CAYMAN QUIET UNDER LOCKDOWN
It’s been quiet in Cayman as a round the clock curfew aimed at stemming the infection rate of COVID-19 kicks in.
Normally gridlocked streets were clear, the bustling city centre was an oasis of quiet; no cars, no crowds and no trading in one of the busiest commercial centres in the Caribbean.
If day one of the 24 hour three-day lockdown is an indication, then the Government’s message seems to be getting through.
Hon. Premier Alden McLaughlin expressed his gratitude to the public for their cooperation, and the police for what he described as “the incredible job they’ve been doing .”
Acknowledging that the community is now being required to operate in an environment of very restrictive rules it is not accustomed to, the Premier was confident that the public grasps the seriousness of the situation its confronted with.
“I think the whole country understands how serious the threat we are trying to deal with is and I trust and believe that the people are going to continue to cooperate through the rest of this difficult time,” he said.
The curfew was activated at 7pm on Wednesday and will remain in force until 5am on Saturday.
Police Commissioner Derek Byrne reported that generally the cooperation from the public has been commendable.
There were a number of traffic stops, several cautions and a handful of arrests for violating the provisions of the curfew.
The current total lockdown will be relaxed from 5am on Saturday, and will be replaced by the Shelter-In-Place provisions.
The regulations for that phase have already been prepared for that period which will be in effect from 5am this Saturday (March 28th) until 5am the following Friday April 3rd.
Though as restrictive as the lockdown, the Shelter-In-Place system has proven quite challenging for Government to implement.
They impose limitations on the types of businesses allowed to open, except essential services, require others including parts of the civil services to have staff work from home, place restrictions on public gatherings and demand that people stay at home.
Hon. Deputy Governor Franz Manderson reported that the system enabling civil servants to work from home was working well with even encouraging feedback from the public who have had to access some of the services.
“The business continuity plan was put in place for hurricane and not a pandemic,” he said, but added that “they are working very well. I am very pleased.”
The Premier expressed concern however, that there were still too many unjustifiable requests from businesses for exemptions in order to be classified as essential services.
He said, “The Shelter-In-Place provision will allow persons reasonable access to the supermarket, the pharmacies, the gas stations and liquor stores over the next ten days.
“But all other business not described as essential will remain closed and employees are required to stay home.”
Mr McLaughlin reiterated that Government’s focus was on ensuring that the suppression plan prevents the very contagious COVID-19 virus from spreading in the community, and he called for the cooperation of all in order for the plan to work.
He said if at the end of the 14 day period of severely reduced public activity there’s no indication of the virus spreading significantly in the community, the strategy will have been successful.
His Excellency the Governor, Martin Roper, also felt that the next 10 days were going to be “absolutely crucial” in determining the success of the efforts to contain the spread of the disease in Cayman.
He urged that “everybody do their bit, play their role, try and get us through this period and stop our people becoming ill, and we will be in a much better position.”
At this stage of the shutdown there are no indications of any increase in the number of cases of COVID-19 in Cayman.
On Thursday the number of confirmed cases remained at eight with 48 negative samples being reported.
Chief Medical Officer Dr John Lee expressed his satisfaction with the quality and reliability of the testing carried out locally at the recently commissioned COVID-19 testing facility.
Another unit is expected to come into operation imminently.
Samples tested here are currently sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency(CARPHA) in Trinidad for confirmation.
Governor Martin Roper said, “we can have confidence in our robust testing system.”
Hon. Minister of Health Dwayne Seymour appealed for more compassion, especially during this stressful period.
He cited an incident of eviction in which the Government had to intervene on humanitarians grounds to assist the tenants.
Amidst the seriousness of the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were moments of levity during Thursday’s press conference.
Those surrounded humorous memes in circulation, some even targeting public officials.
Premier McLaughlin gently nudged a cease and desist request as he said they made him laugh so much he could not get his work done.
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