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Coronavirus Update 20 April 2020

Chief Medical Officer Dr John Lee shares latest COVID-19 Statistics

Top officials stressed the importance of new, looser testing protocols already in place to determining how far community transmission has spread throughout the Islands, in today’s (20 April 2020) COVID-19 press briefing.

There were five new positive tests, four of which were locally transmitted and one was linked to a previous positive.

Chief Medical Officer Dr John Lee said use of wider guidelines had already begun. These procedures are being used initially to facilitate the testing of frontline personnel, across a range of professions, regardless of apparent health status, and as such would provide insight into the reach of the virus in the community.

His Excellency The Governor, the Premier and Minister of Health all expressed their support for this approach.

Governor Martyn Roper noted that the United Kingdom would also be sending military support to assist with logistics for COVID-19 preparedness planning, as well as the upcoming hurricane season.

Meanwhile during his contribution Premier, Hon. Alden McLaughlin, outlined some of the measures that will be considered by the Legislative Assembly this week to support the community during the current stay at home and hard curfew measures. The Traffic Law and Pensions Law are among those up for debate Mr McLaughlin said.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee reported:

• Five positive results from 76 tests conducted Thursday through Saturday. This included one person who was a contact of a previous case and four cases of likely community transmission.

• This brings the total number of tests conducted in the Cayman Islands to 778, with 712 negatives and 66 positives. For more information see the dashboard on www.gov.ky/coronavirus

• Currently 29 persons with COVID-19 are showing some symptoms and 19 are asymptomatic. Five persons are hospitalised, although the patient who had been intubated at the Health Services Authority no longer requires this support. Five persons are considered to be clinically recovered and seven are fully recovered. The sole death to date was a cruise ship passenger receiving urgent cardiac treatment on Island.

• Explained the current testing process as follows 1. A healthcare professional determines a test is required. 2. Patient goes to test site, registers, undergoes a nasopharyngeal swab. Staff collecting sample will be wearing personal protective equipment. 3. The sample is sent to laboratory where it goes through a process of deactivation in a biosafety cabinet to eliminate infectious material 4. Next stage is extraction of viral information 5. This material is sent through the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine which generates results which go back to hospital information system and gets fed into results for the individual. 6. While Public Health has previously been notifying all individuals of results, this information may now be delivered by the physician who requested the test.

• 40,000 swabs are expected to arrive this week with a further 110,000 swabs to follow shortly. This will help to boost testing capacity.

• Local hospitals, including the Health Services Authority, Health City Cayman Islands and Doctors Hospital, are taking a national approach to testing ‘with everyone contributing to the ability to test’.

• A group of medical professionals from all institutions has also agreed ‘looser’ testing protocols that are already being applied to groups of frontline workers.

• CMO confirms that these ‘screening tests’ of professionals in high risk situations, such as healthcare workers, began on Friday and are continuing this week.

Commissioner of Police, Mr. Derek Byrne reported:

• Six interceptions on Cayman Brac overnight, four persons in two vehicles were in breach of curfew. On Grand Cayman, 275 vehicles were intercepted, with two persons found in breach;

• On Friday, in West Bay, during COVID-19 proactive patrols by RCIPS discovered a group of males playing dominoes in breach of curfew rules and social distancing guidelines.

• An officer following a male who left the scene was threatened with a machete and requested a firearms unit, which responded. The suspect was tasered and subdued.

• The suspect was held in custody, appeared before court this morning and was charged with numerous offences before being remanded to Northward.

• The Ombudsman was notified and RCIPS will conduct an internal post- incident management report and send to the Ombudsman.

• On Saturday an intelligence-led operation in George Town to deal with illegal cockfighting, involved: frontline uniformed officers, armed support officers and the police helicopter.

• While a large number of persons on the scene ran, two were arrested and are being investigated for a range of criminal offences.

• The operation also brought in Department of Agriculture animal welfare officers to the scene to deal with 24 roosters. Of these seventeen were in such poor shape that they had to be euthanised, with DOA taking custody of the remaining animals.

• Police are currently investigating nine males and one female involved in the incident, with ages ranging from 17-48 years. The file on the investigation will be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

• Police could not say if animals were bred here or imported.

• Since 6am this morning 13 persons were found to be in breach of shelter in place rules. Four tickets were issued and eight persons warned for prosecution.

