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Friday, 19 June Update

Premier, Hon. Alden McLaughlin

At the COVID-19 press conference today, Friday, 19 June 2020, Cayman Islands' leaders confirmed that all changes announced on Wednesday remain on track to come into effect starting with the easing of a number of restrictions on Sunday, 21 June.

Prayer was led by Pastor Joel Scott, Cayman Brac.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr. John Lee reported:

  • Out of 1,034 test results, only two are positive.
  • Of a total of 195 positive cases 143 have recovered. Of the current 52 active cases, 1 is in hospital in a stable condition, 2 are symptomatic and 49 asymptomatic.
  • There are 145 individuals at government run isolation facilities and 214 in home isolation monitored by Public Health.
  • The 'flu clinic had 4 visits and the 'flu hotline has two calls 'flu' related out of 22 calls on Thursday.
  • The criteria for discharging COVID-19 positive patients from isolation have changed:
    1. For symptomatic patients: 10 days after symptom onset, plus at least 3 additional days without symptoms (including without fever and respiratory symptoms). Persons will then be retested and must obtain two negative tests 24 hours apart.
    2. For asymptomatic cases: 10 days after positive test for SARS-CoV-2. Persons will then be retested and must obtain two negative tests 24 hours apart.

  • Special processes will be put in place to deal with some dental surgeries that include aerosol generated procedures.
  • Anti-body testing at the HSA commenced today and will be reported on in due course.
  • Lauds "very impressive" collaboration between the HSA and the rest of the medical community in dealing with COVID-19 locally.

Commissioner of Police, Mr. Derek Byrne reported:

  • The hard curfew is revoked from 4.30 am Sunday, 21 June.
  • For the full report by the Commissioner, see sidebar below.

Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin said:

  • The work of the Competent Authority ceases as of today in view of changed regulations from Sunday. Their work, led by Chief Officer Eric Bush, has been exemplary.
  • Government would like to recognise the remarkable effort by making a one-time honorarium payment for those who bore the brunt of the COVID-response. Those public servants who helped to combat COVID-19 by delivering essential services during the height of the crisis will receive a one-off payment of $1,000.
  • Details for flights to the US in July and August are being finalised.
  • For full details from the Premier, see sidebar below.

His Excellency the Governor, Mr. Martyn Roper said:

  • Cayman Islands has effectively created a safe bubble and is one of the safer places in the world right now. Thanks to all for their cooperation and practicing of required protocols, which need to continue even after restrictions ease considerably starting Sunday, 21 June.
  • The flight to Chennai goes on sale on Monday and those registered to travel will be contacted.
  • BA flights to the UK on 31 July and 28 August for students are planned.
  • A privately organised flight to Cancun, Mexico to repatriate Peruvian and Mexican nationals is organised for 24 June at 7 am.
  • For more from the Governor, see sidebar below.

Health Minister Dwayne Seymour said:

  • Cayman Islands Government is offering a series of cell phone ringtones featuring the sound of the conch shell against a musical background, and which the public can download for free. The ringtones can be downloaded at: www.gov.ky/coronavirus.

WORC Deputy Director Jeremy Scott said:

  • A total of 1,355 job seekers have registered at the JobsCayman portal up to 1 June.
  • For more details, see separate release.

WORC National Training and Develoment Manager Diane Conolly said:

  • Ready2Work KY, Passport2Success and other programmes are underway to help Caymanians get employed.
  • For full details, see separate release.

Sidebar: Commissioner Highlights New Regulations, End of Hard Curfew

Good afternoon. Earlier this week, the Premier announced the significant easing of shelter in place Regulations commencing this coming Sunday, 21 June 2020 with further easing of restrictions on Sunday, 5 July and Sunday, 19 July. New Regulations will be gazetted this evening.

Following this announcement the National Hazard Management Executive and Cabinet approved the revocation of the imposition of curfew order or hard curfew in place, and decided that the hard curfew order will be revoked with effect from 4.30am on Sunday 21 June. I have now received permission from H.E. the Governor to revoke the imposition of curfew order from 4.30am this coming Sunday.

