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Closing schools “under consideration,” after first coronavirus case confirmed

Front Pages 13 Mar, 2020 Follow News

(L-r) Dr. Samuel Williams-Rodriguez, Hon. Dwayne Seymour, Hon Alden McLaughlin, Dr. Binoy Chattuparambil, and Dr. John Lee

Dr. John Lee

Premier Hon Alden McLaughlin

Dr. Binoy Chattuparambil

The Public Health Department confirmed the first case of a person in the Cayman Islands with the novel coronavirus, after one of the five people who were tested for the virus earlier in the week, tested positive. The announcement was followed by a press briefing attended by the Premier, Hon Alden McLaughlin, Minister for Health Hon. Dwayne Seymour, as well as senior health professionals Medical Health Officer, Dr. Samuel Williams-Rodriguez, Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee, and Dr. Binoy Chattuparambil, of Health City, where the patient is being treated and kept in isolation.

“The patient is a visitor who was transferred from a cruise ship for a critical cardiac issue,” said Dr. Samuel Williams-Rodriguez. “The patient was doing well but subsequently developed breathing difficulties, was isolated and a test taken has confirmed is suffering with the novel coronavirus.”

The patient is a 68-year-old man from Italy, who was allowed to disembark from a Caribbean Princess cruise ship on Monday 9 March and taken immediately to Health City by helicopter. There was also another sick passenger allowed to disembark from the ship, but nobody else from the ship came ashore.

During the press briefing, the public was reminded to take all necessary precautions against contracting the coronavirus. The risk can be reduced by implementing personal protective measures, such as frequent hand washing, covering nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing and avoiding close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory illnesses.

Premier Alden McLaughlin spoke of the likelihood of extending the travel ban to more than the single country, following a special Cabinet meeting, “There will be a fairly extensive list before Cabinet tomorrow, and assuming approval, we will then be able to make an announcement as to which countries travel will be banned from. It will be a complete ban, except for returning residents who would then be placed in isolation,” he said.

Closing schools was also, “certainly under consideration,” he said, adding that the big inter-primary sports day was being cancelled. ‘We are certainly discouraging public gatherings of significant numbers,” he added.

“These things have broader social and economic considerations and also logistical implications. So we are taking our time and being very careful. But we do believe that Cayman is going to have to impose some fairly drastic and radical measures in regards to containing this virus and preventing it moving to the stage it has in other places, where they are chasing the virus rather than being able to point to its source.

Dr. Lee said: “We are in contact right across the medical community so I have had a lot of discussions with The Doctors Hospital who have pledged their utmost support. We know that Health City have as well. If the virus takes a hold then the stress is going to be put on all the different parts of the health system. So it won’t just be hospital or H.S.A but it would be private doctors as well. We would anticipate that everybody would use their normal channels of care.”

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