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23 June COVID 19 Update

Premier, Hon. Alden McLaughlin

Cayman Islands leaders provided updates on increased government services that are now available to the Cayman Islands public, as well as the provision of 10 WiFi hotspots that will provide free access 24/7 across the three islands.

At today's (Tuesday, 23 June 2020) press conference, where prayers were led by Rev. Audley U. Scott, Cayman's leaders explained expanded government services now available, notably in the Health Services Authority (HSA) and the Ministry of Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure. They also introduced "Travel Time" which will help with international travel to and from the Cayman Islands while the borders remain closed.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr. John Lee reported:

  • Today's results were 451 negatives and no positives.
  • The total number of tests done in the Cayman Islands is 21,282.
  • Of the 195 total positives so far, there are no symptomatic, 40 asymptomatic, none hospitalised and 154 recovered.
  • There are 140 currently in government isolation facilities and 166 isolating at home.
  • Six persons attended the 'flu clinic yesterday with mild 'flu symptoms and seven of the 24 calls to the 'flu hotline were 'flu related.
  • The testing has revealed that the trending line is really encouraging and anticipated to continue.
  • He is not anticipating a rising trend in the number of positives as we are re-opening. The medical community is seeing the tail end of previous infections in the positive cases now seen; there are no new infections.
  • The new immunoglobulin tests started have so far shown a very low level of antibody positivity in known positives in the Cayman Islands.

Premier, Hon. Alden McLaughlin said:

  • Test results continue to trend "incredibly well", underscoring that the governmental strategies employed thus far are working well, which is generating a great feeling of optimism and encouragement all around.
  • Phase 1 of Level 2 Suppression means that a large number of people are now back to work. This increases the need to follow strictly all prescribed protocols including social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands frequently and practising respiratory hygiene.
  • Curfew Time will now transition to become Travel Time.
  • The emphasis has shifted from "Stay Home Cayman" to "Stay Safe Cayman".
  • For full remarks by the Premier, see sidebar below.

His Excellency the Governor, Mr. Martyn Roper said:

  • The Cayman Islands' results continue to be encouraging with almost 1,000 negatives and no positives in the last two days.
  • After a good stint of service, the UK Security Assistance Team will be leaving at the end of next week.
  • For details from the Governor, see sidebar below.

Minister for Health, Hon. Dwayne Seymour said:

  • Health Services Authority has begun initiating phased plan for reopening of elective surgeries and outpatient care.
  • Shout-out went to Nelson Dilbert and Walker Romanica at Cayman Distillery for their ongoing supply of free hand sanitizer to the HSA over the past 3 months.
  • The MRCU are aware and working hard to combat an upsurge in the mosquito numbers across the island.
  • See sidebar below for more from the Minister.

Minister for Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure, Hon. Joey Hew reported:

  • Ten (10) community Wi-Fi hotspots are now available across Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman for residents to enjoy, public access to free wireless Internet.
  • The ministry continues to provide support for micro and small businesses across the islands.
  • The Department of Commerce and Investment continues to provide exceptional service through their online platform and via remote working.
  • The Department of Vehicle and Drivers Licensing (DVDL) staff, over the past three months, processed a total of 10,181 vehicle licence renewals.
  • For details from Minister Hew, see separate release.

Sidebar: Premier Highlights Travel Time, Guidance for Businesses

As you know on Sunday, 21 June 2020, we moved to phase 1 of Level 2 Suppression which has meant more easing of restrictions. It also means a lot more people back into the workforce including helpers and caregivers, hair and beauty salons re-opening, churches, cinemas and theatres all able to open providing strict social distancing measures are in place.

So far, the reports I have received have been encouraging as businesses begin to fully operate. So as we continue to move forward, I ask you all to remain vigilant and as we ease restrictions, socially responsible. We have all done a great job so far and at great sacrifice. The virus hasn't gone away, it is still here among us and that's why we need to maintain our social distance, always wear a mask or a cloth face covering in public places and adhere to respiratory protocols.

Government will continue with our plan of aggressively testing and will carefully monitor results as more people come back into the workforce and gather socially.

