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Friday, 5 June Update

Premier, Hon. Alden McLaughlin

At the COVID-19 press conference today, Friday, 5 June 2020, Cayman Islands' leaders highlighted further easing of restrictions on Grand Cayman from this Sunday 7 June onwards.

This includes reopening of outdoor bar and restaurant operations, while following strict protocols in place.

In addition, the maximum number of persons permitted to attend a public gathering will increase to six on Sunday. This also means that up to six persons may exercise together outdoors and on beaches. Throughout the activity, all are encouraged to remain with their original group to avoid potential spread of COVID-19. Prayers at today's press conference were led by Rev. Elsa Bobb.

The Premier, Hon. Alden McLaughlin noted that the Cayman Islands "is the most successful" nation in the world in managing the COVID-19 pandemic, while acknowledging that the Cayman Islands' size, scale and population help in this regard. "But let us continue to do what we know is working and not get too far ahead of ourselves," he cautioned.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr. John Lee reported:

  • Out of 694 test results, four are positive - with one from a known contact.
  • A total of 13,947 have been tested to date.
  • On Cayman Brac, following the enhanced screening, a total of 1,017 or 51% of the population there have been tested now and a total of 41% of the Brac population is negative. There have been some three positives on Cayman Brac to date with some 200 results are still pending.
  • Out of 164 positive cases so far, currently one is symptomatic, 69 asymptomatic, and 93 have recovered.
  • The 'flu clinic had 11 visits on Thursday and the 'flu hotline got 16 calls about symptoms out of 31 calls received.
  • At government run isolation facilities, there are 54 individuals at present as well as 220 individuals isolated in their homes. Two in isolation in the prison at Fairbanks are now released as they have returned two negative tests.
  • Many of the people picked up over the last few weeks, even though their viral count is quite low, are still infectious and the lab is still able to grow viruses from their test sample.

Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin said:

  • The tests continue to produce "very encouraging" results. However, the positive rate for the Islands is running between 1.3% and 1.5%; a "sobering" fact. This translates to 947 persons out in the community who have the active virus in their bodies.
  • This underlines the importance of maintaining physical distancing, wearing masks in public places and practising proper hygiene.
  • As more restrictions are eased, the onus on the public is greater to follow protocols strictly to ensure the Islands remain at the current easing of restrictions or advance to further easing.
  • For Caymanian individuals impacted negatively by the tourism industry downturn, Government has extended the deadline to register for assistance. The plan is to provide $1,000 each for three months. Details about how to apply are given in the sidebar below.
  • For the full list of further easing of restrictions coming into force from this Sunday, 7 June, see sidebar below.

His Excellency the Governor, Mr. Martyn Roper said:

  • With almost 20% of the population now tested or nearly 14,000 people, the Cayman Islands' achievement in this regard is impressive.
  • The results also continue to be encouraging.
  • Sunday is a significant milestone as restrictions are further eased. However, "we must continue to do all we can do to keep the virus at bay."
  • The recruitment campaign for 50 part-time reservists for the Cayman Islands Regiment starts today.
  • The British Navy ships, HMS Medway and RFA Argus will be in the Cayman for two weeks to conduct exercises that will follow strict protocols to ensure the crew on the ships, who are currently COVID-19 free, remain that way.
  • For all details, see sidebar below.

Health Minister Dwayne Seymour said:

  • Medical practitioners should strictly adhere to current guidelines when seeing patients.
  • The children's helpline is a free resource available to the young to access a private, non-judgmental service.
  • Today is World Environment Day, which serves as a reminder to encourage effective environmental action.
  • Department of Environmental Health reminds persons that the landfill is open for drop off on a name day basis.
  • For all details, see sidebar below.

Sidebar: Premier Highlights Help for Tourism Personnel, Further Easing of Restrictions

As we progress with this 'New Reality' caused by a global pandemic, we, the Cayman Islands, have done very well in suppressing the spread of COVID-19. This has largely been because of you, the public, and your understanding of the real need to keep our people safe.

