Life in Cayman has moved a step closer to returning to normal with the hard overnight curfew now lifted and several other restrictions either removed or further relaxed as the territory is now at Level 2 (Mild Suppression).
Police Commissioner Derek Byrne announced the revocation of the curfew which came into force in March as one of the key measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 here.
However, social distancing in public gatherings, the restriction in inter-island travel and the various other safety protocols such as wearing masks and hand sanitizing remain.
The Commissioner is concerned about incidents of speeding increasing as the lockdown is lifted.
He said 23 new ticketing offences are being introduced with fines ranging from CI$250 to CI$ 750.
He commended the public for their cooperation with the restriction during the earlier curfew phases of the lockdown.
During that time there were several prosecutions for a variety of violations, most of them for traffic offences.
LEVEL 2: RESTRICTIONS RELAXED
With Level 2 now in place in two phases; the first until July 5th and the second to July 19th, this means the lifting of the hard curfew and the shelter-in-place requirement along with the relaxations of travel restrictions “to certain places on certain days based on their surnames”.
Social distancing will still be maintained as will the requirement to wear a mask while indoors in public where it's not possible to maintain the 2 meters (6 feet) social distance.
The prohibition on visiting each other’s homes will be lifted and domestic helper and caregivers will be allowed to return to work.”
In Grand Cayman gatherings of up to 25 persons will be allowed as is the case in Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
This also applies to churches. Social distancing and other safety protocols in those settings will remain in place.
On the other hand, mass public gatherings such as carnivals and concerts, parties and festivals “will continue to banned on Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac, regardless of the number of people involved,” Premier McLaughlin stated.
Hon. Premier Alden McLaughlin had previously announced that most establishments will be able to fully operate but must observe the social distance requirements and enforce the wearing of masks.
These are: institutions, businesses, organisations including churches, offices, cinemas, theatres, beauty salons, barbers, spas and masseuse services, and medical and dental offices (subject to approval from the HBC).
He said “these establishments are not subject to the social gathering restrictions of 25 persons maximum. They are only subject to requiring that the social distancing requirements are properly maintained and mask-wearing in enforced.”
While businesses and offices will be allowed to open, the Premier said that managers of these establishments, especially in the financial sector are encouraged to have their staff work to continue working remotely as far as is practicable.
For restaurants and bars, there are specific new measures for them from Sunday June 21st.
While tables are required to remain eight feet apart, there are no limitations on the number of persons who may sit at the table providing that they maintain the 6 feet (2 meters) separation.
Serving and eating at indoor counters is disallowed in a bar or restaurant.
Restaurants and bars can now open during their normal hours with staff continuing to wear masks, but dancing and karaoke won’t be permitted.
Beach and maritime leisure activities are also back, however, with access to public beaches again allowed, beachgoers are advised to maintain social distancing and follow other safeguards on public gatherings which will remain in place.
In Grand Cayman, only 10 persons will be allowed per boat but the Sister Islands remain out of bounds for pleasure trips.
Also still out of bounds are Stingray City, Rum Point, Starfish Point and the Sandbar.
Scuba diving is now permitted using personal gear as scuba and snorkel equipment, except tanks, that will not be available for rent.
Other restrictions being lifted from Sunday include; weddings and funerals where a maximum of 25 persons are allowed.
Exercising at any time is permissible once social distancing is observed, while persons of different households can once again use each other’s pools and hot tubs
Staycations are being permitted but under strict conditions when planning to go to the Sister Islands as air travel restrictions remain in place.
Anyone from Grand Cayman planning to travel to the Sister Islands by air must first notify the Medical Officer of Health, go into self-isolation for 14 days and be declared COVID-free before being allowed to proceed on their journey.
These measures will be in force until the 4th of July.
FURTHER EASING OF RESTRICTIONS AHEAD
From July 5th a further series of steps easing the lockdown will be introduced and will be in place until July 19th while officials continue to monitor the trend of COVID-19 in the community.
The opening of all education institutions and facilities – including camps and bible schools and preschools as well as sporting and social events will be allowed. However, contact sports will not be allowed.
Restaurants and bars will be able to offer both indoor and outdoor services, with a restriction of six feet between tables. There will be no limits on the number of people at a table, plus the distance between those at a table decreases from six to three feet.
Front of house staff must continue to wear masks/cloth face coverings.
In Grand Cayman, exercise in strata gyms and public gyms will be permitted.
The restrictions on travelling to the Sister Islands will remain in force.
From July 19th through to August 2nd the plan calls for nightclubs to reopen, dancing and karaoke at bars and restaurants will be allowed, contact sports can be played again, and restrictions on pleasure boat activity will be lifted with access allowed to Stingray City, Starfish Point and Rum Point and sandbar.
By this stage a clearer picture is expected to emerge on the way forward, especially regarding the tourism industry and opening of the borders.
Premier McLaughlin has said government was very mindful of the risks of moving too rapidly with easing the restrictions and was therefore relying heavily on the testing programme.
The government says it is “working feverishly” trying to deal with the economic fall out and doing everything to stimulate the local economy with emphasis on getting construction and development moving as, according to the Premier, that triggers the rest of the economy.
The financial services sector has been relatively stable during the crisis.
Kick-starting the tourism sector, the economic pillar is proving to be more of a challenge especially given its links to the reopening of the borders.
“We are also focusing on - although I have to say with not a lot of success so far - on trying to reopen our borders without significantly increasing the risk of introducing possibly a more virulent version of the virus here and undermining the tremendous success we’ve had so far,” Premier McLaughlin said.
But he admitted that “at some point we must reopen our borders. We can’t stay locked down forever, and so we’ve got to find a way.”
While the best and safest strategy is being considered for that, the Premier Cayman has learnt from developments elsewhere with second waves of the virus after lockdown was lifted.
“Looking at what’s happening elsewhere in the world, we are getting more lessons in what not to do than in what to do," he said, referring to countries which hastily reopened their borders only to see a new spike in infections.
SEPTEMBER TO REMEMBER… OR FORGET?
September has been mentioned by the government as a tentative target for reopening the tourism sector “unless there is something around to cause us to change it.”
According to Premier McLaughlin, “The closer we get to it the more we have to look again. We remain hopeful but are not terribly optimistic."
He said he is working towards that target in consultation with hotel owners "because everybody’s anxious to reopen but we are working feverishly to find what is available in terms of testing and how quickly you can turn these tests around.”
While some steps have been taken to reopen businesses and ease the pressure on the economy, there is now mounting pressure on the government to open the borders.
Premier McLaughlin: “At some point we’re going to have to take some risks. We can’t stay in lockdown forever. We want to know what the risks are and come to acknowledgement that it’s an acceptable risk in the circumstances.
He doubted that cruise tourism would be back in the near term not just in Cayman but elsewhere in the region before next year.
Mr McLaughlin said, “There is little in terms of encouragement so far about any truly safe way to allow international travel to resume which is a global concern.”
He said what is happening in the US with a resurgence of cases is a huge concern. There is also concern about Brazil and other tourism markets for Cayman.
“This is a massive challenge,” he stated. “We are looking at various ways to possible open the borders and hoping for some vaccine or other method of arresting the spread of the virus.”
“I’m not sure that we are ready to run that kind of risk, Premier McLaughlin said.
“In this country I’m not sure that it’s just black lives that matter or white lives that matter, every life matters.”