The Cayman Islands on Monday reported an additional three positive coronavirus cases bringing the total to 84. Two are frontline staff who were asymptomatic, the third person had contact with an asymptomatic individual.
Monday’s report presented by Medical Officer of Health Dr Samuel Williams-Rodriguez showed that 764 tests were conducted across the weekend with 620 done by the HSA and 144 by Doctor’s Hospital.
Of that number 761 were negative. In all 47 persons have recovered from COVID-19 and there are currently no hospitalisations.
Dr Willaims-Rodriguez reported that to date 4,188 tests have been carried out and said they are aiming to conduct between 400 and 450 tests daily.
Meanwhile, testing, tracking and tracing investigations are continuing into three confirmed cases among frontline staff at Kirk Supermarket.
121 tests have been conducted so far among staff with “a very low percentage testing positive.”
The remainder of the staff were expected to be tested on Tuesday.
The supermarket shut on Saturday for deep cleaning and was planning to reopen on Monday.
Dr Williams-Rodriguez assured the public that there was no cause for alarm as the virus is spread mainly by droplet. He reminded of the importance of hand hygiene and generally following the other safety protocols.
It was an issue that the Premier addressed in response to a question about whether companies should make public disclosures where staff had been confirmed COVID-positive.
Mr McLaughlin felt that was not necessary under the circumstances.
Commenting on the results from the weekend the Premier said “the number of negatives reported is something positive.
However, Mr McLaughlin said the mere fact that there were frontline staff contracting the virus who were and asymptomatic was cause for concern as the results could impact the next phase of the reopening schedule.
“This is something that should give us pause”, he said, in direct response to the calls to extend the reopening of business activity and the economy.
“The testing has always been a key component of the government’s strategy and we are doing everything to ramp-up (it up).”
Premier Alden McLaughlin said the government was in fact aiming for a higher testing volume but was being held up due to challenges with equipment.
This week marks the second week of the phased reopening schedule since the lockdown was initially loosened last week with some 6,000 workers back at in circulation.
Asked for an assessment of the first full week of the easing of the lockdown measures, Premier McLaughlin said: “I think it’s going very well. I think this week because of the incubation period of the virus we should know this week to what extent it is moving through the community.”
He was however encouraged that as the first stage involved persons who generally would not have much direct contact with the public it was not expected that there would be any spike in cases.
The next phase will be the construction and hardware and home depot stores but that will be dependent on what the testing shows.
He said, “the objective of doing if that way is to be able to see what impact the release of additional people into the workforce and into circulation is having and to check the impact and profile of the disease in the community, the Premier said.
The construction sector alone has a workforce of about 8,000 and therefore plans call for allowing them back at work in stages over a few weeks as the volume of testing required could overwhelm the system.
Mr McLaughlin explained that plans call for separating the larger companies from the smaller entities, with a consideration to have a staggered re-entry of the construction industry.
He said there were several major development projects waiting to get started or continue but the risk of one worker being COVID-positive and shutting down an entire operation was too big a risk to take.
There was also pressure from companies and developers keen to restart work while their workers are still in Cayman to avoid the complications of workers leaving, the cost of returning or replacing them with implications for project timelines and budgets.
Premier McLaughlin said, “The government is keenly conscious of this but we have to balance that desire and that demand against the public health risk.”
He acknowledged that development and construction will be key to the economy for the next six to nine months especially as the tourism industry for Cayman - and globally - has all but stalled.
His Excellency, Governor Martyn Roper responding to the calls to accelerate the reopening of the economy, supported the Premier’s repeated admonitions towards caution given the risk posed from a resurgence of the virus in a second wave.
He said a lot of work was going on in the background towards gradually moving Cayman to Level 3 of its reopening strategy. The territory is currently at Level 4 of the five-step system since last week.
Governor Roper credited the ongoing testing programme as being crucial to restarting the economy.
He said Cayman was in the top fifteen globally with a very robust testing regime which producing higher even accuracy levels than the United States where it registers at 85 %.