As we know, the lockdown has hit our tourism industry hard. To date, more than 1,000 Caymanian tourism workers have applied to the Government for assistance after losing their jobs in the industry and Government has extended the deadline for unemployed Caymanian tourism-related employees to register for assistance with the Ministry of Tourism. They can continue to register until 11:59 pm on Sunday 7 June. The proposal being considered is for them to receive $1,000 per month for three months. Those who want to register can complete an online application at www.tourismregistration.ourcayman.ky.

We began this week on Monday by re-opening more sectors of our economy.

The remainder of the construction industry, all retail and realtors have been able to open from last Monday, 1June, and from the accounts I have received this week, all has gone very well. All abiding by social distancing requirements, the wearing of masks in public places and enhanced hygiene measures.

So from Sunday, 7 June, we are moving forward with further relaxation of restrictions.

  • Hard curfew on Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac will move to 10pm through until 4.30am. As you know this does not apply to Little Cayman, which has no restrictions. However social distancing and the wearing of masks in public places continue to apply to all of our three islands.
  • Persons will be able to have gatherings of up to 6 people. In Cayman Brac there are no changes, and gatherings of 25 persons or less continue.
  • From Sunday, you will be able to exercise with five other persons who are not members of your household for up to 2 hours per day from 4.45am - 9pm.
  • You will be able to exercise on the beach, swim in the sea and fish from the shoreline on any day including Sundays.
  • In Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac, you'll be able to go fishing with up to 6 people in a boat from Sunday; however, you cannot travel for pleasure between the Islands. You're also prohibited to congregate or visit Starfish Point, Rum Point, the Sandbar or Stingray City.

Also this weekend on Sunday, we will see the reopening of restaurants and bars that can open to provide an open-aired seated service for food and/or beverages.

The Competent Authority with guidance from the Chief Medical Officer, along with other Government departments, have developed guidance for restaurant and bar owners seeking to open for service from Sunday 7 June.

The guidelines are available at www.exploregov.ky/curfewtime the page developed by the Competent Authority to facilitate applications by businesses for exemptions from curfew restrictions.

The rules set out for operations of restaurants and bars outdoors are as follows.

Set up for Bars and Restaurants:

  • Tables should be a minimum of 8ft apart.
  • Maximum group size is 6 individuals
  • Customers from different households must sit 6ft apart.
  • Customers from the same household can sit closer together.
  • Social distancing must be maintained in restrooms and waiting areas.
  • All seating must be removed from the bar area.
  • No person shall be permitted to be seated or served at an indoor counter in a restaurant or bar.
  • Restaurants and bars shall operate no later than 9:00pm.

Specific to Restaurants /Dining:

  • All dining must be in an open-air establishment. No enclosed or air conditioneddining allowed.
  • All employees must wear masks/face covering.
  • Sanitisation stations must be setup accordingly for staff.
  • Mingling or physical contact with others is prohibited.
  • One-time paper menus will be used or no contact menu display boards.
  • Shared condiments are not allowed on tables-all condiments must be single use.
  • Staff must wear gloves and masks when handling used dishes and tables.

Customer management:

  • Customers can only be served when seated at a table. No bar counter or standing service is permitted.
  • Customers must use a mask/face covering at all times when not seated at their table.

  • Mingling within 6 feet or physical contact with others is prohibited.

Sidebar: Governor Highlights Cayman Regiment Recruitments

A further 694 results were announced today, four of which were positive. One of them is a known associate of a previously tested individual; the other three are from our screening programme. Our level of testing is fifth highest in world per head of population. Impressive achievement!

