September 30, 2020

Cayman: Friday, 26 June 2020 COVID-19 Update – ZERO new positives

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Premier Alden McLaughlin
  • Of 391 test results, all returned negative.
  • The Cayman Islands has to date tested 22,657 samples.
  • CARPHA which audited CI tests has confirmed accuracy of all 100 reports sent.
  • So far 383 antibody test results received show a rate of 1.6 percent immunoglobulin presence which is a low rate. Majority of those tested were front line health care workers.
  • Education Minister provided important updates on a number of fronts.
  • All schools will be open by 9 September 2020.
  • Breaches of liquor licences and Public Health rules on social distancing have been reported at some reopened establishments. Continued breaches will result in suspension of their licences.
  • All establishments are requested not to jeopardise or compromise the achievements of the Cayman Islands in combating COVID-19 spread in the islands.
  • A Reopening of Borders Committee (RBC) has been set up to explore when CI should reopen.

Grand Cayman (GIS) – At the Friday, 26 June 2020 COVID-19 press conference, Government leaders announced that a Reopening Borders Committee (CBC) is set up now to ensure that when the Cayman Islands borders are reopened, “the process is managed in a reassuring, methodical and responsible way”. This will help ensure “that the extraordinary efforts and sacrifices this country has undergone together to fight COVID-19 will not be squandered”.

            They also noted with concern that some establishments are not following the protocols put in place for the reopening of liquor licensed businesses. Continued breaches could result in suspension of those establishments’ licences.

, Dr. John Lee reported:

·         Out of 391 test results, all are negative.

·         Total tests done to date rise to 22,657.

·         Of 196 positives now, three were in Cayman Brac (unchanged), no symptomatic patients, nine asymptomatic, 186 recovered.

·         The ‘flu clinic had six visits on Thursday, with five reporting mild, flu-like symptoms while the ‘flu hotline got 18 calls of which three were ‘flu related.

·         There are 129 persons in government isolation facilities and 22 in self isolation at their homes.

·         CARPHA continues to conduct confirmatory tests, acting as CI’s reference lab for local test results. Of 100 reports sent, three test samples got spoiled en route and the other 97 samples had full concordance with the Health Services Authority (HSA) lab results.

·         Also, of 383 results for antibody tests so far, one third were done at Health City and the rest at HSA. The resulting IgG detected is 1.6% in these, which is a low rate. So far 0.6% of the CI population has been covered and the testing will continue.

. Alden McLaughlin said:

·         The Liquor Licensing Board has reported some breaches of licence conditions after the reopening of bars and restaurants, based on numerous complaints, including of some “hot spots” on the Seven Mile Beach. All liquor licence holders must comply with the Liquor Licensing Law and the Music and Dancing (Control) Law. They must adhere to opening and closing hours specified in their licences and the Public Health rules on social distancing. There are no extensions being granted beyond the specified hours on their licences. Routine checks will be carried out and those continuing in breach risk having their licences suspended.

·         A Borders Reopening Committee composed of 10 relevant agencies has been set up to better plan and manage the reopening of CI borders.

·         Anyone can register to be screened.

·         Many local establishments are gearing up for demands for staycations this summer while Government continues to provide isolation facilities. In this regard, a Request for Information (RFI) has been published for Providing Isolation Room Stock that will close on 9 July. Under this, government will lease/rent for an initial period of two months, with possible extensions based on the volume of need. 

·         For all details, see sidebar below.

the Governor, Mr.  said:

·         Today’s results are “extremely encouraging”. People need to continue practicing protocols put in place and “Stay safe Cayman”.

·         The BA repatriation flight to India on 2 July is on track. The flight will bring a small number of passengers to the Cayman Islands. This will include some en route to the British Virgin Islands, for whom a second flight will arrive from the BVI after the BA flight lands in Grand Cayman.

·          A total of 350 applications have been received for the 50 Reservist positions with the CI Defence Regiment.

·         Shout outs went to Team Nolan and to the Meals on Wheels operation in East End.

·         For all details, see sidebar below.

Health Minister Dwayne Seymour said:

·         To help keep children mentally active throughout the summer, visit the kids blog page on thewww.exploregov.ky website.

·         National attractions the QEII Botanic Park and the Pedro St. James Historic Great House are reopening to the public on Monday, 6 July. All are encouraged to visit.

·         In view of the Saharan dust plumes being experienced, anyone with respiratory illnesses is advised to limit outside activities over the weekend. If outside, wear masks at all times.

·         MRCU aerial spraying which had been curtailed by the dust plumes will resume tonight. However, fogger trucks continue to operate each night.

·         For details, see sidebar below.

