Friday, 17 April Update
Cayman Islands' leaders noted with cautious optimism that while the COVID-19 coronavirus continues to exist in clusters within the community, the suppression measures put into place are working. At the COVID 19 press conference today (Friday, 17 April 2020) they noted that the measures, notably social distancing and hand washing will continue to protect the people, if all strictly follow them and cooperate with requirements.
The reopening of the Cayman Islands economy will have to be done in phases to ensure that there are no adverse repercussions since this is a new virus and the majority of the people here do not have immunity to it. This could result in a runaway spread of the disease in the community, triggering deaths, if the reopening of the country and its economy are not carefully undertaken.
While the Miami flights were successfully concluded today, the Cayman Airways flights to Nicaragua to take that country's citizens to Managua have now been cancelled due to the closure of that country's borders.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee reported:
- Twelve results conducted all yielded negative results. This brings the total number of tests conducted in the Cayman Islands to 702, with 641 negatives and 61 positives remaining unchanged.
- The clinical condition of those tested positive remains unchanged from yesterday.
- The testing process at CTMH Doctors Hospital has been approved by PAHO Discussions are underway to determine when CTMH Doctors Hospital will join the HSA in testing for COVID-19.
- Providing a scientific presentation, Dr. Lee outlined that in a worst case scenario of 52,000 people or 80% of the population affected in the Cayman Islands, if proactive suppression and prevention measures were not put in place, 910 deaths would have been the likely outcome. These figures have been put in place based on epidemiological studies conducted by WHO in Wuhan, China following the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in the world.
- Clearly, the suppression measures being seriously deployed for three-and-a-half weeks are working in the Cayman Islands.
- With this virus being one of the most successful in infecting people the world has ever seen, it is imperative at all times to keep the guard up and continue suppression measures to their full extent.
- Groups of persons by employment who will be tested first are being determined when wider public testing begins later next week.
Commissioner of Police, Mr. Derek Byrne reported:
- Out of 19 interceptions on Cayman Brac overnight, there were no breaches of curfew; on Grand Cayman, there were 231 vehicles interceptions, with no breaches; two pedestrians were intercepted and warned for prosecution; one of the two was seen breaching curfew again two hours later and was arrested and housed in the police detention centre.
- This morning, there were 10 breaches of shelter in place regulations - four in breach of hard curfew and six in breach of soft curfew. Of the four hard curfew breachers, three were found on the beach and one person was found operating a commercial landscape business. All were warned for prosecution. Of the six others in breach, five were drivers and one was a pedestrian and all were issued tickets.
- A large number of persons were found to be out and about on the boardwalk on South Sound, violating the allowed groups of no more than two for exercising. Social distancing protocols are not being observed. Police are monitoring.
- He reiterated that people are not to gather in groups larger than two persons. The boardwalk in South Sound is big enough for even large numbers to keep moving and maintaining curfew requirements.
- A social media fake news wrongly stated that the Police Service has notified an early lockdown of all services. This is incorrect. There is no intention of a full lockdown at this point.
- The regulations currently do not provide giving rides to friends or taking them to the supermarket in one's vehicle even when following the last name rules.
- If tickets issued have wrong information in them, persons affected are asked to contact the police and report them.
- Police are waiting on a full legal interpretation if a ticket issued to a person is an acknowledgement of a crime committed and will show up as a criminal record for that person.
- Persons can pick up food -- regardless of the last name rule in place for accessing essential services like supermarkets and gas stations - during soft curfew hours of 7 am to 6 pm, Monday to Saturday.
- Sundays remain under full lockdown for the entire 24 hours until 1 May 2020.
- While all beaches currently remain strictly off limits, clarification is being sought regarding iron shore access.
Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin said:
- Premier shared a relevant and compelling BBC article in relation to secondary infection now impacting the province of Hokkaido in Japan which is now grappling with it after having relaxed its restrictions and opening up the community. For the article, visit www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-52305055.
- Cayman Islands is well on its way to suppressing the virus and almost ready to ramp up wider testing.
- Even when there is a phased reopening in the Islands, testing will have to be diligently continued to monitor there is no community spread of the disease.
