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2 June COVID 19 Update

Premier, Hon. Alden McLaughlin

Cayman Islands leaders emphasised that while the number of positives in the Cayman Islands continue to be encouraging, "we are still seeing positive cases", including a child who has displayed symptoms. This calls for the cautious reopening approach to continue.

The total number of tests done so far have crossed 12,000 in the Cayman Islands. Cayman now leads the region in testing.

At today's, Tuesday, 2 June 2020 press conference, where prayers were led by Pastor Gayle Woods, Cayman's leaders noted that the nine-year-old child showing symptoms proves the need for strict practising of prevention protocols.

Children are a large vector of COVID 19 dissemination, while nearly all of them generally remain asymptomatic; hence the need not to rush into letting them mingle with their peers at this stage.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr. John Lee said:

  • Noting that World No Tobacco Day was on 31 May, he urged users to take the opportunity to give up using tobacco products.
  • Referring to an article in the Cayman Compass on diving operations, he explained how decisions are made. With all Government guidance on Public Health matters, a variety of sources are used in order to form an opinion. It might be from scientific literature, expert opinion from major public health organisations around the world, a specialist industry or an interest group such as the Divers Alert Network.
  • He recognises that people using their personal scuba diving equipment, and following social distancing protocols offers little risk and he will be recommending that persons with their own scuba equipment be allowed to go diving when the next changes to the regulations are brought in (likely 22 June 2020).
  • Of the 59 results received today, one tested positive from community transmission.
  • Of the 151 positives so far, one is symptomatic (the child mentioned earlier), 72 asymptomatic and 77 recovered.
  • 59 persons are in government isolation facilities and 270 are in self isolation at their homes.

Premier, Hon. Alden McLaughlin said:

  • With a total of 12,003 tests completed, the Cayman Islands now leads the region with the number of tests done.
  • The test results continue to be encouraging, keeping Government on track for the reopening of the economy. If the trend continues, more segments will reopen, perhaps even sooner than originally decided. Government was optimistic given the results.
  • However, Cayman Islands' borders for general interaction from the outside world will remain closed until 31 August.
  • Also, despite the encouraging results, the child showing symptoms was a sobering fact in view of the increasing requests for schools and institutionalised child care to resume. Thus the need for a slow and cautious opening.
  • International mail was being brought in by contracted airline services and therefore not coming in on a regular basis. The Postal Service is working to find a solution.
  • The Farmers Market is at its regular location at The Hamlin Stephenson Market At The Cricket Grounds and the Fish Market has relocated to the South Terminal, both are open tfor business.
  • Delivering the 2020 Hurricane Season start message, the Premier urged all to be prepared as they should do every year. See sidebar below for Premier's hurricane message.
  • To ensure that Caymanians are given first preference for jobs, all employers have now got to post jobs vacancies on the WORC website. All Caymanians seeking jobs are requested to visit www.worc.ky to search for employment opportunities.
  • There is great optimism that the construction sector is going to help move the Islands economy in the months ahead.
  • With the current trend, there is also optimism that the tourism industry could see some recovery by the end of 2020.
  • However, if infection rates go higher in neighbouring countries than at present, it would be "something approaching madness" to open Cayman's borders freely.

His Excellency the Governor, Mr. Martyn Roper said:

  • Flights to Chennai and New Delhi in India have been confirmed. Dates and other details will be announced shortly.
  • With the first flight to Jamaica confirmed, it is hoped more flights will follow.
  • The BA flight scheduled for 12 June going out is fully booked. However, there are seats available on the flight coming in for Caymanians and Permanent Residents.
  • It was continuing to be encouraging to note that there were 10 positives, with nine asymptomatic, from over 850 results obtained over the last two days.
  • The COVID strain does look quite weakened butall should continue to maintain physical distancing, wear masks in public places and practise hygiene, notably hand washing and not touching faces.
  • Shout outs went to three 12-year-olds who are kitesurfing to fundraise for Acts of Random Kindness (ARK).

