A Public Health England laboratory specialist is expected to be dispatched to the Cayman Islands this week to support local efforts to respond to the coronavirus threat.
The news comes as Cayman confirmed that there were no cases of COVID-19 on island.
The virus has infected more than 105,000 people worldwide and impacted 93 countries.
Premier Alden McLaughlin, Health Minister Dwayne Seymour and local health officials plan to hold the first two public meetings in Grand Cayman this week to address concerns and answer questions about government’s preparations and response to the virus.
The first Grand Cayman meeting will be held at the Mary Miller Hall in Red Bay on Tuesday, 10 March, at 7pm, followed by one at the Bodden Town Civic Centre on Thursday, 12 March, at 7pm.
A meeting was held on Cayman Brac last week, and one is scheduled for Monday, 9 March, at 4pm, at the Grouper Room at the Little Cayman Beach Resort.
UK offers Cayman COVID-19 help
A statement from the Office of the Governor, issued on Friday evening, announced the intended arrival of the laboratory specialist, saying that other technical advice is also being looked at for Cayman.
“Our relationship with the UK also enables us to have access to specialist support, including some of the best technical and scientific thinking in the world,” Governor Martyn Roper said in the statement. “I am grateful to Public Health England for their support and we will continue to work closely with them to ensure that the decisions we take are based on the best available science.”
A team from Public Health England, led by Autilia Newton, head of the Overseas Territories programme, was on island last week to discuss a number of healthcare-related issues, including the current situation with COVID 19.
Newton and a consultant in communicable disease control, the statement said, have “been discussing strategies with the Ministry of Health, Environment, Culture and Housing and the (Health Services Authority). In particular, PHE are providing support to ensure that HSA’s laboratory services can be upgraded swiftly to enable on island testing for COVID 19.”
The UK, it said, is also conducting modelling for the Overseas Territories to enable more accurate predictions of the likely impact of COVID-19, which will support the planning already being undertaken by the Cayman Islands government.
Further support to the Overseas Territories was also discussed earlier Friday at a Cabinet Office Briefing Room meeting in London.
Roper, the statement said, has just returned from a meeting in Miami with other Overseas Territories’ governors and heads of UK diplomatic missions in the Caribbean.
At the meeting, a range of regional issues was discussed, including coordination of the response to COVID-19.
Roper said, “There is a lot of planning going on in Government to ensure that the impact of COVID-19 on the Cayman Islands is managed effectively. We have high-quality health professionals in the Cayman Islands, in whom I and PHE England have full confidence, and our medical facilities are excellent.”
He urged the public to seek information on COVID-19 only from official government sources.
“The risks of rumours and false information in this situation are real and we need to remain calm, act on official scientific advice and continue to go about our day-to-day business,” he added.
The advice comes a day after Cayman port officials said there was no truth to a social media message being circulated on WhatsApp claiming that containers are not being allowed to be discharged locally.
“Commerce continues as normal. The protocols of public health are being upheld and there is no need for fear or panic,” Acting Port Director Joseph Woods said in a statement to the media Thursday evening. He issued the statement in response to a voice message that was being circulated alleging that government is not allowing any containers to come into the Cayman Islands.
Public meetings schedule”
Monday, 9 March, 4pm:
Grouper Room, Little Cayman Beach Resort
Tuesday, 10 March, 7pm:
Mary Miller Hall, Red Bay
Thursday, 12 March, 7pm:
Bodden Town Civic Centre