- Children will remain a problem as the majority tend to be asymptomatic but can spread the disease rapidly; hence the thinking that schools will be one of the last to reopen.
- Once wider testing is conducted, the restarting of individual construction projects as swiftly as possible is being discussed. This is a local industry which does not rely on bringing in tourists for it to function. It should not be "too difficult" to get construction projects moving again. This would be one way of reopening the economy safely.
- Providing statistics of help to the community from the Needs Assessment Unit, Premier outlined that since 16 April, 1,842 families or 7,368 people have received assistance. Of these, 947 families or 3,828 people have received food vouchers. For details, see sidebar below.
- Premier thanked the Chamber of Commerce and others in the Resilience Cayman group who are assisting with helping the community with food vouchers, and provision of 250 hot meals a day to those in need which is to increase to 450 a day.
- He also thanked the Farm Box project by local farmers to meet local produce distribution until the Farmers Market reopens. He also lauded the Wellness Programme which is helping frontline workers providing them with a 30-day supply of Vitamin C.
- He additionally thanked the Ministry of Community Services and top officials.
His Excellency the Governor, Mr. Martyn Roper said:
- Governor thanked all following all measures in place. "For things to stay the same, everything has to change", he said quoting a recent source.
- He was sorry that the evacuation flights to Nicaragua had to be cancelled. He had talked to their Foreign Minister but their decision was to protect their country.
- A flight to Canada organised by the Canadian Government will take place on Monday.
- A further airbridge by British Airways between the UK and Cayman is set for the week beginning 27 April which will bring medical equipment and some returning Caymanians.
Health Minister Dwayne Seymour said:
- Minister gave a shoutout to the Cayman Islands Pharmacists Association for their contributions during this ongoing crisis.
Sidebar: NAU Assistance to Those in Need
Premier, Hon. Alden McLaughlin provided an update on the assistance that the Needs Assessment Unit (NAU) has provided since 16 April 2020.
- 1,842 Families or 7,368 People have been assisted by NAU as of 16 April 2020.
- 957 Families or 3,828 People have been assisted with Food Vouchers alone, representing a 165% increase since the COVID19 Pandemic began. Pre-COVID19 Assistance - 361 Families; Post-COVID19 Assistance - 957 Families.
- Vulnerable Caymanians are being assisted with basic essential needs which include; Food Vouchers, School Lunches and Rental Assistance.
- A further 209 persons had their Indigent Medical Coverage renewed.
- Additional financial support was provided for families with children for the continuation of school lunches.
- NAU frontline staff have relaxed the requirements for new applicants and staff have been instructed to ensure Food Vouchers are immediately issued to persons upon receipt of a completed application, and those whose nationality (Caymanian) is confirmed. For ID purposes NAU accepts; Passports, Voter ID Cards, Birth Certificates (for those who have them).
- NAU is collaborating with the Department of Counselling and Rehabilitation (DCR) in order to support the Call Centre. Their sole purpose will be to answer the phones, follow up with clients and providing feedback. In addition to dialing 946-0024 (Grand Cayman) or 948-8758 (CYB); five new numbers have been made available to persons on their prescribed "Letter Day" - Those with last names A-K may call: 936-0628, 936-1628 or 936-262; last names L-Z may call: 936-3628 or 936-4628.
- NAU has identified five additional persons who were previously employed by NAU to be added to its support staff to further reduce any interruption in service.
- Two NAU staff members will offer dedicated support to the NAUInfo@gov.ky address to answer and respond to any emails submitted.
- As of Monday, 20 April, improvements will be noted in the queues for assistance. In order to improve comfort, tents will be erected outside Aqua Mall and refreshments will be distributed. Three queues will be established catering to three individual groups: Persons applying for food vouchers only; the elderly, the disabled, and those who are pregnant; and those seeking extended services.
- Additionally, two Customs and Border Control (CBD) officers and one retired civil servant will provide assistance ensuring adequate social distancing is maintained.
- Out of 240 applications received from work permit holders for assistance, 143 were approved and a significant number of the others are in the process of being dealt with. There were 36 deferrals to obtain further information and 61 applications are pending.
For further information contact: Bina Mani