Minister for Health, Hon. John Seymour said:

  • Shout outs went to Tukka Restaurant for providing free lunches to frontline staff and to Church of God, West Bay and Rev. Stanwyck Myles for the church run soup kitchen.
  • Noting Cayman has to guard against any possible second wave, he also highlighted the record of no community acquired deaths in the Cayman Islands, a record that "we intend to keep".
  • He also emphasised the need for vigilance and refraining from becoming complacent.
  • He reiterated the need for continued use of physical distancing and other protocols as well as aiming to become tobacco free and paying attention to better mental health.
  • Parents who wish to improve their children's mental wellness during this pandemic can contact 1-800-534-6463, 10am to 6pm, Monday to Friday.
  • See sidebar for more from the Minister.

Hazard Management of the Cayman Islands Director Danielle Coleman said:

  • The Government is looking to increasing capacity at isolation centres.

Sidebar: Premier Delivers Hurricane Message

Sometimes I feel like all we have been doing this year is moving from one serious event to the next and now we are into June and the official start of the hurricane season.

We are told this year's Atlantic Hurricane Season is likely to be extremely active, so I make my usual plea to you to make sure your hurricane supplies are stocked up, that you have a plan for your family and business and that you stay safe.

But my usual plea goes a bit further this year because we still have to be concerned about the impact of COVID19. And I know that there are many people out there right now who are out of work, so just getting the necessary 3 to 5 days of non-perishable food, water and perhaps plywood for shuttering may be difficult. Government is keenly aware these are very challenging times and we will continue to assist where we can.

Government's National Emergency Operations Centre is working to ensure that appropriate social distancing protocols are in place in all emergency shelters and that there will be stocks of masks and Personal Protective Equipment available for everyone.

We are also aware that normal evacuation options are not readily available, so that will likely result in additional demand for shelter spaces. Social distancing measures also reduce available shelter space, so we have been actively seeking additional shelter capacity. Additional shelter buildings have been identified and are currently being assessed for suitability. We plan to update the list of approved shelters in a few weeks. If you do plan to go to a shelter, please do take masks, sanitizers and a stock of food and water - but you won't be turned away if you don't have these supplies.

Whilst shelters are available if needed in the event of a storm, given the shortage of shelter space and the need for social distancing, we ask that you also consider any other sheltering options that may be available to you. For example going to strong elevated structures of friends or family members, or to resilient office buildings if those options are available.

The extended activation of the National Emergency Operations Centre in our response to the Coronavirus pandemic has in some respects created an environment where we are as ready as we have ever been for any threat we face, including a hurricane.

Here in the Cayman Islands we know we can weather storms; we have a long history of doing so. We are a strong and resilient people and we are at our best when we are helping one another during a difficult time.

Also we are blessed that we have a National Weather Service that is linked regionally and can stay on top of all weather issues and inform us well in advance when bad weather is headed our way. Those warnings give us ample time to make preparations.

But I ask you not to wait to prepare.

If we do find ourselves facing another storm this year, I beg you to please pay attention to Government announcements and bulletins. All of our media outlets - Radio Cayman FM89.9, the Breeze FM105.3, Cayman Islands Government TV, Cayman Islands Government Information Services and http://www.caymanprepared.ky - will carry information to tell you what to expect and what to do. Hazard Management Cayman Islands also works with private media houses that have been diligent each time we have faced a storm to get out the important, necessary information.

The memories of Hurricanes Ivan and Paloma still weigh heavily on the mind as do those of the major earthquake we experienced in January this year. All of these events taught us all the importance of being prepared and having a plan.

So most of all, please make sure you are prepared, have a plan and join me in my prayer that God will once again spare our three beloved Islands this 2020 Hurricane Season.

Sidebar: Minister Seymour Underscores Need to Remain Vigilant

Good afternoon to everyone in Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, and the Caymanian diaspora listening in from abroad.

As we move to the next stage of our COVID-19 response, moving to re-enter the workplace and re-open the economy, we are seeking the support of the business community and the public. We need your help, we need this to be an entire community effort - it is imperative that we all understand that we will not be able to simply jump right back into life as it was before COVID-19.

As we see more businesses open up this week I thought it was important to share a bit of an eye-opening article with you that I read last month and shared with my strategic team as well.

The article detailed the group known informally as the "first movers" which is being led by Austria and is comparing notes on the response to the pandemic.

Other countries involved include Greece, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Singapore, Israel, Norway and New Zealand. New Zealand being a country you have heard the Premier praise for its fast, disciplined and life-saving resolve to do the right thing by its people.

