By Christopher Tobutt
During the March 17 official government press briefing on the coronavirus, Chief Medical officer Dr. John Lee shared some good news about the recent test results: “The preliminary results to come back from the first tests that we’ve done (subject to confirmation) on the presence of the coronavirus; of these 20 tests there were 19 samples sent from Health City, and one referred through the Health Services Authority. All the samples have tested negative for the virus. In addition to the 24 tests we previously reported, there are a further 16, so there are 40 tests now outstanding which are a mixture of samples from both Health City and the Health Services Authority,” he said.
Premier Hon Alden McLaughlin said that all bars will be closed from 11.59 P.M on Sunday 22nd March and all restaurants will only be allowed take-out and delivery services. In addition, all gyms, spas, salons, and public swimming baths will be shut for an initial period of two weeks.
Mr. McLaughlin also announced some government financial help: “The government will be making a one-time emergency covid-19 stipend to permanent financial assistance recipients; that is, elderly persons or the disabled, seamen veterans and persons who receive ex-gratia payments to accommodate additional medical supplies and groceries. This will be a one-time payment in addition to the 850 dollars they currently receive monthly,” he said. The amount would be 425 Cayman dollars, he said. “We will also be making a one-time payment to families presently receiving vouchers, to accommodate additional groceries and supplies. We are estimating a possible doubling in the number of families who currently receive support, which is 311,” he said. “This payment will be made on the 30th of March.”
H.E the Governor, Martyn Roper paid tribute to the government, who had had to make some very “robust decisions,” saying that he fully supported all of the new measures. He assured the people of the Cayman Islands that the Overseas Territories were very much in the minds of UK ministers, and that their commitment was “steadfast.”
The Governor also praised law enforcement entities, who had, he said, “a good track record of stepping up in times of difficulty,” and said he felt sure they would do the same now. He went on to reiterate the warnings against spreading fake news and malicious rumors.
Mr. McLaughlin warned against one such piece of fake news: the rumor, he said, that cargo ships would be stopped, was “Absolutely untrue.” Mr. McLaughlin warned the 470 students who will be arriving home on Friday Saturday and Sunday to not treat their extra time away from their studies as an additional “spring break,” in order to stay up partying, as this would bring the whole community into risk. Self-isolation for 14 days upon arrival was very important. Dr. Lee added that the 14 day isolation included all the members of the household of a returning person too.
Minister of Health, Hon Dwayne Seymour urged everyone to follow the protocols, guidance and rules provided by government authorities: “I ask persons to adhere to policies we are put into place for your own safety,” he said, and reminded everyone to keep their distance from others by 6 feet, and to continue to frequently wash their hands. He also asked everyone to watch out for vulnerable members of the community such as the elderly, and for those who had chronic health issues, such as diabetes, bronchitis, or cancer.”