Schools close, cruise ships banned to prevent coronavirus spread

Cayman Islands government coronavirus press conference
Cayman Islands government coronavirus press conference. Photo: Reshma Ragoonath

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All Cayman’s schools will be closed and extensive travel restrictions put in place to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Cruise ships have been banned from coming into Cayman for the next 60 days, effective Monday. There will be no travel from European Union countries as well as Japan, Korea and Iran.

UK, US and Jamaica are not impacted for now but more countries could be added in the coming days.

Government is also imposing a ban on gatherings of 50 people or more. Private and public schools will be closed through April 27.

Premier Alden McLaughlin made the announcement of the emergency measures at a government briefing just after 3:30pm Friday.

Supermarkets, hospitals and pharmacies are the only institutions exempted from the ban on public gatherings.

Restaurants and other businesses as well as churches will be affected. Batabano carnival will be cancelled.

Workplaces are not considered ‘public gatherings’ but the Premier said employers would have to make difficult decisions and possibly implement shifts or work from home policies.

He said the emergency situation could last as long as three months.

“We are in completely uncharted territory,” he said.

“This is like a hurricane that has a three month duration. It is like preparing for that and trying to deal with the consequences of that.”

Health Minister Dwayne Seymour urged people to cancel travel plans and stay on the island.

Governor Martyn Roper warned against the spread of rumours and false news and said anyone who did so could be prosecuted.

McLaughlin said the government would try to hold a press briefing every day to keep people updated and urged everyone to use official and reliable sources only.

The special measures follow the first confirmed case of the virus in the Cayman Islands Thursday evening and the news Friday that more than 30 Health City staff who had come into contact with the impacted patient were being quarantined and tested for the virus.

The hospital has temporarily closed as a precaution. The only confirmed case in Cayman so far remains the 68-year-old Italian man, who was initially transported to Health City from a cruise ship after suffering a heart attack. He later showed signs of respiratory problems, was put in an isolation ward and was tested and confirmed to have the coronavirus.

Health officials said the impacted patient had been a passenger on the Costa Luminosa ship, which docked in Cayman on Feb. 29. Italians on board the ship were banned from landing in Jamaica a day before it arrived in Cayman but no such restrictions were in place here.

 

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