• One person became aggressive when stopped and was arrested for disorderly behavior and warned for breach of curfew.

• All files are carefully monitored before sending to DPP to ensure there has been an actual breach of curfew.

• The RCIPS helicopter and marine units remain on extended tours to enforce hard curfew and shelter in place rules.

• Man arrested for committing two burglaries in commercial premises, mentioned last week, appeared before court today and was remanded to Northward

• Two burglaries were also reported over weekend. Electronic equipment was stolen from a preschool while a small amount of auto-electronics was stolen from an auto-electronic store.

• No spikes in domestic violence. Officials are reviewing statistics on a regular basis and in constant contact with Crisis Centre.

Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin said:

• Cabinet last week approved the temporary waiver of trade and business licensing application fees (see previously published press release by Min. CPI)

• Bills to be dealt with by LA include amendments to the Traffic Law to allow Cabinet to grant extensions on matters such as vehicle inspections in the aftermath of a natural disaster or epidemic.

• Cabinet and the Legislative Assembly will also be considering the issue of a six month pension contribution payment holiday, retro-active to 1 April, as well as the ability for certain workers to withdraw funds from their pensions accounts.

• Furthermore, eligible private sector pension account holders may make a one-time withdrawal from their pension account, in a single amount, of 100% of the value up to CI$10,000, plus 25% of the value in excess of CI$10,000. There is no cap on the amount that may be withdrawn. Those currently receiving pension payments are not eligible to withdraw.

• Crash of financial markets would have impacted balance of accounts.

• Given a demonstrated resurgence in cases in countries that have relaxed protocols the Cayman Islands cannot relax protocols without a better understanding of where the virus is in the community and how prevalent it actually is.

• A significant percentage of people are asymptomatic. Once new testing protocol is widespread and testing numbers are ramped up then Government will look at relaxing protocols and it may be possible to open up various industries.

• People need to feel safe. Testing will allow tracing and isolation.

• As many as six countries and municipal governments have asked for access to the Cayman Islands excess supply of COVID-19 tests. These include Bermuda, Jamaica, St Lucia, Roatan, Belize and the Bahamas.

His Excellency the Governor, Mr. Martyn Roper said:

• “We will not take any risks with the health and wellbeing of anybody in these Islands.” Hence testing is crucial to the national response.

• Today’s evacuation flight to Canada went well; brought back 34 Caymanians and residents who are in mandatory isolation, in addition to allowing Canadian citizens to depart.

• Second British Airways air-bridge will arrive Tuesday 28 April and leave on Wednesday 29 April. Governor’s Office will release more details tomorrow, including a new online booking system and whether pets can travel.

• The flight will also transport a UK military team of nine uniformed services members and three civilians to help with COVID-19 logistics, prepare for hurricane season which starts on 1 June and mentor the defence regiment.

• The military team will undergo 14 days of mandatory quarantine, while the BA crew will be in quarantine overnight.

• Welcomed the news of the team as a precautionary move, and strong signal of political support for the Cayman Islands and UK Overseas Territories.

• Essential civil servants who have received curfew exemptions number 1274 or 31% of service. Two thirds are working from home and large numbers have been redeployed to essential tasks such as manning hotlines and essential facilities.

• In addition to four prisoners recently repatriated, the Governor and Prison Director using their powers under local legislation allowed the release of 14 inmates nearing the end of their term of imprisonment and met other key criteria.

• While every care is being taken to manage potential COVID-19 risk at the prison, safety of the community is the uppermost concern.

• Will be testing prisoners and prison staff as part of ramping up of tests.

Health Minister Dwayne Seymour said:

• Confirms frontline healthcare workers at HSA and HCCI are already being tested. HSA has set up a drive through tent and Doctors Hospital is looking at something similar when their testing comes online.

• Frontline staff tested will include personnel from nursing homes, prison, Customs and Border Control and others.

• Thanked Subway for providing lunch to HSA on Sunday and praised the dedication of frontline workers.

• Minister also praised the National Gallery, the National Museum, and the Cayman National Cultural Foundation for the work they are doing to promote local culture during the period of extended curfew.

• Encouraged the use of online banking and digital/ATM services to avoid the need to go to a bank branch.

For further information contact: Suzette Ebanks