CAYMAN TO GRADUALLY REOPEN FROM MONDAY: ECONOMIC OUTLOOK GRAVE
Details are emerging of the transition from lockdown to a phased return to normal business activity in the Cayman Islands starting next week.
From Monday a number of services will be reintroduced on a limited scale after around six weeks of extensive restrictions to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Premier Alden McLaughlin made the disclosure on Wednesday although he opted not to go into much detail.
The Premier has been hinting at the phased reopening of the economy for quite some time but has maintained that a persistent pattern of negative results from the heightened coronavirus testing now underway would be key to that decision.
The most recent results continue to be encouraging with no new cases reported by Wednesday and only three in the previous four days taking the total to 73.
Mr McLaughlin recently referred to a plan which the government is developing to guide the return to some semblance of normal business activity and offered some more detail of it on Wednesday.
He was also responding to questions being raised about the government’s preparedness to kickstart the economy.
Asked if the government is offering any special incentives beyond measures it has already put in place for small and micro businesses to keep them afloat, Premier McLaughlin’s reaction was measured.
“We are always thinking about what we can do but I’m not in a position to make any additional announcement at this stage,” he said.
He added that “over the course of the next few days we need to take some time going through the draft plan that we have and also take on board the views of the opposition and the broader community including the Chamber (of Commerce) before we actually settle on what the plan would be.”
The Premier confirmed that there has been “significant representation from these quarters" before.
The government has already started reintroducing some suspended services this week, among them parts of the postal services.
Business and consumer operations coming back on stream from Monday include a kerbside shopping delivery service and the reopening of money transfer services.
Several supermarkets have been allowed to continue business during the lockdown as essential services.
Pool maintenance and removal of garden waste are also on the list of services restarting on Monday.
Strict protocols are being put in place for how these services operate.
The ongoing Shelter-In-Place daytime curfew is being reviewed and is likely to assume a new format from next Monday as well.
With Cayman on the verge of turning this critical corner, Premier McLaughlin displayed a document titled Cayman Islands Economic Assessment and Stimulus Plan, in response to the criticism over how his government was managing the transition from lockdown to unlocking the economy.
“Here is a draft copy of the Cayman Islands Economic Assessment and Stimulus Plan,” he said displaying the document.
"A lot of real hard work has been done by the Economics and Statistics Office and by others to provide the Cabinet and the Caucus with very strong recommendations about the way forward.”
He said the plan will be fine-tuned over the next few days.
Asked if the government was working through an economic recovery task force, Premier McLaughlin said: "While there might not be a creature named such, there is a committee that has been working with the government on how to manage the crisis going forward."
“I think we have a pretty good plan with respect to the domestic economy of the economy going forwards,” he said, but added, “we are thinking beyond that.”
Mr McLaughlin described the tourism and hospitality industry as being “really in the doldrums” and said serious thought has to be given to what assistance can be offered to many of the companies involved in the sector to help them survive.
When asked how serious he thinks this situation will be for the economy, the Premier summed it up this way: “Grave. Very grave.”