Industry specific guidance is shared on our government website. The guidance has been developed to support the safe re-opening of a number of areas coming on line and includes guidance on:

  • Babysitting Guidance for Parents and primary Caregivers;
  • Welcoming your Child Caregiver back into your home;
  • Guidance for the operations of Early Child Care Centers, Summer Camps, Vacation Bible Schools (which come back on line 5 July); and
  • A framework for restarting sports on 19 July.

Guidance for the reopening of churches has received support from both the Cayman Ministers Association as well as the Conference of Seventh Day Adventist Churches and is available on the Government web page.

For the removal of doubt it is important to note that those attending church will be required to wear masks indoors.

Please continue to check the website www.exploregov.ky/coronavirus for information and Stay Safe Cayman.

Travel Time

As we continue to open up and as more of our people overseas are looking to return home we have decided to utilise the individuals who worked with in what was known as Curfew Time to migrate into a new body that we will call Travel Time.

Based on the success with which "Curfew Time" helped our Covid-19 mitigation, the new "Travel Time" operation will be run by the Chief Officer of the Ministry of International Trade, Investment, Aviation and Maritime Affairs, Eric Bush, and his team.

Travel Time will be tasked with co-ordinating the return of Caymanians, Permanent Residents and Work Permit Holders to the Cayman Islands. In doing this they will also manage the Government isolation facilities to ensure that there are sufficient rooms for those returning and who need to isolate as required. They will also work to co-ordinate the repatriation of those looking to return their homelands.

It is expected that Travel Time will assume full responsibility of this operation from 1 July. All arrangements and announcements made to date for travel to and from the Cayman Islands will remain the same.

Since 22 March 2020 when we closed our borders, the Government has arranged 30 emergency repatriation flights which have enabled our own people to return home and for expatriates to return to their own homes, amidst global travel restrictions.

These flights, organised through the National Emergency Operations Centre and the Governor's Office, Cayman Airways as well as the Cayman Islands Government Office in the UK, required a huge amount of coordination. In the Cayman context, the flights were further supported by extensive and highly admirable work by civil servants and volunteers to create isolation centres and manage all of the logistics required to support the Government's aggressive measures to stop the spread of this deadly virus.

As the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) is winding down, the entities and individuals that have coordinated emergency travel are returning to their normal operations.

For the next few months, whilst we still have restrictions, travel will require streamlined coordination between a number of government Ministries, statutory authorities as well as other countries via His Excellency the Governor and his office.

As I've mentioned, in order to create a streamlined experience for individuals who need to travel to or from the Cayman Islands, I have authorized the creation of a new entity which will coordinate these efforts. The new entity, called "Travel Time", will manage and organize travel, and liaise with the public.

Through all of our combined efforts over the past three months, we have managed to keep Covid-19 from running out of control in our country. But we cannot rest on our laurels. The new Travel Time operation will enable Government to better facilitate travel to and from our shores while continuing to successfully manage the Covid-19 pandemic, without jeopardizing our hard-earned success.

Sidebar: Governor Notes Cayman's Good Position

Encouraging test results once more. Almost 1,000 negatives in last 2 days and no positives. Shows our strategy is working. We are in a very good position on our Islands thanks to all the measures we have taken and your excellent cooperation.

Globally WHO report pandemic still accelerating. 183,000 new cases on 21 June - the highest in a single day so far. 9 million cases worldwide. And sadly almost 500,000 deaths.

WHO say no evidence that less potent strains of virus are emerging. Nothing has emerged to suggest a decline in communicability or impact of the infection.

I say this to underline that we must not let our guard down. We need to adopt good habits of social distancing, basic hygiene and good respiratory behaviour (when coughing and sneezing) and wearing masks in public places.

That is best way to protect yourself, family and community, including our elderly and vulnerable.

As we work out how to open border safely, trade-offs will be necessary. There is no zero risk solution. So we need to remain disciplined under a 'new normal' until a vaccine is developed.