This means that the imposition of curfew order in place will run tonight and tomorrow night between the hours of 10pm and 4.30a.m ending on Sunday morning at 4.30am, following which there will be no imposition of curfew order or hard curfew in place across the Cayman Islands.

It would be useful to advise that the new regulations will be accompanied by additional regulations approved by Cabinet introducing 23 new ticketable offences for breaches of the regulations with fines ranging from $250 KYD to $750KYD. The new regulations dealing with the ticketable offences will also be gazetted later this evening.

At this point I would like to take the opportunity to day a big thank you to all of the communities across the Cayman Islands for their tolerance, compromise, support and cooperation shown to the RCIPS and our partner law enforcement agencies over the past 3 months, or so, as we went about our business dealing with the shelter in place regulations and the enforcement of the hard curfew. My sense is that we were in this together, we held firm, and the results have been outstanding.

Brief Note on crime: The crime and security situation remains very calm and very stable. I did release two crime reports over the past two weeks which have been uploaded to our website and are available for viewing. Over the past three weeks we did have two drug canoes enter the Islands, a significant amount of Ganja was recovered along with two firearms. Three persons were arrested and charged with drug related crimes.

Traffic: Speeding continues to be a major concern and for the period 29 May to 19 June 2020 - 532 speeding tickets have been issued. The frequency of excess speeding is most notable at Easterly Tibbetts Highway, Shamrock Road and along South Sound Road. We have had two serious accidents. We have partnered with Rotary Central to launch a road safety campaign Slow Down Campaign with the focus on educating drivers of the effects of speeding and the impacts on families who have to deal with loss our serious injuries to members of their families. We are seeing an increase in drivers driving under the influence.

Sidebar: Premier Showcases Curfewtime, Honorarium for Public Servants

There's no "guidebook" for dealing with a global pandemic. Like all other governments around the world, the Cayman Islands Government had to quickly make decisions and tough choices to protect its population from Covid-19.

At the end of March, the country took an aggressive approach to stop the virus in its tracks by implementing regulations that limited human interactions and movement. This was achieved through a soft and hard curfew. To most of us, the past three months probably seemed like an eternity.

During the restrictions, we had to make provisions for to allow exceptions and essential services to continue. This is where a special team came into the picture to determine who qualified for an exemption under the regulations. This special team was referred to in the regulations as the "Competent Authority." This team, also known as the "Curfew Time" team was led by Chief Officer Eric Bush and we owe them a great debt of gratitude.

During the "shelter in place" regulations which began at the end of March, Curfew Time was introduced to facilitate essential businesses. It also helped to navigate circumstances that were not specifically spelled out by the regulations.

There was also no guidebook for Curfew Time. Faced with a hugely challenging situation, the Curfew Time team handled it with efficiency, grace and ingenuity.

The team grew from 2 to 12 people in a week, working through 16 hour days and initially 7 days a week, to handle the volume of requests sent to the Curfew Time email inbox.

With full dedication, Curfew Time ensured that essential businesses could operate in these unusual circumstances. Every day, the team answered questions from businesses and the public about the regulations.

Curfew Time also worked to ensure that various sectors (ranging from farmers to IT specialists) could continue to operate, that blood donations could continue, and that elderly and otherwise vulnerable individuals were cared for. It worked to ensure business continuity, and to enable weddings and funerals to take place - limited as they were.

The success of Curfew Time, combined with our country wide testing that revealed the extent of Covid-19 in the Cayman Islands, meant that we could undertake a "phased" re-opening of the Cayman Islands economy, as well as the opening of Little Cayman and Cayman Brac ahead of Grand Cayman. Each new phase brought change and challenges - and these challenges actually made businesses adapt and innovate in offering their goods and services.

Over the last few months the volume of requests grew and grew from hundreds to thousands. By the end of April, after 5 weeks, the Curfew Time team had received approximately 12,000 email requests. A single exemption request could involve multiple emails back and forth seeking relevant information. This volume led the team to seek technological assistance.