Education Minister Hon. Juliana O’Connor-Connolly said:

·         All education authorities in the Cayman Islands who have put in diligent work during this pandemic are lauded.

·         Students’ health and wellbeing has also been of paramount during this time.

·         Providing a summary of the education system in operation, Minister noted that Cayman Islands’ engagement in education is a remarkable 87.8% during this pandemic.

·         This included providing distance learning to 5,020 government school students. Also 655 laptops were loaned to students who needed them.

·         Cabinet has approved provision of laptops to all government school students in a programme to be rolled out when students return to schools in early September. This will cost Government $3 million.

·         Also approved is a one-time grant to private schools hurting financially during this pandemic.

·         For all details, see separate release.

Sidebar: Premier Concerned about Liquor Licence Breaches

The test results this week have continued trending in the way we hoped with very few positives.  But we will continue with our plans to test and monitor the results as we continue to slowly open back up.

I was disheartened today, but not surprised at the news from the US that the states of Texas, Florida and Arizona have all had to pause their reopening plans due to spikes of COVID-19 infections.

The Texas Governor, Greg Abbot said that the rise in cases in Texas is largely driven by certain types of activities, including congregating in bars.

I interject here. I have been asked by the Liquor Licensing Board to address what appears to be a lack of compliance and breach of licence conditions by the Liquor Licence holders (the Licencee) at various establishments since the reopening of bars and restaurants have been allowed.

The Board would like to remind all liquor licence holders that they must continue to comply with the Liquor Licensing Law and Music and Dancing (Control) Law. Although the regulations on public gathering have been relaxed the Board would like to remind persons that we must still be vigilant and protect ourselves and others.

There have been numerous reports and complaints, in particular about the local bars, and several other “hot spots” on the Seven Mile Beach. It would seem that these establishments are under the impression that Curfew Time approval exempted them from adhering to all laws including the Public Health Law.

This situation not only creates a public health risk, but also safety risk for our officers both in the RCIP and the DCI Trade Officers.

Licence holders are being reminded of their responsibility under Section 28 of the Liquor Licence Law which states it is licencees duty to procure the compliance of his agents and other persons under his control and where such person commits an offence against this Law the licencee shall be equally culpable with such person of such offence whether the licencee was or was not present at the time of the act or omission constituting such offence.

Licence holders are further reminded to adhere to the opening and closing hours which are outlined on the licence as well as the conditions of their music and dance licence.

RCIPS and DCI Trade Officers will be carrying out routine checks to identify these breaches and actions deemed necessary will be taken to enforce the Law. In addition Licencees who are in contravention of the laws will be reported to the Liquor Licensing Board.

Interested members of the public can email [email protected] for information.

Indeed, across the world the number of COVID cases is still very concerning and so yesterday, the Australian Prime Minster Scott Morison signaled that their borders may likely remain closed to most international visitors until the middle of 2021 because the Coronavirus crisis continues to escalate across the world.

These are the reasons we are re-opening our economy and society slowly and carefully.  And this is why we are also carefully considering how to safely re-open the border.  And the reason that I implore you to act responsibly to continue to socially distance, wear a mask or cloth face covering in public and maintain respiratory protocols. 

As I’ve been saying lately please be Safe Cayman.

Screening

I’m told that with the reopening of the economy and people getting back into the workforce, the number of individuals requesting screening has declined.

Anyone can register for screening by going to the website www.exploregov.ky  Click on the button on the left hand side “REGISTER FOR SCREENING”.  A Screening application form will come up and it takes a few minutes to complete.

Screening is crucial in our fight against this disease.

Request for Additional Room Stock for Mandatory Government Isolation Facility

Many of you will be aware that Government’s ability to bring home Caymanians, Permanent Residents, and others who have been making their homes in the Cayman Islands relies on the availability of local room stock in Government approved quarantine facilities.

While we are extremely grateful to those organisations that have helped us to provide the mandatory isolation service for the last three months, we know that many are working to free up room stock ahead of what is expected to be a high demand for staycations this summer. 

To help address this issue, yesterday on the Government’s Bonfire procurement system, a Request For Information (RFI) was published for Providing Isolation Room Stock that will close on 9 July. Facilities will be leased/rented for an initial period of two months with possible extensions based on the volume of need.

            Some Caymanian students are only just getting an opportunity to come home having finished their classes. Meanwhile others need to head off within the next few weeks, some for the first time. After getting their children settled overseas, parents will require isolation when they return home. Meanwhile as we get ready for the new school year starting at the end of the summer, there are also teachers and their families who need to arrive and get settled in before school can open. To make this work we need available room stock.

            Education is just one example of the logistics that Government is navigating with these emergency flights. The needs of Caymanians who have to routinely travel away from and back to these Islands for health related reasons is another.

