By Lindsey Turnbull
Cabinet took some key decisions Friday to try and contain the COVID-19 corona virus outbreak in Cayman. At a press briefing on Friday afternoon, Premier Alden McLaughlin advised that from this Monday 16th March, all educational establishments, which means all schools, including UCCI and ICCI, will be closed until Monday 27th April 2020. In addition, all cruise ships will be banned from visiting the Cayman Islands from this Monday 16th March for a period of 60 days.
The Premier said that the Cabinet had decided to add a number of countries to the travel restriction list. These included Iran, Japan, the Republic of Korea and all Schengen visa countries (all the countries within the EU), in addition to mainland China that was originally on the list. The Premier said that Government would consider extending this ban, if need be.
“All countries in the world are under consideration,” he said, adding this included the United States, the UK and Jamaica, which were not currently on the travel ban list. The Premier said they had to be careful how they shut down contact with the UK, US and Jamaica.
Large gatherings banned
Another important new step was to ban all public gatherings over 50 persons until further notice. This would take immediate effect, the Premier stated. Exempt from this ban are supermarkets, pharmacies and hospitals, but included in the ban are bars, restaurants, churches, football games and sporting activities.
The Premier said that other decisions were also under consideration as the threat of the virus became even more grave.
“Some of these decisions are quite drastic and radical and some may be even more so next week,” he said. “But we are determined to do everything we can to reduce the chance of widespread transmission of the virus through the community.”
Government on the right route
Governor Martyn Roper said that while he recognised that having a confirmed case of COVID-19 was a matter of great concern, it was not unexpected and the healthcare profession had been preparing for such an event.
“I support the tough action the government is taking around public gatherings, educational institutions and travel restrictions,” the Governor said. “It’s been shown elsewhere that you try and flatten the curve as this epidemic hits us and that’s what the Government’s measures are aimed to do, to manage the load on our health services.”
He added that Cayman had excellent infrastructure and medical professionals and that Cayman would come through this. The Governor also said that Cayman had access to expertise in the UK and a delegation would be arriving soon from Public Health England. The Governor said they had already been helpful with regard to modelling the trend of the virus and would be providing personal protection equipment as well.
“Most importantly, very soon we will be able to test on island, a very important development for us,” the Governor said.
He added that most people, should they contract COVID-19, would only exhibit mild symptoms, but some would be more seriously affected.
“We do need to look out for our elderly and ensure they get the medical advice they need,” he said.
Chief Medical Officer Dr John Lee said that they had been in touch with Public Health England overnight in response to the first COVID-19 case in Cayman and the subsequent worry about medical staff at Health City also getting the virus. They were following Public Health England’s advice, which concurred with advice locally, Dr Lee said and it was under Public Health England’s advice that Health City isolated and stopped taking new patients. Those medical personnel exhibiting symptoms were being tested.
The Premier added that Government expected to be making more announcements early next week in regard to further decisions they were making.
“We have a lot more challenges ahead, but I am very confident in riding this global crisis. The size of Cayman is a huge advantage,” he stated.