The OfReg ICT and Curfew Time teams worked together and designed an online form and an automated workflow process to help streamline, simplify and automate requests which greatly reduced the workload on the Curfew Time team, and increased the efficiency of the entire process. The success of the online form once again showed the agility, capability and talent of the Cayman Islands Government.

As of today (June 19th 2020) over 19,000 requests were processed by the Curfew Time team, 4300 of which via the automated online form.

I am confident and delighted that Government's decisions, strategy and sacrifice have paid off. On Sunday we will be lifting the vast majority of the restrictions that were required to get us here.

We have avoided the tragedy that has played out in so many other countries, but we need to remain vigilant. Now that curfew, and with it Curfew Time comes to an end, I hope you will join me in commending the Curfew Time team for the vital role they have played in our country's immensely successful strategy to prevent, suppress and control the spread of Covid-19 across these beloved Cayman Islands.

Team Members in alphabetical order: Andrea Fa'amoe, Ashlyn Goubault-Ebanks, Evana Martinez ,Kendra Okonski, Shenneque Seales, Shushan O'Conor, Stacie Sybersma, Tichina Rickfield, Tristaca Ebanks; Volunteers: Felecia Paddyfoot, Delia Hydes, Althea Edwards-Boothe and Joanna Bond.

Honorarium for Public Service COVID Responders

This week, our community celebrates major strides to contain and suppress the spread of the COVID-19 virus locally. As we prepare to enter Level 2 (Light Suppression) and to regain the ability to socialise more freely, it is important to pause and recognise the tremendous efforts of those who served on the front line to make this milestone possible.

As Premier, I want to take this opportunity to publicly acknowledge the men and women within the public service, who have toiled relentlessly to carry out the Government's policy decisions and to faithfully serve the people of the Cayman Islands. It is due in large part, to their courage and professionalism that it has been possible to maintain steady progress in the fight against COVID-19.

Just over three months ago, as the pandemic swept towards our shores we called upon the men and women within our public service to see these Islands through this crisis, which is of unrivalled magnitude certainly in the history of these islands (for the past 100 years). They mobilized swiftly to activate our emergency operations and implement Government's policies to slow the spread of the deadly pandemic. Even when very little was known about the virus and how it spread, Customs and Border Control Officers welcomed thousands of returning residents and bid farewell to guests.

As one group stepped up and did their jobs, other teams mobilised to address the next string of challenges as large numbers of students and residents began flocking home to take refuge and anxieties rose within the community that this might hasten the spread of the virus locally. Teams gathered and within 24 hours, went through iterations of innovative solutions. The result allowed us to temporarily transform hotels into isolation facilities, thereby relieving the pressures on families who were receiving loved ones from abroad, and allowing public health to focus their monitoring and testing capabilities to highly centralised locations.

Where the virus had breached our borders and was silently threatening to replicate itself in every district across our community, diverse public health professionals joined forces with the HSA, and began the laborious process of contact tracing which has to date resulted in the daily monitoring of almost 200 COVID positive persons, contact tracing for hundreds more who were potentially exposed, and raised the alert for those persons who were either unable or unwilling to maintain the quarantine.

Elsewhere, teams who had never previously never worked together, volunteered in "Operation Bring 'Em Home", and met our citizens at the airports and cared for at least two weeks at a time at the isolation facilities.

These volunteers worked in shifts, sometimes through the night, to feed, clean, and support the welfare of more than 600 residents who passed through these facilities in first three months. The needs of each occupant were known and addressed, ably led by professionals from the Department of Children and Family Services who are well versed in the procedures of shelter management.

We give thanks to almighty God for sparing us the full brunt of the virus, as many COVID positive cases were asymptomatic. However, we must not forget that there were those among us whose symptoms required medical interventions, either in the form of outpatient treatment in the newly formed flu clinic or by full blown admission to the dedicated respiratory unit. The HSA quickly transformed their normal operations to combat COVID-19, including the addition of a dedicated flu hotline to identify symptoms which warranted closer scrutiny.

