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Tuesday, 9 June Update

Premier, Hon. Alden McLaughlin

Government leaders urged the people to continue the patience over the next two weeks that the nation has displayed so far in its COVID-19 response.

At the press conference today, Tuesday, 9 June 2020, they emphasised that if all goes well, further easing and more reopenings such as of hair salons are scheduled in the next couple of weeks. Prayer was led by Father Joseph Kirkconnell.

Government's emphasis continues to be on opening up of the economy and ensuring that businesses remain viable. To further assist local businesses, Cabinet has directed government departments to process all invoices and refunds with haste. For instance, from January, WORC has processed some 1,183 refunds due to refused, withdrawn or cancelled work permits.

The civil service is working on reopening more frontline operations which are currently being handled by employees working from home, and further decisions will be taken on Friday.

However, with more re-openings scheduled, to avoid jeopardising the community and the good progress made so far, people must ensure they practise hand and respiratory hygiene, physical distancing, and wear masks.

Chief Medical Officer Dr John Lee reported:

  • Five new positives were seen from 690 tests done and all are determined to be locally contracted. This brings the total number tested to 15,423.
  • On the Brac, 900 people or 45% of the population have been tested.
  • The total of positives is now 176 with three on the Brac. One of the positives is symptomatic, 70 asymptomatic, no hospitalisations and 104 recovered.
  • 44 are in government isolation facilities and 289 in home isolation.
  • The 'flu clinic saw nine persons over the weekend and three out of 27 calls to the 'flu helpline were about symptoms.
  • Scientific discussions on viral load are ongoing; asymptomatic spread is not ruled out.
  • People must still follow all required Shelter in Place protocols. Workplace densities have to be managed to ensure individuals and thus the Islands are protected.
  • All frontline healthcare workers, including those dealing with older persons have been tested multiple times.
  • Labs diligently practise quality control of the test results to ensure those remain accurate and viable.

Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Samuel Williams Rodriquez said:

  • There have been no reports of large numbers of people attending the Health Services Authority for shortness of breath from wearing masks. Only one patient so far has sought and received exemption from wearing masks due to an underlying chronic medical condition.

Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin said:

  • The reopening of outdoor restaurants and bars on Sunday went well. This reopening will be a key test for the Cayman Islands to gauge the prevalence of the virus and to monitor if cases spike as a result. If there is no spike then more of the economy will reopen in two weeks. The current rate of infection as shown by the testing is very low at 1.15%.
  • While the Cayman Islands continues to be an incredible success story in public health management of the disease, it is too early to state the danger is gone. COVID-19 is still a killer disease, as borne out by continuing deaths in the rest of the world.
  • Discussions will be held to determine further opening of inter-island travel from Grand Cayman to the Sister Islands, including without the 14-day quarantine period.
  • Cash flow for many businesses is a huge issue. Cabinet today issued directives for government entities to process all invoices for outstanding payments to businesses and to speed up refunds.
  • WORC and CBC have been directed to process a backlog of refunds within 14 days. From January, WORC has processed 1,183 refunds due to refused, withdrawn or cancelled work permits. With a marked increase in cancellation since March, WORC will deploy additional resources to process the remaining 924 refunds within the next 14 days.
  • Registration at the Ministry of Tourism from 21 May to the extended deadline of 7 June by Displaced Caymanians Tourism Employees reached 2,700 applications for the $1,000 a month stipend for a three-month period.

His Excellency the Governor, Mr. Martyn Roper said:

  • Almost 700 tests today are a testament to the great work being done by the three local hospitals in testing. With over 1 5,000 people tested so far which is almost a quarter of the population, this fact places Cayman Islands as the fourth in the world for testing per capita.
  • The BA flight departing for the UK on Friday, 12 June still has a few seats left.
  • For more from the Governor, see highlights below.

Health Minister Hon. Dwayne Seymour said:

  • To help parents cope better, the Family Resource Centre is hosting another webinar tomorrow, Wednesday, 10 June 2020. The FRC will continue holding webinars until 29 July.
  • Also tomorrow, a mental health symposium will be held. All questions should be sent to Donna Bush.
  • For more from Minister Seymour, see sidebar below.

HMCI Director Danielle Coleman said:

  • A total of 1,765 people have been repatriated out of the Cayman Islands while 495 have returned.
  • Government isolation facilities offer accommodation for 160 currently. Work is in progress to add more accommodation.

Highlights of Governor's Remarks

Almost 700 test results today - HSA, Doctors Hospital and Health City are doing a great job. That means over 15,000 people have been tested - almost a quarter of our population which places us 4th in the world for testing per capita. That is something we can all be proud of.

I share the sense of optimism from Dr Lee and the Premier about where we are in handling this pandemic. The small number of positive cases is not causing much concern. A key aspect of this pandemic has been the uncertainty of the science. That underlines why we have taken a cautious and measured approach.

We are very close to easing almost all the restrictions in just under two weeks. But as we do so we must still be really disciplined in terms of our interactions with others, social distancing, basic hygiene and wearing masks. That becomes even more important that we get into good habits as we await development of a vaccine.

My office is continuing negotiations with overseas nations in a bid to operate flights for those who want to leave and we will continue to lead on that. However the Ministry of Employment and Border Control now take on the policy for people overseas who want to come home.

