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Minister Seymour Updates

Health Minister Hon. Dwayne Seymour

Last week I informed you of a few elements of the Health Services Authority's COVID-19 preparation plans. Much of the planning is happening behind the scenes, however today and throughout the week I will inform you of our national preparedness COVID-19 Plan.

Although there is tremendous responsibility for HSA at this time, this truly calls for a national response and the private sector is actively a part of the plan. Many of the private sector doctors are part of the NEOC Human Concerns Cluster, have been assisting with the flu clinic as well as working in the Government isolation facilities. Dr Binoy from Health City and other members of the private sector will join the CMO's Council to expand the HSA's COVID Clinical Task Force.

The private partnerships and support in this crisis are invaluable as this is a tremendous group effort as part of the national response plan.

It was briefly mentioned a couple weeks back, but today I wanted to highlight and inform you of the physical work that has been done to set up a Respiratory Care Unit, also called the RCU, at the Cayman Islands Hospital.

Some weeks ago the Physiotherapy Unit at the hospital was relocated to Smith Road Centre to accommodate the space needed to start the new Respiratory Care Unit.

We are fortunate that the HSA had the space available at Smith Road Centre to swiftly relocate services in order to develop this RCU. This unit will be imperative in treating patients with respiratory issues as a result of COVID-19.

As I spoke about last week, I am pleased to see the public and private sector working together to make this possible, as this truly is a community effort. CTMH Doctors Hospital has donated beds which was instrumental in setting up this unit.

The HSA currently has 11 ventilated beds with another 6 due to arrive this week. Health City is also equipped with 21 ventilators and is prepared to also care for COVID positive patients. Faith Hospital has one on site as well.

And I'm happy to announce that Government has just approved the procurement of 30 additional ventilators for the HSA.

As we know, our frontline staff are in a vulnerable role and their health and safety are of the utmost importance. In particular to the RCU, these staff will be working in the one of the most vulnerable areas as they will be working with confirmed COVID-19 patients.

The HSA has provided additional staff showers for those employees working directly with COVID patients. All employees caring for COVID patients will be required to wear scrubs so that their personal clothes are not compromised. I'm pleased to hear of the additional steps being carried out to ensure the staff caring for these patients will be taken care of.

Government has also provided accommodation for Government front-line workers who may have vulnerable members in their household whom they wish to not potentially expose at the end of every day.

For those who are or will be COVID patients who require hospital admission, these important and crucial measures that have taken place in these islands is commendable.

The HSA also welcomed their first full-time Pulmonologist late last year, Dr Miguel Mendoza, who is critical in the care of patients in the Respiratory Care Unit. We are fortunate to have his expertise during a time when his specialty is of urgent need.

All of this is great news for our country. We continue to evaluate, integrate and evolve our plans to adapt during a time where the landscape and obstacles are ever changing.

Today I would like to address the ongoing questions and concerns around when to wear homemade masks. I have said before we at the Ministry believe that if you are able to wear a cloth face covering in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain such as corner stores and supermarkets or pharmacies especially in times when community spread is evident, this is encouraged.

We do not want to cause panic as we know government at this time cannot provide everyone with a mask however the public can follow along the recommendations to properly make and properly sterilize cloth masks that you make at home. We will publish this guidance on our website for easy access.

We are not mandating that the public wear masks at this time but understand that many will want to and we want to make sure you do this effectively.

In saying that I want to remind the public the most effective stop to this is staying home and social distancing and masks on their own will not stop the virus' spread. All other prevention measures and compliance with the regulations are must be followed if we are to see this through with a good outcome.

It's also been brought to my attention that there are claims by persons in the community that they are making and selling masks that are more effective than surgical masks. This is unfounded and simply untrue. Those persons should cease and desist immediately. They are causing more harm than good. In conclusion, if you choose to wear a homemade mask you will want to continue to employ good hygiene avoiding touching your face, washing your hands frequently, and washing the mask in soap every day.

In the end, as we've seen in China, staying home as much as possible and keeping six feet away are more effective. So Cayman, please stay home to save lives!