Local health officials have confirmed that the Cayman Islands does not have any cases, or suspected cases, of coronavirus or COVID-19.
It comes after all patients who were isolated in their homes were cleared over the weekend.
These patients, who had been isolated due to recent travel to China, have now passed the 14-day incubation period for the virus. Medical Officer of Health Dr. Samuel Williams-Rodriguez, in an emailed response to queries from the Cayman Compass on Friday, said the patients are now free to move around.
“Some have left the island. Three persons were left under voluntary isolation and [Friday] was their last day. After [Saturday], they are allowed to move around freely. None of the persons being monitored have had any symptoms,” he said.
Williams-Rodriguez did not share the total number of patients who were under voluntary isolation, only saying it was “very small”.
As of 15 Feb., the World Health Organization reported 50,580 laboratory-confirmed coronavirus cases globally; of those, 1,527 were new.
The death toll in mainland China rose to 1,524.
Five deaths have been reported outside mainland China – in Taiwan, Philippines, Hong Kong, Japan and France.
The virus has been reported in 25 countries.
Williams-Rodriguez said there were no suspected cases so far in the Cayman Islands.
He said Public Health is working on logistics for local testing for the virus. Until then, samples of any suspected cases will have to be sent to the Caribbean Regional Public Health Agency in Trinidad for testing.
“The turnaround time [is] 5-10 days. The lab at the [HSA] is getting ready to start testing for the new coronavirus (COVID-19) in the next 3-4 weeks,” he added.
Travel restrictions being drafted
Last week, the Cayman Islands government announced that Cabinet had approved the issuance of new regulations to control the entry of people who have a recent travel history to mainland China.
“The intention is to limit entry for any person who has travelled to, from or through mainland China within a period of fourteen days or less immediately preceding arrival in the Cayman Islands,” it said in its statement.
In its emailed response to the Compass, the Government Information Service said those restrictions will only take effect when the regulations are gazetted.
The regulations are still being drafted and, according to Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee, they will be ready shortly.
The new regulations, under Section 34 of the Public Health Law, will restrict the entry of visitors by aircraft or ship to the Cayman Islands if they have had a recent mainland China travel history.
This does not include travel to Hong Kong and Macau, both of which are semi-autonomous regions within China.
Cayman nationals and returning residents who have been to mainland China will be subject to quarantine and surveillance for up to 14 days from the date of departure from mainland China, at a location to be determined by the medical officer of health which, in some cases, may be their homes.
The Health Services Authority has designated an area for Cayman’s coronavirus response.
However, the Government Information Service said it is not for quarantine.
“It will be part of the hospital contingency plan for management of patients with symptoms requiring admission and relevant travel history (i.e., suspected of COVID-19). Returning residents who are well will be quarantined under the direction of the Medical Officer of Health, and this is likely to be at their own homes,” a GIS spokesman told the Compass in an email.
“There are emergency plans for quarantine of visitors should they reach our shores in spite of the travel restrictions in place,” the spokesman added.
The government has earmarked $100,000 for local quarantine purposes.
Health Minister Dwayne Seymour earlier had indicated that he would be seeking $1 million for local response preparations.
GIS said the additional sum is being developed in a proposal to be considered by Cabinet.