We have tested almost 14,000 people, almost 20% of our population. I agree with the Premier that our results continue to be encouraging. Sunday is a significant milestone as we make further relaxations to our Covid measures, including opening up outside restaurants and bars. But really important as we open up more areas of our economy that we keep going with basic hygiene, social distancing and masks. We mustn't let down our guard. We must continue to do all we can do to keep the virus at bay. We are in a good place which gives us confidence we can hopefully remove many more measures in 2 more weeks, if test results continue to be so good. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

The recruitment campaign for 50 part-time Reservists for the Cayman Islands Regiment starts today. Recruitment is open to British Overseas Territories Citizens and British Citizens, Irish Citizens and Commonwealth Citizens who have Permanent Residency in the Cayman Islands. You need to be 18 to 50 years of age, pass written and fitness tests and then an interview. Experience is not required but previous military service such as the Cayman Islands Cadet Corps is welcomed. Full training will be provided and successful candidates will be paid a per diem allowance when they attend. Advancing the Cayman Regiment during a global pandemic is a significant achievement. For more information and the application and medical forms, visit www.gov.ky/ciregiment.

Next week HMS Medway and RFA Argus will be here for the two weeks. They will be exercising their plans to support Cayman should a hurricane or similar natural disaster occur and they are also providing helicopter cover whilst the RCIPS helicopters are off island for their routine maintenance. The exercise will include bringing troops and equipment ashore to test logistics and then checking to ensure they have appropriate communications and can carry out medical evacuations. The exercise this year will also ensure that appropriate measures are in place to avoid any contact between the ships company, their personnel and those onshore. Both ships are COVID 19 free and the crews have been at sea and isolated for an extended period of time, but out of an abundance of caution and also to prevent possible infection being transmitted to the ships there will no close contact with any people on our islands.

Next week's BA flight to London is nearly full but there are still a few seats left. You can book at www.otairbridge.com.

The inbound flight is also busy - it will stop in TCI first to disembark passengers from the UK to TCI, BVI and the Bahamas. The flight will be bringing back about 100 Caymanians and Permanent Residents. Very pleased that Cayman is playing this regional role to help our neighbours get their citizens back home.

My office is continuing negotiations with the Indian Government over the repatriation of Indian Nationals. We hope to have more news on that soon.

There are also two private individuals organising flights: one to Ecuador/Mexico (Cancun) on Monday, 8 June. This is for Mexican and Ecuadorian nationals only. Anyone interested in joining this group should contact Daniel Rodriguez at Daniel Rodriquez. The second one is to Canada (Toronto) on Monday 13 July. Contact Nicole Poirier if you would like to join the flight. It is outbound only.

Sidebar: Minister of Health Notes World Environment Day

Good afternoon to everyone in Grand Cayman, the Sister Islands and to the Caymanian diaspora listening in from abroad - always good to be here with you.

I have a few positive updates from my ministry that I would like to share with you all today.

However, before I dive into those, I would like to remind our medical practitioners that the following current guidelines should be strictly adhered to:

  • Patients should be scheduled at intervals so that no two patients are in the office at the same time.
  • Persons accompanying them are not to be allowed into the facility, unless absolutely necessary.
  • All routine, non-urgent or non-emergent appointments should be rescheduled until a later date.
  • Administrative staff should not be in the facility, unless there is a definable and clear necessity.
  • Appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) should be used when patients are being seen at health care facilities. PPE may be obtained from several of the local medical supply distributors.

These measures are required to assist with the national requirements of social distancing. We know you are all working hard to safeguard our community and we appreciate your continued patience and cooperation!

Moving on, I am proud to announce the launch of the kids helpline. We've been doing so much work to ensure we keep our children safe, healthy and happy during these strange times.

For so many children all over the world the pandemic has caused so many hardships.

The children's helpline is a free number to call for anyone across all three islands aged under 18 years.

The service is open Monday through Friday from 10am to 6pm.

It is a private, non-judgmental service which will safeguard and protect the rights of children and young people.

They can call for any reason such as: bullying, relationships, family problems, suicidal thoughts, loneliness or anything else that is concerning to them.

Parents who are concerned about their children are also welcome to call.

