Barring any unexpected developments, more restrictions are expected to be relaxed in the coming week as Cayman gradually returns to a degree of normality while keeping COVID-19 at bay.
That's the message from Hon. Premier Alden McClaughlin as Cayman moves through the five-stage stage system towards a return to normality.
The territory has been at the Level 3 (Moderate Suppression) phase for the past fortnight which continues through to June 21st.
During this time more commercial and public activity has returned including some types of recreation although a hard overnight and soft daytime curfew remain in place.
The next stage, Level 2 (Mild Suppression) would see even more restrictions eased especially on Grand Cayman with more customer-facing businesses and offices allowed to open, more freedom of public gatherings, and crucially, the possibility the resumption of church assemblies being one of the most anticipated - and demanded - activities.
However, the borders are expected to remain closed to regular sea and air travel other than what has been specified in the current regulations.
The awaited decision on the reopening of the borders is critical to the tourism economy sector. In the interim, the emphasis is being focused on planning for 'stay-cations'.
Premier Alden McLaughlin has been giving a preview of what the next phase of ‘unlocking the lockdown’ is likely to look like.
Speaking on Friday he said: “Unless something really nasty jumps out at us, which we don’t expect, we will be moving to Suppression Level 2 on the 22nd (of June). We are still working out the details and I hope to make an announcement by the middle of next week so that people will have some time to prepare.”
He said the plan is for Level 2 is intended to span four weeks from June 22nd to the end of the third week of July.
The regulations for that phase are now being drafted and will be enacted across two periods of two weeks each from June 22nd and July 5th, then from June 19th and beyond.
Meanwhile, businesses which are eligible for a support package launched about a month ago are being urged to take advantage of it.
The Micro and Small Enterprises relief and stimulus programme for those involved in the tourism sector is meant to offset the impact of the economic downturn and prepared them for new realities once full commercial activity resumes.
Backed by a CI$ 14.5 million fund provided by the government, the scheme includes low-interest loans, grants, technical assistance and training.
To date, 586 applications (over three quarters) have been processed.
Grant applications submitted to be paid out total close to CI$ 750 thousand, and 77 businesses have already received full payment of CI$ 3,000 each.
Under the Low-Interest Loan Programme funded and administered by the Cayman Islands Development Bank CIDB), 48 applications have been received and are being processed.
The training programme has already conducted six webinar sessions in which 338 persons have participated.
Those were hosted by Centre for Business Development and covered topics including Managing Cash Flow in a Crisis, Moving Your Business Online, among other areas.
Premier McLaughlin is encouraging micro and business owners to “pursue these opportunities which are available to assist you to navigate these challenging times.”
He said, “The micro and small business grants, for example, is money being given to small businesses to provide working capital assistance. We have worked to make the requirements very simple.”
One of the requirements for accessing the funds is that qualifying businesses must be 100% Caymanian owned.
That has ruled out a large of businesses, a matter the Premier said he is looking in to.
“Frankly this is the one truly under-performing bit of the package that government is trying to roll out," Mr McLaughlin noted, adding that "we do recognise that there are issues here."
He said, “We are having discussions about this because this is quite worrying and is the one area of the package that’s still not working."
In related developments, the Ready2work programme has been relaunched.
The programme is designed to provide industry-specific training and re-tooling of Caymanian workers to better prepare them for the workforce.
Potential candidates are provided with the training and development of soft skills to better prepare them to find employment.
According to Premier McLaughlin, it also allows employers to fill job vacancies with Caymanians by being involved in their training, and by extension ensuring a vibrant economy.
And, the Passport2Success (P2S), another skills training scheme, has just completed its most recent graduation.
Passport2Success (P2S) is a 16-week soft skills training programme that bridges the gap between high school and the World of Work for young people ages 17 to 24 years of age.
The graduating class comprised of Jarid Bodden, Delecia Brown, Isaiah Cornwall, Jada Dixon, Dazhawn Godet-McField, Leah Forbes, Tariah Lemay-Nottage, Motishia Mothen, Sabriya Seymour and Tristan Watler.
In extending congratulations to the graduates for this cohort, Premier McLaughlin stated:
“These ten young people will be looking for employment opportunities in administration, construction, retail, utility infrastructure and travel.
Hiring these young people will give them the opportunity to apply the skills and knowledge they have learned and grow the local economy.”
To date, more than 500 young people have participated in the programme which has been running for the past 10 years.