The Security Assistance Team (SAT) will be leaving us at the end of next week. They've been here for two months and I'm very grateful for all the assistance they have provided. Their coordination during the RFA Argus visit including the hurricane exercises and the helicopter support provided to the RCIPS was vital. The air crew assisted in the detection of a drugs shipment and just last week responded to two kayakers in difficulty of the Grand Cayman coast. The team included logistical experts who have supported the HSA laboratory and have provided assistance with the BA Airbridge flights. It also, most importantly, the team have supported the recruitment, training plans and legislation needed to develop the Cayman Islands Regiment. Bringing the team in, with the agreement of the Premier, at a challenging time in the immediate aftermath of the lockdown was a sensible, planned measure and a signal of UK commitment. I am grateful to the team for all the support they have provided.

Deputy Governor has asked me to highlight, in a strong demonstration of the civil service's customer focus, that starting today applications for British Overseas Territories Citizenship (BOTC), Naturalisation/Registration, British Registration and the expungement of criminal records can be submitted to the Deputy Governor's Office via email and the relevant fees (US or CI cash, debit, credit cards or local cheques) can be paid at Post Offices. Applicants need to download the relevant application form from www.odg.gov.ky, visit a Post Office, pay the relevant fee, then email the form and a copy of the receipt to the relevant point of contact as follows:

  • BOTC Naturalisation/Registration: BOTC;
  • British Registration/Naturalisaion: Tenisha Thompson (scans must be in colour for British Registration);
  • Expungement of criminal records: Expungement.

Hard copies and cheques will still be accepted. These should be delivered to the curb-side drop boxes at the Government Administration Building. Further information is available at www.gov.ky.

Sidebar: Minister Seymour Underscores Expanded HSA Services

Good Afternoon to my fellow Caymanians and residents.

As you are aware, Grand Cayman has moved into Level 2 Minimal Suppression of the COVID-19 response and as many of you have heard the Health Services Authority (HSA) has begun to initiate its phased plan for the reopening of elective surgeries and outpatient care.

In this phase people who require non-emergent and minor care can now access the Cayman Islands Hospital, all outpatient clinics including the District Health Centres, the Faith Hospital in Cayman Brac and the Little Cayman Clinic.

HSA understands that because of the closures to many of their services during the pandemic there is patient demand for medical, surgical and procedural care and I can assure you that the HSA staff are carefully and appropriately prepared to meet this demand.

There will be a phase-in of all services across all HSA facilities over time with a focus on stringent measures to protect patients and staff from COVID-19 based on the established guiding principles. All patients with a previous appointment will be contacted to reschedule. If patients have any questions or concerns about a missed appointment or need to make an appointment please call 949-8600. Public Health will also launch a vaccination campaign over the coming weeks providing an opportunity for patients to receive any missed immunisations. There is a list of safeguarding measures which include:

  • Pre-registration of all patients prior to their appointment to minimize lines and congestion;
  • Pre-screenings of all patients for temperatures and COVID-19 symptoms before they enter the clinics or departments;
  • Changes to waiting room seating in all clinics to maintain social distancing of at least six feet;
  • Dedicated clinic days for the elderly and immuno-compromised patients only;
  • Clinics and diagnostic services will be arranged such that adequate social distancing between patients is maintained, including additional outdoor space to expand waiting areas;
  • Expansion of telemedicine services;
  • Medical records can now be obtained at the information desk in the hospital atrium;
  • COVID-19 screening will be required for all patients being admitted for elective procedures (including elective C-sections) 3 business days prior to their procedure and will be directed to the designated screening area.

There are further steps including PPE for all staff and daily screenings of their employees as well as careful logistics to ensure social distancing. For a full list of other measures I would encourage you to please visit the HSA website.

We know many of you are also hopeful to hear that you can start visiting loved ones as well and I am pleased to tell you that the HSA will take all necessary steps to gradually ease current visitor restrictions but only under guidance from public health to prevent the spread of this disease and protect patients, staff and visitors.

There is a visitation policy which must be adhered to which they have made public however, as there are still some questions I am happy to go over them with you all now:

  • Visitors must be 18+ years old and wear a face mask at all times.
  • All visitors will be screened prior to entering the Cayman Islands Hospital.
  • All visitors are asked to sanitize their hands upon entering and exiting both the patient's room and the hospital.
  • Visiting Hours are from 11am - 8pm for Medical, Surgical and Critical Care Units.
  • In-patients who require assistance may have one caregiver as part of their care team.
  • One visitor will be permitted to accompany a patient to facilitate care or treatment such as an ambulatory visit, procedure or same-day surgery.
  • One visitor, per day, will be permitted in the Maternity Ward.
  • Two persons (parent, guardian or caregiver) for patients on the Paediatric Unit;
  • Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) unit allows for one parent daily.
  • COVID-19 positive patients will NOT be allowed visitors.

