when Beaches was at full occupancy, with an estimated 2,500 guests, who are now either being transferred to other hotels in Providenciales or reimbursed for their vacation and going back to their countries of origin.
Up to the time of writing this report, efforts to contact officials from Beaches were futile, but inside sources said the hotel is “in total chaos and a lot of guests are very upset and the staff are stressed out”.
However, a statement on the website http://www.TripAdvisor.com that was attributed to Beaches, confirmed that the resort “experienced a very small number of cases”.
The statement added: “We now have a fewer number of people affected by the illness. We continue to monitor the situation very closely and are working with the resorts and country’s healthcare professionals to ensure that health and safety practices are followed. Like other resorts on the island, Beaches Turks and Caicos has agreed to follow a recommendation by the TCI Ministry of Health not to accept NEW guests at the resort until Saturday, June 9, 2012 in order to undertake precautionary cleaning programs and break the 14-hour incubation of the illness.We advise guests booked to stay at Beaches Turks and Caicos over the next seven days to contact their travel agent or call 1-800-BEACHES (232-2437) as soon as possible in order to revise their booking. We apologize unreservedly for any inconvenience that this may cause and extend our thanks for your patience and understanding. We would also like to thank the TCI Ministry of Health for their cooperation.”
Beaches Turks and Caicos is the largest resort in the Turks and Caicos Islands, currently boasting 633 rooms and suites that are spread among the Caribbean Village, the French Village and the Italian Village. It has 16 restaurants and 12 bars and boasts one of the largest waterparks in the Caribbean. It is also the largest private sector employer in the country, with a staff of around 1250.
Last week, another high-end Turks and Caicos hotel, Grace Bay Club, whose guests have included Rihanna, Al Gore, Denzil Washington, Stevie Wonder, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett, temporarily suspended new reservations after there were reports of diarrhea and vomiting among its guests. Operations there are now back to normal.
Meantime, the Ministry of Health and Education (MOHE) and Environmental Health Department (EHD) revealed that laboratory tests for ten individuals conducted at the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC) Reference Laboratory were confirmed as Norovirus and that investigations are ongoing.
A Government press release Saturday said Dr. Lisa Indar, Foodborne Diseases Manager at CAREC and Ms. Leslie Edwards, an Epidemiologist also from CAREC have arrived in Turks and Caicos Islands to help unravel the mystery virus which caused more than 150 persons to seek medical attention for gastroenteritis over the past six weeks. Additional assistance is due to arrive shortly from PAHO in the form of two Environmental Health Officers with extensive experience working with the hotel industry, the statement added.
Norovirus is a highly contagious viral illness, which is common in outbreaks of gastroenteritis (diarrhea and vomiting) throughout the world. It can be rapidly transmitted from person to person, through contact with vomitus or feces of infected individuals, contaminated food or water, soiled surfaces, bed linens, and gym equipment. Other than supportive therapy, it usually requires little by way of medical interventions and usually resolves without incident.
Infection control measures focused on proper hygiene and deep cleaning and sanitization are vital to prevent the spread of Norovirus. These are being promoted throughout the TCI. Public Health teams continue to conduct active surveillance at airports and affected hotels to educate and monitor the implementation of these measures.
The Ministry of Health and Education has been encouraging the general public to practice healthy hygienic measures at all times such as frequent hand washing, especially when preparing meals, before eating and after using the toilet.
Persons experiencing diarrhea, abdominal pain or vomiting have been asked to report to the nearest health care facility.
* Posted Saturday June 2nd, 2012