The BA flight departing for the UK on Friday 12 June has a few seats left. On the outbound journey the flight will land in TCI first to allow passengers to connect to the Bahamas and BVI before coming on to Cayman.

We are still talking to the Indian authorities about 2 flights there but think we're in the final stages of agreement now.

Cayman Airways are running two more flights to Jamaica tomorrow (Wednesday) and Friday. If you want to travel on them contact the Jamaican Honorary consulate.

As restrictions are easing across the islands the Deputy Governor is starting to look at how parts of the civil service suspended due to the pandemic can re-open. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the civil servants who adapted their way of working to ensure essential services continued to operate. This meant working remotely, flexibly and embracing new technology.

The plan now is to get the civil service back up to full strength as long as it is safe to do so with a vision that wherever possible services continue to be delivered remotely where a physical presence is not required. A meeting between the DG and Chief Officers to work out the way forward is scheduled for Friday and civil servants will be contacted by their respective departments in due course.

Next Monday is a bank holiday in honour of the Queen's Birthday. Sadly for the first time in a long while there will be no parade or reception to mark the occasion. But as Her Majesty said recently we will meet again….just not this year.

Sidebar: Minister Seymour Highlights Help for Parents

It seems I say this often but the pandemic truly has taken the world into unfamiliar waters and with the uncertainty, fear, the economic downfall, and having to adjust to such drastic changes it is understandable that many persons (particularly parents) are left feeling overwhelmed.

We also want you to know that we fully understand that our children are impacted and many are struggling to make sense out of it all. By no means are we suggesting that kids are at fault here by keeping them separated and out of schools - with all public health matters considered this decision still really comes from a place of love.

As we all know even with a common cold children in their innocence tend to be the biggest spreaders. In this case however, we are not dealing with a common cold - we are dealing with something that could take the lives of our children as we have seen it happen in so many other countries. I'll never forget the state of Illinois in such mourning on the day the first infant died there from COVID-19. We absolutely refuse to have that happen here.

I wanted to share with you today in case you haven't attended as yet, the Family Resource Centre has been hosting parenting webinars and will host its seventh webinar in its COVID-19 parenting campaign tomorrow.

These weekly facilitator-led sessions on Zoom, cover topics giving support, resources and guidance on the many challenges parents and caregivers face in supporting children during these difficult times.

Participants are encouraged to air their concerns and observations during the question and answer segment of each session and so far, the webinars have attracted around 65 people each Wednesday.

Given the positive feedback, the family resource centre will continue holding the webinars until 29 July.

This week's topic is Parenting Your Infant During COVID-19 which is the first in a series on this particular topic. Guest presenters will be experts from the early childhood care and education unit.

You can find information on how to register for these webinars on the Family Resource Centre's Facebook page: www.facebook.com/familyresourcecentre.

Future topics will focus on supporting parents with budgeting during COVID-19 and how to promote healthy digital use.

The webinars are being held thanks to the ongoing collaboration of experts from both the public and private sectors, including staff from the Ministry of Education, the Department of Education and the Wellness Centre.

Today I am also pleased to announce that my ministry will be hosting the mental health symposium tomorrow, Wednesday10 June.

Please send questions to Donna Bush.

We have a dynamic line-up of panellists including Dr. Marc Lockhart - chair of the mental health commission, who will cover an overview of mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as dealing with grief during this very difficult time.

Also on the panel is Dr. Earl Robinson who is a consultant paediatrician. Dr. Robinson will discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and adolescents.

And Dr. Erica Lam - clinical psychologist, will dig into coping with stress and anxiety during COVID-19 and cover basic psychosocial skills and developmental stages in children and the challenges posed while out of school.

We also have a featured guest - Dr. David Dewson who is a COVID-19 survivor who will share his story with all of us.

The YouTube link will be shared by noon tomorrow and I will announce the broadcast dates on CIGTV later this week.

We know this symposium will be very helpful to many of us and I want to thank my team at the ministry and GIS for all the hard work to ensure we make this happen. Of course a huge "thank you" to the doctors who have so willingly come on board to help our community with this initiative.

Lastly but certainly not least, yesterday was observed as World Oceans Day - a day which provides an opportunity to honour, help protect, and conserve the ocean. Here in the Cayman Islands the sea is an integral part of our story. Our history, our culture, our way of life - all tie us to the sea.

For most Caymanians that connection is deep in our souls. I know that for many people on these islands, the inability to get to the sea during the COVID curfew was difficult. We are therefore pleased to have been able to safely reopen the beaches for swimming and the ocean for fishing.

During this period, the Department of Environment's conservation officers have been on marine and coastal patrol every day to ensure that our precious marine resources are protected.

As I have previously announced, this government is committed to enacting new regulations to give effect to the proposals for enhanced marine parks which were developed by the Department of Environment and the National Conservation Council, as well as considering the NCC's proposal for the protection of our mangroves, which play a vitally, important role in the health and prosperity of our near-shore and ocean marine stocks.

So today I thank the Department of Environment, especially their conservation officers, for the work they do every day to protect and conserve our marine resources and I also wish to thank all law-abiding citizens for partnering with us in these efforts, thus ensuring that the Cayman Islands can celebrate World Oceans Day with a sustainable marine future ahead of us. Let us be conscious of the importance of our oceans today and every day.

Thank you and have a blessed week all.

GIS

For further information contact: Bina Mani