Government has suspended all non-essential official business travel as “a precautionary step” as it continues its efforts to keep the coronavirus away from local shores.
Acting Deputy Governor and acting National Hazard Management Council chair Gloria McField-Nixon made the announcement in an interview on Cayman Islands Government (CIG) TV on Wednesday night.
She said the measure was taken on Tuesday.
“We know that the coronavirus has significant presence in places abroad. We have reduced and eliminated non-essential travel of the civil service, both for our core civil service and our wider public service. As our business requirements we are stepping down the need for people to travel for work unless it is absolutely essential, again as a precautionary measure,” McField-Nixon said in the interview.
Cayman has already implemented travel restrictions for travellers to manage the virus.
Visitors who have been in China in the preceding 14 days before arriving in Cayman will be denied entry – a restriction in line with many of Cayman’s regional neighbours.
Returning residents who have travelled to mainland China will be quarantined under the direction of the Medical Officer of Health.
At this time this is likely to be in the traveller’s home.
McField-Nixon explained that the COVID-19 situation is a “dynamic situation” but government is looking at all the “phases the island will go through and what steps need to be put in place to maintain a safe staff and a healthy work environment”.
McField-Nixon said support is already being provided and resource supplies are being made available for government employees.
“The safety of the civil servants is really paramount to us,” she said.
She said measures are being put in place to ensure the continuity of business, including sick leave policy changes and flexible work hours for civil servants.
This action follows Cayman’s activation Tuesday of its National Emergency Operations Centre in response to the coronavirus threat.
Deputy Governor Franz Manderson convened a meeting of the National Hazard Management Council and announced the partial activation of the emergency response centre.
Hazard Management Cayman Islands Director Danielle Coleman, speaking on government tv Wednesday, said, the activation of the NEOC was critical so Cayman can have a “coordinated hub”.
“This is no longer a health issue, this is a multi-agency issue,” she said.
Coleman said there are 17 emergency support teams functioning under the NEOC and they bring the expertise of 50 to 60 people to the table to ensure there is a multi-agency approach to dealing with the virus response.
She added that there are a number of issues to consider with COVID-19 apart from border issues.
“There are issued with shelter management, there are issues with food security. We want to make sure we have the correct resources on island. So the National Emergency Operation Centre is a good coordinating hub,” she said.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee assured there are no cases of the virus in Cayman and he said his team has been working very hard to keep it that way.
He said the World Health Organisation has not declared the virus a pandemic, but it has reached epidemic status in some countries already impacted by COVID-19.
Lee said the real issue that has been giving people a cause for concern is the rate of spread of the condition.
“That’s alarming. It’s like its marching towards you and there is a certain inevitability about it,” he said.
Lee pointed out that the number of cases in countries that would have good health services like Germany, France and Italy continues to climb.
“I do not think there is going to be much time before the World Health Organization declares this a pandemic,” he said.
A pandemic, according to the WHO, is the worldwide spread of a new disease.
Check back for updates on this developing story.