We know it's a lot to remember so please also rest assured that the HSA team is working on many reopening items including signage which will help us all navigate the changes safely.

As your Minister for Health I am so pleased to let you know that you can safely go to the hospital again. Our hospitals regularly manage infectious diseases and have put additional measures in place to ensure patient safety during this time.

It would be remiss of me to not echo the sentiments of my team at the HSA to remind patients and visitors that we are still living in a worldwide pandemic and to continue to really drive home the message that we must all take the necessary precautions to protect ourselves.

For more information on the services and for clinic and department hours, please visit www.hsa.ky or call 949-8600.

Today I also wanted to include a shout-out to Nelson Dilbert and Walker Romanica at Cayman Distillery for their ongoing supply of free hand sanitizer to the HSA over the past 3 months. They have donated over 5,000 liters of sanitizer. The donations have gone to various entities and authorities island-wide in Grand Cayman as well as some 55 gallon drums which have gone to Cayman Brac.

The donations have gone out to, but are not limited to, the following entities:

HSA, RCIPS, Department of Environment, CBC, Port Authority, HMCI, Isolation Hotels, Northward Prison, Judicial Administration, various Doctors' Offices and Private Clinics, Charities including Meals on Wheels, Humane Society, Cancer Society, One Dog at a Time, and various others; Countless medics, officers, front line workers and individuals; Protocol office and the Legislative Assembly for their recent sessions.

Thank you for playing such a great part in this fight against Covid-19.

Additionally, I know many of you are concerned about the Saharan dust plume that is spreading across the Caribbean. I wanted to take a moment to remind the public of the statement issued by the National Weather Service saying that we can expect hazy conditions across the Cayman Islands over the next 24 hours. Due to this the Public Health Department is advising the public that these conditions could increase symptoms in persons with asthma, and other respiratory illnesses due to the elevated dust and particulate matter concentrations. Such persons are advised to stay inside as much as possible during this time.

For additional weather information please visit www.weather.gov.ky. For any health concerns please call your doctor or Public Health at 244.2621.

Finally, there have been numerous reports of an upsurge in the mosquito numbers across the island. The MRCU are aware and working hard to combat these. Aerial spraying occurred last night across the North Side and Prospect/Red Bay areas and will continue again tonight across Frank Sound and North Side areas. Ground spraying continues as well in the Whitehall Estates, Snug Harbour, Smith Road, Walkers Road, North Sound Estates and Bodden Town areas tonight.

We are experiencing more mosquitoes currently due to above-average tides and recent rainfall. Thankfully these are not disease carrying mosquitoes but annoying unfortunately.

I want to assure the public that the MRCU has been surveying and treating the production sites and emergent, flying and biting mosquitoes throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. They have done so whilst, and most importantly, ensuring that personnel and staff adhere to all the proper precautions related to risk of COVID-19 transmission. They have tried not to allow COVID-19 to impact their service, but it has influenced and impacted operations to some extent.

In the past two weeks the aerial program has serviced all three islands whilst working closely with the airport and airport operations, operations that are also impacted by COVID-19 and doing what they can to ensure safety in the workplace. Aerial and ground operations both have been impacted by high winds this month that sometimes made spray operations impossible. Despite this, and in spite of COVID-19, personnel of MRCU have been working in the field since mid-March to survey and control mosquitoes. They will continue to do so diligently until the current mosquitoes population return to a normal level.

In closing, I thank God and pray for the continued merciful protection over our islands and remind the community to please continue to practice social distancing, wash your hands, wear your masks and keep yourselves and your kids at home if you are sick.

God bless us all.

For the full broadcast of the press conference on CIG YouTube, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBJ7GiB9Kfo.

GIS

For further information contact: Bina Mani