With the assistance of project management and supply chain experts, satellite medical facilities were established, thereby expanding our capabilities if the volume of persons becoming ill should require Cayman to increase its medical footprint. These wins were made, by working closely with civil society from our church community and voluntary organisations.

When images from abroad flooded our shores of medical professionals combatting COVID without even the basic protective gear necessary to keep them safe, the Cabinet took comfort in the daily reports received throughout the crisis of how locally, PPE inventories were being managed and were being regularly augmented even at the height of the crisis.

When global supplies were at critically low levels and countries were confiscating medical equipment transiting their ports, local teams worked throughout the days and nights to secure adequate supplies not only to protect our doctors and nurses on the front line, but equally to distribute more than 50 thousand disposable and reusable masks across all three Islands so that every resident had some basic equipment needed to protect themselves and each other, as they experienced larger groups in public places.

Every medical and scientific expert has said the key to combating COVID, particularly when it presents as an invisible, asymptomatic intruder, is Testing, Testing, Testing. HSA's Public Health teams joined more recently by medical professionals from of our private sector, have undertaken more than 20 thousand COVID screenings, almost one-third of our population. The Cayman Islands now ranks third for testing per capita and is currently expanding capabilities to also conduct antibody testing.

Our police officers adopted extended shifts to enforce curfews by night, maintain the peace by day to instill confidence that essential activities like grocery shopping could be safely and pragmatically managed. Police officers joined side by side by CBC Officers and volunteer special constables, interacted with hundreds and sometimes thousands of persons each day.

Some of these interactions came at great personal risk, when for example they were called upon to assist Public Health teams with breaches in COVID quarantines. They did not have the luxury of an established schedule for responding to COVID emergencies, but rather made themselves available as required to keep the public safe.

Whilst contending with unprecedented demands for their services, some the men and women on the front line have also had to make a difficult call to isolate away from their families. By reducing the risk of accidental transmission to their own households, they maintained a singular focus to holding the frontline and keeping Cayman safe.

Our communications teams, worked tirelessly to inform the public of the latest medical and policy advice, to reach the public in their preferred communication channel from daily press briefings to continuous social media feeds, and to speak to each segment of our population in their own voice enlisting the cooperation of all from young children to our elderly. They also battled and quickly addressed rumours which disseminated false and harmful news, and instead offered the public reliable sources of medical and scientific advice.

The National Emergency Operations Centre, which has been operational for over 100 days, will cease daily activities today and shift monitoring and maintaining readiness for rapid response as required. Many on frontline have gone without leave during the height of this crisis, responding to calls all hours of the day and night. The public service has itself not been immune to virus, with some on the team contracting the virus and facing the uphill process of quarantine and recovery. Yet, as soon as circumstances allowed, they resumed their posts driven by a shared purpose to "Make Lives Better".

Although COVID-19 has dominated our discussions and decisions for over 100 days, it is not the only crisis our Country has faced in 2020. Since January of this year, the public service has responded to a major earthquake and tsunami warning, landfill fire, and, of course, COVID-19. 1 June also saw the start of the Atlantic hurricane season and we know not, what that will bring.

While we have so far been able to navigate these calamities by instituting sound policies, making swift decisions and enacting laws and regulations -- all of those measures would have been for nothing had it not been for the consistent and unwavering service provided by our frontline workers, who implemented the government's policies, decisions and regulations, and saved lives by doing so. These are the capable men and women that we have relied on to ensure a successful response to COVID thus far, and the people we will continue to rely on for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and the hurricane season.

Having provided a glimpse of the heroic efforts of our COVID-19 Responders, the Government would like to recognise the remarkable effort by making a one-time honorarium payment for those who bore the brunt of the COVID-response. Those public servants who helped to combat COVID-19 by delivering essential services during the height of the crisis, will receive a one-off payment of $1,000.