            It is to help deal effectively with all of these issues that we have created the new entity to be known as Travel Time, the operations of which will commence on 1st July, 2020.

Reopening of the Cayman Islands Borders

To minimize the local spread of the Coronavirus, the Cayman Islands Government took the decision to temporarily close our country’s borders. Consequently, the Owen Roberts International Airport and the Charles Kirkconnell International Airport are closed to commercial passenger flights until 31 August 2020 at 11:59 pm and a ban on cruise ships remains in effect until 31 August 2020.

While the government continues to take note of the rate of COVID-19 infections in North America and other countries across the globe, it also recognises that the Cayman Islands cannot remain sequestered from the outside world indefinitely. Careful consideration must be given to reopening our borders in due course, and appropriate plans and policies must be in place to safeguard the health and well-being of our people and future visitors to our Islands.

Planning for the resumption of commercial passenger traffic to our airports will require significant coordination and the collaboration of a number of relevant agencies. With this in mind, the government has established a Reopening of Borders Committee (RBC), comprised of ten relevant agencies that will work together to formulate the policies, organize the logistics and operations, and evaluate the results of reopening our borders.

The agencies included in the Reopening of Borders Committee (RBC) are as follows:

1.    Ministry of District Administration, Tourism, and Transport

2.    Office of the Governor

3.    Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands

4.    Cayman Islands Airports Authority

5.    Cayman Airways Ltd.

6.    Department of Tourism

7.    Port Authority of the Cayman Islands

8.    Ministry of Employment and Border Control

9.    Ministry of Health, Environment, Culture, and Housing

10.  Health Services Authority

The RBC will be guided in part by a document produced by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), through its Council Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART).

The document is entitled ‘The Strategic Approach for Aviation Recovery in the North American, Central American and Caribbean (NAM/CAR) Regions’ and it provides guidance to global governments and industry operators for the safe, secure and sustainable restart of the aviation sector. It should be noted that the recommendations contained in that document are intended to work in harmony with the policies and guidelines developed by the RBC to manage the reopening of the Cayman Islands borders. 

The proactive and stringent measures put in place by this government at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic have proven successful and have allowed our Country to move from Suppression level 5 (maximum suppression) to suppression level 2 (minimal suppression) in the span of roughly 12 weeks.  

This is an encouraging indication which shows that our Islands are in a much better place than many would have imagined just a short time ago. I am pleased that we are now able to prudently consider taking further steps towards normalization, and more importantly, towards the rebuilding of our tourism industry.

It is absolutely essential that when our borders do reopen, the process is managed in a reassuring, methodical and responsible way. The establishment of the RBC will help to ensure that the extraordinary efforts and sacrifices this country has undergone together to fight COVID-19 will not be squandered, and the risk of inward infection to our islands is minimised in every way possible.

Happy Birthday

I’d like to wish a Happy Birthday to Pastor Audley Scott from Hillside Chapel.  Pastor Scott delivered the prayer for us at Tuesday’s briefing. Happy birthday.

Sidebar: Governor Notes Encouraging Test Results in CI Continue

Today’s results are extremely encouraging, but to stay safe we need to be disciplined and continue to practice social distancing, basic hygiene and wearing masks in public places.

I welcome all the work that is going on to safely open our borders. However, we shouldn’t lull ourselves into a false sense of security, we have done well and we should be thankful for the position that we’re in, but as we look to open the borders there will be some element of risk and adopting those social distancing etc. measures will hold us in good stead.

On BA flights, the flight for Indian nationals next week is in hand. The inbound BA flight on 2 July from London Heathrow will bring back a small number of passengers to Cayman. We will also be helping out some fellow Overseas Territory citizens by bringing in some passengers who are returning home to BVI. The BVI authorities have arranged a connecting flight and those passengers will transit airside, which will take them straight out of the airport and on to BVI. I think it’s important that we help our regional neighbours where we can with these flights.

On the Defence Regiment I am delighted that we received over 350 applications for the 50 part time reservists roles, of which a large number of the applicants were Caymanians which is welcome news. In mid-July we will bring out a training team of 14 from the UK who will go into two weeks quarantine on arrival and then will train the reservists throughout August. Following the training we hope to form the Regiment at end of August. The UK is also assisting us by shipping over uniforms and equipment for the Regiment.  The five Junior Officers continue their training at Sandhurst, which is the best military training establishment in the world. My thanks to everyone from Premier down for all the work that has taken place to get us into this position with the Regiment.

Tomorrow between 4 and 5 pm Melissa Evans will be holding a Virtual Zumbathon class for Little Hearts to benefit Team Nolan – the Paediatric Program of the Cayman Heart Fund which provides support for CHD (Congenital Heart Defect) families. Admission is $15. They are doing incredible work with children who have congenital heart defects. The image with this post has full details and I would encourage everyone to support this important cause.

