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EN ESPAÑOL: Caimán cerrará los aeropuertos durante 3 semanas
Air travel in and out of the Cayman Islands will be shut down for three weeks in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The air traffic closure starts from 11:59pm on Sunday, 22 March, and covers both the Owen Roberts International Airport in Grand Cayman and the Charles Kirkconnell International Airport on Cayman Brac. Inter-island travel will be restricted to essential movement only.
Cargo and courier flights will continue to keep the supply line to the islands open and air ambulance will be allowed to operate as normal.
For all destinations except for the United Kingdom, inbound flights will operate for returning residents only from Thursday.
Outbound flights will operate as usual through the end of Sunday, in part to allow people to leave the country if they wish to do so. From this afternoon, anyone arriving on island will be required to isolate for 14 days.
All passenger air traffic, including private aircraft, will stop Sunday when the islands will essentially be on lockdown.
“People who wish to leave should hustle to make arrangements to leave by Sunday,” Premier Alden McLaughlin said.
He added, “We have not taken this decision lightly, but it is in the best interest and for the health of the people of the Cayman Islands.
“This decision will help ensure that the Cayman Islands will be able to not only protect our people but to also protect the welfare of our tourism business and our guests over the long term.”
Hotels, restaurants and some businesses have already begun closing their doors in response to a drop in tourism.
The premier encouraged people who no longer have a job to leave the island in the coming days.
He said Governor Martyn Roper was working on helping to establish a continued ‘air bridge’ to the UK to allow medical supplies and other essentials to arrive as necessary.
McLaughlin added that Cayman Airways could be used to assist the island as needed.
There is still only one confirmed case of coronavirus on the island, with 44 other tests, including 30 from Health City pending.
The new emergency measures follows a 60-day ban on cruise ship arrivals, announced on Friday.
Cayman’s first coronavirus case was confirmed last Thursday. The victim, a 68-year-old Italian man who was initially taken to Health City from a cruise ship after suffering a heart attack, died from complications associated with the virus on Saturday.
Government is also moving to stem the economic damage caused to the tourism industry.
Premier McLaughlin said there was no way government could afford to cover the payroll for the industry. He said banks had agreed to consider mortgage and loan payment holidays for those impacted on a case-by-case basis and CUC and the water companies had agreed not to cut people off and to work with impacted customers.
The premier urged people to follow the social distance guidelines and abide by the rules on public gatherings. He said police would tackle the issue if necessary.
He said anyone who had symptoms of the virus had a “moral obligation” to self-isolate.
He warned failure to comply could be a “death sentence” for the elderly and vulnerable.
He added that he was encouraged by the support and compliance of the community.
“Some of the measures we have put in place are fairly radical but we have had complete support from all sectors of the community,” he said.
“Short term pain for long term gain is the tagline we want to attach to the measures we have put in place.”
- Reporting by James Whittaker, Reshma Ragoonath and Kevin Morales