Health officials have confirmed that no local cases of the coronavirus have been recorded in the Cayman Islands.

However, they will be implementing a series of measures, including opening a new flu clinic, increasing surveillance at local ports and running a public awareness campaign, all in a bid to ensure Cayman remains coronavirus-free as the global outbreak continues.

“We are ready to deal with this virus should it arrive on our shores,” Health Minister Dwayne Seymour said as he addressed a media briefing on the virus Monday at the Government Administration Building. He said all stakeholders are working on plans to ensure public safety.

Part of that, Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee said, is educating people about proper coughing and sneezing etiquette.

“I would encourage everyone to educate themselves as well as they can with regards to the virus and [I] reiterate the need to maintain good hygiene,” he said at the briefing.

Monday’s media briefing had been planned for a 10am start but began about 15 minutes late as Seymour and Lee were participating in an emergency video conference on the coronavirus with Caribbean health ministers.

Some countries in the region, such as Jamaica, have already instituted travel restrictions as the virus numbers continue to climb.

Lee said it is important to wash hands frequently with soap and water, and use hand sanitisers, as well as use disposable handkerchiefs when coughing or sneezing.

“Keep a good distance for people with acute respiratory infections,” he said. “If you are travelling, stay clear from wild animals and farm animals.”

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Samuel Williams-Rodriquez said at this time health authorities are not advising members of the general public to wear masks.

However, he said, masks are being distributed at local clinics for patients with respiratory symptoms. Williams-Rodriguez pointed out that Cayman is in the throes of influenza season, so there will be people experiencing flu symptoms.

This week, a clinic at the Cayman Islands Hospital will be opened to treat patients separately who are presenting with flu-like symptoms.

It’s one of the measures being implemented as Cayman ramps up its response to the virus outbreak.

“That’s why the travel history is so important now. If you develop flu-like symptoms, but you have not travelled to any of [the affected] areas and you have not been in contact with anyone who travelled to these areas, it’s very unlikely that you have the coronavirus,” Williams-Rodriguez said.

However, he stressed that it is important that patients with flu-like symptoms to contact their healthcare providers or the Public Health Department to discuss the next steps and advise them accordingly.

He said the flu clinic will be similar to the one implemented in 2009 when there was an outbreak of H1N1 influenza.

“Basically, [the clinic is] to attend [to] any patients that will have flu-like symptoms. What we’re trying to do with that is kind of separate patients that could be a potential risk for the rest of the other patients that may be attending the clinic for a different reason,” he said.

Quarantine plans

Williams-Rodriquez said visitors arriving in Cayman will be provided with information cards  containing details about the virus, who to contact, and where to go if they develop symptoms.

He said a room has been designated for quarantine purposes.
Seymour indicated Friday that the quarantine room has to be prepared and more beds purchased.

The Health Services Authority would manage cases that need medical attention, and officials are working on a proposal for the area identified to manage these patients if the number exceeds what the authority can manage on a regular basis.

Williams-Rodriguez said that, at this time, there will be home quarantines, and the HSA/Public Health Department will follow up with quarantined individuals.

Lee pointed out quarantines are a legal issue, as under the Public Health Law there are certain processes that have to be followed.

The National Security Council, which is meeting Tuesday to discuss the coronavirus, will have to make a decision whether people would be quarantined and under what circumstances.

Lee said anybody who has been identified as arriving from a coronavirus-affected country and who is within the 14-day incubation period has been contacted.

For those who have not been contacted, he advised that they get in touch with Public Health on 244-2621.