The Cayman Islands is "one of the safer places in the world" for the steps it has taken, in the global battle against COVID-19.
That reassuring declaration from His Excellency Governor Martyn Roper comes as the territory exceeds 20,000 tests for the coronavirus.
“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,” Governor Roper said.
Cayman is ranked third in the world for coronavirus testing based on population and is on a path for second place in the global rankings.
Cayman is now down to Level 2 Mild Suppression of a five-stage lockdown system.
The overnight hard curfew has been lifted (effective Sunday June 21st) and a range of business and social activities which were prohibited or restricted under the lockdown can now take place.
The continuing volume of testing is one of the criteria set by the government in moving through the various stages of reopening the economy from its near three-month lockdown.
Hon. Premier Alden McLaughlin has said the intensive testing campaign will continue although blanket testing of all residents is not on the cards:
“We continue to watch very carefully what is happening with the result of the testing. We don’t see any sense in going through the entire population testing every person what will make themselves available. We are going through all of the various demographics. Then we will circle back again and start testing front line staff.”
He added: “We certainly don’t want what has happened in other places to happen here he said referring to the risk of a second wave. That’s why we have been so cautious with the reopening. So we pause every two weeks to see what the infection rate has been as we take further steps to unlock the economy.”
Governor Roper has added his voice to that, stressing the importance of continuing to adhere to the personal and community protocols still in place:
“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.”
The new Level 2 phase extends through to August 2nd, longer than the previous phases. During that time the presence of the disease in the community will continue to be closely monitored to determine the degree of further ‘unlocks’ planned for July 5th and July 19th.
With the next crucial date being August 2nd, seen at the next step down to Level 1 (All Clear), and September tentatively considered for the reopening of borders to international travel and tourism, the coming period is still fraught with uncertainty.
Several key international locations on which Cayman relies for tourism and other business links are recording second wave spikes of COVID-19 after reopening their economies.
Whether or not Level 2 will be a prolonged state is left to be seen.
Meanwhile, attaining Level 2 is hailed as a significant step forward for Cayman and a sign of success to date in the suppressing COVID 19 here.
By Friday, the territory was just 5 cases away from 200 positive COVID-19 results with a high recovery rate - 143 have recovered - and only one death.
For the first time on Friday over a thousand test results were given for a 24 hour period out of which only two were positive.
NO GUIDEBOOK - HONORARIUM FOR TEAM EFFORT
“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,” Premier McLaughlin said.
In commending the specialised civil service teams set up to coordinate the response to the COID-19 crisis, he announced a one-off honorarium for what he called their ‘heroic and remarkable efforts’.
“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.”
There’s an additional payment of $500 for 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.
The Premier said the stipend will not result in an increase in the overall civil service budget as it will come out of existing budget allocations and savings realised in personnel costs across the Civil Service.
With Cayman now at Level 2, Mr McLaughlin said it’s important to remain vigilant.
“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,” he said.
“We have avoided the tragedy that has played out in so many other countries, but we need to remain vigilant.”