Cayman heads into 2021 after a tumultuous 2020 with the number of COVID-19 cases in the jurisdiction continuing to creep upwards.
By Wednesday December 23rd, the number of confirmed cases had crept up to 318 with one further case added to the list.
It follows a noticeable pattern since the first stage of border reopening started on October 1st.
Since then over a 100 additional cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Cayman; going from 213 on October 2nd to 318 by December 23rd.
The majority of these new cases are by far travellers arriving in Cayman testing positive.
There was a spate of negative test results during the Summer period with only eight confirmed cases for the whole of the month; going from 205 cases on September 1st to 213 by the end of that month. The borders were closed for the preceding six months since March.
Accompanying the decision to allow limited flights into Cayman for specially defined categories of persons are stringent control systems underpinned by equally tough regulations.
These include 14-days in monitored quarantine and tough penalties - at least on paper - for violators.
There have been several breaches, including the high-profile case of the American teenager Skylar Mack and her Caymanian boyfriend Vanjae Ramgeet whose conviction, especially in the case of Mack, was the focus of international media coverage driven by a campaign orchestrated by the young American’s grandmother.
The previous maximum punishment for breaking the quarantine protocols - six months in prison and a fine of CI$1,000 - was hiked to two years in jail and a penalty of CI$10,000 shortly before the Skylar Mack incident.
While no one has yet been punished to the full extent allowable under the law, with cases increasing and over 1,000 persons in quarantine speculation is running high that further incidents of people breaking the rules and circulating among the public could put pressure on the government and the courts to impose harsher sentences.
There’s also growing concern in the community over new variants of the virus which are more contagious and transmissible than the first COVID-19 strain that caused global pandemic.
While there are no reports of these turning up here (yet?), their rapid spread in the UK where limited flights are still operating to Cayman is cause for anxiety.
Several countries have already banned travel from the UK or are demanding that travelers present proof of being COVID-free before they are allowed to enter their borders.
In his Christmas message posted on his Facebook page, HE Governor Martyn Roper, stated:
“We end the year with rising concern about Covid due to the new strain discovered in the UK. The good news is that it does not appear to be more dangerous and the vaccines are still likely to be highly effective against it.”
“There is no need for knee-jerk reactions on incoming flights,” he assured “as we have some of the most stringent protocols in place to protect our community anywhere in the world.”
The first batch of vaccines from the UK is expected in Cayman early January with a national voluntary vaccination campaign due to start shortly thereafter.
The UK itself grappling with a serious second wave of the pandemic and most parts of the country have again been placed under intensified restrictions bordering on complete lockdowns in some areas.
More than 70,000 people in the UK have now died within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test.
The picture is equally grim in the United States where deaths have exceeded 330,000 in the midst of a new spike and infections are also spiraling with over 18 million confirmed cases.
COVI-19 is also taking its toll in the Caribbean where over 5,500 deaths have been attributed to the virus with presently over 385,000 cases.
Globally, by the end of 2020 the COVID-19 statistics are staggering; over 76 minion cases and close to 17 million deaths.
In his 2020 Christmas message Hon. Premier Alden McLaughlin credited his government's tough decisions to place Cayman under lockdown while providing a range of support packages for residents and businesses "that today we are able to live our lives with relative ease."
He also said government action had prevented a community spread and a resurgence of the virus in Cayman that many of the jurisdiction's neighbours are experiencing.
Amidst the gloom of COVID-19 in 2020, heading into 2021 is the fact that there is a high recovery rate and the availability of new vaccines is reason to be optimistic.
The challenge is to rebuild economies and return to some semblance of life as normal.
Another silver lining is seen in a rethink of the way we do business.
The pandemic has resulted in significant adjustment in the way the world does business and the way we conduct our lives.
With communications tech at the forefront it seems that instead of only returning to normal, we could be entering a tech-driven state of altered normality.
For 2021, a new normal beckons.
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