The leaders of these countries have swapped notes and experiences on the need to reopen economies safely, including schools, how to manage localised outbreaks, the importance of rigorous tracing and testing, keeping supply chains open, and scientific cooperation. All of which I can reassure the public the government of the Cayman Islands is doing as well.

Australia, who has succeeded in suppressing the coronavirus, with just 493 active cases as of this morning - is the latest member to be invited to the group this week. Overall to date there are 7,221 coronavirus infections reported in Australia - which has a population of 25,499,884 in its 2020 census - this equals to a very minute figure. To date they have had 102 deaths.

Around the world, there have been over 6 million confirmed infections and more and over 300,000 confirmed deaths. This fatality rate has been compared to other deadly events and in America the projections have been said to be "as deadly, and in some cases deadlier than, some of the worst battles in US history."

With that perspective it is a blessing to be able to say that in the Cayman Islands we have had no community acquired deaths - this is a wonderful record we intend to keep.

However, the next challenge for many other countries including our own is how to re-open parts of the economy without prompting a dangerous "second wave"- something parts of Asia are now having to deal with.

It is important to note that countries who were once applauded for being a first mover are now also amongst those suffering from second waves.

We all want to rebuild, re-open and restart the economy, but we must not return to a lockdown situation as we have witnessed in other countries, where by opening too quickly, too soon caused a second wave of increased numbers of cases and caused more loss of revenues for businesses and government.

And even though we want to see families and friends together again, for example at restaurants, at retail stores or going on staycations; we must remain vigilant. We cannot become complacent; we must follow the guidelines painstakingly put together by our medical experts, policy advisors, and by Cabinet.

It has been proven that following the prescribed protocols has created healthy communities in other countries and we too can maintain healthy communities in the Cayman Islands if we work as a team.

Going forward we must accept a "NEW NORMAL" and that includes the continued use of physical distancing, mask wearing, proper sneezing and coughing hygiene, proper handwashing hygiene, the use of hand sanitizers, the continued sanitizing of groceries, not only to ward off the novel coronavirus but other possible communicable diseases.

As Minister of Health I am encouraging business owners or employers to put in place internal company policies which encourage physical distancing of the prescribed six feet inside their properties and guidelines that require employees, and customers to wash their hands and to cover coughs and sneezes through use of masks in any shared space.

Employers will need to consider how to manage safely the process of returning employees to the workplace. I dare say, it is the responsibility of all business owners to take time to educate and train staff on health and safety measures to reopen their businesses.

Here are seven steps to ensure your business follows the government's Health and Safety Measures in preventing the spread of COVID-19:

  1. Conduct a risk assessment
  2. Employ a Health monitoring and safety management system
  3. Reduce physical interaction and ensure safe distancing
  4. Ensure safe distancing while using shared transportation
  5. Provide PPE and encourage good personal hygiene
  6. Ensure cleanliness of workplace premises
  7. Perform health checks and implement protocols to manage potential cases.

You can find the detailed guidance on the government website www.gov.ky/coronavirus.

I am urging employers; for the health and safety of employees and customers - to ensure workspaces are routinely sanitized; and to continue using video chats or other technological advances that have made it easier to meet virtually and put less people at risk of contracting the virus.

Employers I am also asking that for the foreseeable future, you consider keeping in place a work-from-home status of any staff who can do so.

Once again, all employers will find the Health and Safety Measures Guidance as well as other resources for re-opening your business on our website www.gov.ky/coronavirus.

In closing, I have a few additional shout outs. As many of you know this past Sunday was World No Tobacco Day and I would like to applaud the work of the Public Health Department for their relentless efforts in offering ongoing anti-smoking intervention and support programmes to the residents of the Cayman Islands, the National Drug Council for their close collaboration with the at-risk youths in our school across the Islands educating them on substance abuse, the Cayman Islands Cancer Society and the Cayman Heart Fund for all their work in the community through education and public outreach on tobacco smoking.

Finally, I encourage everyone, youth and adults alike to become educated, increase your awareness of the dangers of smoking, share your knowledge and let's create a tobacco-free generation.

Please stay safe out there.

God Bless.

GIS

For further information contact: Bina Mani