I am also happy to report that so far children have been calling in and it is already proving to be a wonderful, much needed resource for them.

The number is 345-649-kids or, 345-649-5437. I encourage the public to take advantage of this free resource.

Today is also World Environment Day and along with Earth Day it is well known as a reminder for its efforts to encourage effective environmental action.

Celebrated annually on 5 June since its inception in 1974, World Environment Day has engaged stakeholders and influencers to focus efforts on important environmental issues and offers a global forum for inspiring positive change, as well as encouraging governments and individuals to contemplate more environmentally friendly actions.

The 2020 theme is biodiversity; and as the organisation writes, it is "a concern that is both urgent and existential".

So much has happened in the past year, including massive wildfires in Australia, Brazil and the United States, locust infestations across east Africa - and as we sit here, we continue to address a global health crisis. A US study has also shown that air pollution is linked to significantly higher death rates in people with COVID-19, according to their analysis.

In fact, many of today's environmental challenges are responsible for adversely affecting the health and livelihood of individuals and communities with the most vulnerable groups (such as the elderly and those of low socio-economic status) taking the brunt for those destructive behaviours.

Locally we have our own environmental challenges, but I am proud to confirm that although somewhat overshadowed by the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic currently, our government remains committed to addressing such important issues as plastics and littering and providing long-term sustainable waste solutions to these areas. A further update in this regard will be shared soon.

We are still dealing with the problem of people littering and illegally dumping waste materials in areas of our communities; sadly this includes masks, gloves and other types of PPE. Please do not put our community and our DEH staff at risk with this type of irresponsible behaviour. I implore you to remember these are our brothers and sisters out there hard at work.

Keeping our islands clean and safe is something that needs continuous private/public collaboration. This cannot and must not be a problem we continue to face as we move forward.

I would like to remind the public of the litter law and anyone who is found guilty of breaching the law could face jail time or a CI$500 fine.

DEH has also asked me to remind the public that the landfill is open for drop off, please take note of the specific name day to do your drop offs, as staff will check at the entry point.

For individuals and for essential business collections, the grab truck can be booked through DEH - so there should be no excuses for not keeping our beloved islands pristine, clean and healthy.

The new COVID-19 landfill entry rules went into effect in early May, more details on this can be found on our website www.exploregov.ky/coronavirus.

With that being said I am also proud to tell you that the Department of Environmental Health officers and DEH solid waste teams are working closely with the RCIPS community support officers to alleviate littering problems across the islands.

Today in honour of World Environment Day, DEH has conducted a waste collection operation in the Whispering Waters area along Hirst Road, in Savannah.

I would like to thank the DEH teams for their continued efforts and for all their amazing work led by Director Simms.

And I offer a shout out to RCIPS at the Bodden Town community safety officer unit and, officer Shomari Solomon who organised lunch and drinking water for the DEH workers for today's clean-up. I applaud them. Shout outs also to Plastic Free Cayman and the Deputy Governor led wellness initiative for their own environmental initiatives during this time. The civil service wellness committee is encouraging all civil servants to incorporate some road-side clean-up into their exercise time, meanwhile adhering to social distancing rules of course. With each one doing their part we can all help in keeping our communities cleaner.

In closing, as we all are witnessing the rejuvenation of environments around the globe during this pandemic, it has also prompted the world to amplify current or create new practices to protect the environment. We should all ask ourselves:

  • What part did I play in making our environment better?
  • What can we do to continue to keep nature in a constant space of regrowth?
  • How can we as a country and part of the global community learn from this current situation?
  • And what can we do as a community, to move forward positively?

Locally, it is my aim to continue to work towards the creation of lasting legislation that will positively affect our environment by safeguarding green spaces, collaborating with environmental organisations, activists and educators and to offer employment in these new technologies in hopes of raising up a new generation of "gatekeepers".

Thank you and God Bless.

GIS

For further information contact: Bina Mani