On Wednesday I visited the East End, supporting Meals on Wheels who are doing fantastic work. I was accompanied by Jennifer West and Rob Imperato and also met all the people working in the kitchen and the drivers who deliver the meals.  They are all doing incredible work for our community. I also met some East End citizens including Ms Melrose and her son, Ms Treva, Ms Janilee, Mr Evert Jackson, Ms Pamela and David, Mr Rankine and his extended family. Thank you all for making me so welcome.

Sidebar: Health Minister Highlights Dust Plume, Kids Blog Page

Good afternoon, to our audience in Grand Cayman, the Brac and Little Cayman and of course we welcome our Caymanian diaspora listening in from abroad.

End of school/kids blog page

Today is an exciting day for our children and maybe some teachers and parents as well as today, marks the end of the school year.

In anticipation of the need to keep our children mentally active throughout the summer, I want to highlight the kids blog page on the exploregov.ky website.

Our teams have put a lot of work into compiling information such as:

·         Videos,

·         Useful links,

·         Fun and educational activities.

And we connected with dozens of local organisations and government entities to offer a myriad of resources in one comprehensive repository.

I strongly encourage the public to take time to discover what is available locally:

·         Via outreach programmes,

·         Practical tips,

·         Mental health assistance and

·         For educational purposes – you can find all of this on the website as well. 

National attractions

Another exciting bit of information is that our national attractions – the Queen Elizabeth the Second Botanic Park and the Pedro St. James Historic Great House are reopening to the public starting on Monday, 6 July.

Admission is only $5 for residents. Children five years and under, and seniors 65 and older, are absolutely free.

If you have never been or it’s been a while since you’ve last visited your national attractions, consider a family outing this summer.

This is a great way to have time outside of the house, to enjoy nature and to learn about our islands past.

·         Do you know why we call Pedro St James the birthplace of democracy?

·         Have you seen the national flower – the wild banana orchid in bloom?

·         When was the last time the sight of a blue iguana took your breath away?

As Minister of Culture, I encourage you to take time to:

Revisit your history,

Revisit your culture,

Revisit your Cayman…and celebrate the importance of preserving our natural habitats and our heritage.

Sahara dust plumes

In regard to the Saharan dust plumes, I want to announce that while we are seeing the skies a bit clearer today, we are not completely out of the woods as yet. The Cayman Islands Weather Service is reporting the improvement in hazy conditions is due to some rain showers we experienced yesterday. 

The official report states: “Fluctuation in the concentration of the dust haze can be expected over the next day or so with increasing hazy conditions returning from about Sunday.”

So while we may see clearer skies today, public health is reminding anyone who may have respiratory illnesses tolimit outside activities over the weekend; but if you must go outside please for your own safety – wear your mask at all times.

You can stay up to date on the Sahara dust plumes by logging on to the Cayman Islands National Weather Service website at weather.gov.ky

MRCU spraying

As you may already know, the dust plumes have hampered the mosquito research and control unit’s ability to maintain aerial spraying over the last couple of days. But i am pleased to report that they are expecting to resume spraying tonight, as dust conditions appear to have improved. 

However, MRCU officials have indicated that all of its fogging trucks have been out spraying each night since Thursday of last week, with the exception of Sunday (Father’s Day).

The truck spraying will continue on the ground level and once the weather service gives the all clear, the unit will return to more consistent aerial spraying, as required. I want to assure the public that the unit will continue its monitoring and control of mosquitoes to ensure that the current upsurge is dissipated as quickly as possible.

COVID- 19 reminder

As always, I want to remind you that we are still living in the age of COVID-19 and we must remain vigilant.

I want to address the heightened anxiety amongst some of us in our community – as a matter of balancing our fear with the need to survive, we must continue as a community to do all that is necessary to keep ourselves, our families, friends and neighbours safe.

Please remember we cannot act as if things are completely back to normal because they are not, covid-19 is still out there.

We can look to the stories all over the world. For example, New Zealand which boasted many weeks of being COVID free and then in one move to bring folks in, immediately saw cases. This is a solemn reminder that we must have necessary precautions in place to maintain our good standing.

We want people to have opportunities to make money and provide for their families but the prescribed good hygiene practices we have adopted should continue for now and well into the future, as coronavirus is only onecommunicable disease out of many.

We continue to ask employers to allow any staff that are able, to continue to work from home. This will help us to minimize the risks of employees contracting covid-19.

Please practice social distancing, wash your hands, and keep yourselves and your kids at home if you are sick.  Let us all continue to do our part and not become complacent.

Have a good weekend and stay safe Cayman.

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