An additional payment of $500 will be made to those public servants whose work, in combating the spread of the virus, required them to work in the most hazardous conditions including frequent contacts with high volumes of persons or close contact with persons known or suspected to be COVID-positive.

My Cabinet was happy to approve the one-off payment of an honorarium for COVID Responders within the public service. We only wish it could have been more. This stipend will be paid by participating agencies and within the civil service, will be borne from pre-existing HR budgets and savings realised in personnel costs across the Civil Service. There will be no increase in overall civil service budget. The Deputy Governor and Chief Officers will manage the programme and I wish to again extend my sincere appreciation for the tireless efforts of the teams who have responded.

We have seen countries much larger, expertise, than ours, struggle to mobilise an effective response. I would remind our emergency responders, Cayman is not yet out of the woods, and we continue to rely upon our civil service to keep Cayman safe.

Again, I would like to thank those on the frontline of our COVID-19 response for all of their remarkable and tireless efforts. You are indeed heroes. As we enter Level Two (Light Suppression), we are grateful for the contributions of so many who have made this progress possible. Thank you!

USA flights for July, August

Government is finalising the details of evacuation flights to the US planned for July and August.

The Ministry of Employment and Border Control reminds students, and parents, heading to school in the USA this fall, to register online via www.explore.gov.ky/travel, if they have not yet done so. Persons who have registered will be contacted directly about flight availability and seating as soon as details are finalised.

Sidebar: Governor Describes Cayman as "Safe Bubble"

A huge number of test results today - 1,034 in total and only two positives in last few days is great news.

Pleased to see the positive reaction to the latest announcement on the relaxing of measures. Barbers and hairdressers reopening is definitely the most popular! We should be proud of our islands, we've effectively created a safe bubble and we are one of the safer places in the world right now. Not far away, Miami has been described as the next epicentre of COVID in the US with a large number of cases. The UK Security Assistance Team believe that the government and public health response has been evidence based, credible and exceptionally well led. We can take pride in that. A huge thanks to everyone across the islands for their cooperation and helping to get us to this point. Please keep going with social distancing, basic hygiene and good respiratory behaviours when coughing and sneezing and wearing masks in public places. As we seek to tackle the next challenge of opening the border we need to get into these good habits now and have discipline because these good habits are what will keep us individually safe from the virus but also protect our community.

I positively welcome the Premier's announcement today of the honorarium for front line workers. It is absolutely right that we recognise the hard work of front line workers on our islands. Thanks again to the Police Commissioner and his officers plus the CBC officers and Special Constables who have helped. We really owe them a particular debt of gratitude.

The flight to Chennai, India will go on sale on Monday. Those who have registered with the travel help line will be sent details of how to book before the flight is later opened up to others. This flight is for people travelling to India and passengers must hold an Indian passport or a valid Overseas Citizen of India card in order to book a seat. No need to contact my office, details will be shared on Monday.

We continue to work very hard to find on a solution for those wishing to travel to Nepal and we are making progress. As things develop we will share details.

We are planning to run BA flights to the UK on 31 July and 28 August. These flights will be primarily to take students to the UK who will be attending school and university. Again no need to contact my office but do register on the travel helpline if you have not done so already. We will give more details shortly.

There is a flight on 24 June at 7 am to Cancun, Mexico which will be taking back Peruvian and Mexican nationals. This flight is being organised by a private individual. There are still seats available. Anyone interested in a seat can contact Samantha A. Zamora Contreras on Samantha Hashley or 345 321 8971.

We have agreed to a request from US Customs and Border Control Protection to station an aircraft here next week. It will be conducting surveillance, counter narcotics and security work in the region, working with our RCIPS Air Operations Unit. We will be fully managing the COVID risk. The crew will go from the airport to their hotel and will be tested before their arrival. A strong signal of our cooperation with the US on security as one of our key partners.

For the new regulations, see http://www.gov.ky/portal/pls/portal/docs/1/12976499.PDF and http://www.gov.ky/portal/pls/portal/docs/1/12976500.PDF .

GIS

For further information contact: Bina Mani