The highly anticipated shipment of 135,000 COVID – 19 testing kits ordered by Government from South Korea arrived on Wednesday. It’s the first consignment of an order for 200,000 units.
The remaining 35,000 are on their way to Cayman from the South Korean suppliers via London due to capacity constraints on the charted aircraft.
Those are expected here at a later date via commercial transportation.
A government statement on Wednesday disclosed the cost of the order to be US$4.4 million averaging around US$22 per kit.
The hard-to-obtain kits were sourced through the joint efforts of the Office of His Excellency the Governor Martyn Roper, the British Embassy in the South Korean capital Seoul, and the Cayman Islands Government.
Governor Roper said: “Moving consignments around the world is proving extremely difficult at the moment, so I’m pleased we’ve been able to get these test kits here in such a short space of time.”
He added that “This consignment will enable our health professionals and front line workers, and large numbers of the public to be tested.
“This is a huge step in keeping on track with the containment part of our strategy. I would like to pay particular tribute the private sector collaborators we worked with.”
Premier Alden McLaughlin, in adding his thanks to those all involved in this operation, remarked: “I know how challenging it was to source, procure and transport a consignment like this from the other side of the world in such challenging times.
“The work and generous donations from the private sector were instrumental.”
Mr McLaughlin said, “Cayman is now in a much better place in our ability to ramp up testing and keep everyone safe."
The Government statement noted that “the complex and challenging arrangements for the procurement and consignment were led by the Governor’s Office in collaboration with the Cayman Regiment, the Ministry of International Trade, Investment, Aviation and Maritime Affairs, the private sector and the British Embassy in Seoul who undertook due diligence to assure the quality of the testing kits and helped with local logistics.”
In giving credit to those who were instrumental in sourcing and shipping the consignment, it also listed local businessmen Mr Vernie Coe and Mr Craig Merren who provided the initial contacts for the suppliers.
The logistics were supported by the Dart Corporation who arranged and funded the aircraft charter to fly the consignment from Seoul via Anchorage to the Cayman Islands.
A government stated said; “In an incredibly generous gesture, local philanthropist Mrs Susan Anne Olde OBE donated half of the amount for the purchase.”
Noting that, Governor Roper said, "The generous donation from Mrs Olde and the financing of the aircraft by Dart demonstrate the real strength that we can bring to this fight when we combine government and private sector resources and expertise.”
It was the Government’s Chief Officer of the Ministry of International Trade, Investment, Aviation and Maritime Affairs, Eric Bush who broke the news on Wednesday morning of the arrival of the shipment of test kits earlier on Wednesday.
He had sent out a Tweet declaring: “Cayman has received enough COVID-19 testing kits to test the population more than twice!”
He called it “Another part of the collective and collaborative response to protect our people. Public and private sectors working hand in hand."
The shipment is expected to significantly upscale the volume of testing in Cayman for the coronavirus.
Chief Medical Officer Dr John Lee said testing was expected to go from around 150 tests per day to around 500 per day possibly over the next ten days.
Testing is also expected to be enhanced and coordinated across the three hospitals in the territory.
Government is also in the process of sourcing a further shipment of medical supplies, this time from China, especially linked to managing the COVID-19 crisis.
Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that a shipment of ventilators and masks sourced from the United States were intercepted by US customs officials on the basis that they the shipment violated US trade restrictions under the current COVID-19 protocols.