20 coronavirus tests come back negative

Bars to close from Sunday

Government Press Briefing
Government makes the announcement Tuesday. Photo by Reshma Ragoonath.

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The Cayman Islands has no new cases of the coronavirus after 20 tests, including 19 from Health City staff came back negative

Public health officials said a further 40 tests are outstanding with results coming in the next few days.

The negative results are preliminary and will be confirmed by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA). Those patients remain in isolation in the interim and are being contacted daily by medical staff.

Cayman’s first and so far only 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.

Multiple staff members who came into contact with the patient were tested for the virus.

The samples are being tested in batches, and more information on others tested will be available soon, according to Dr. John Lee, Cayman’s Chief Medical Officer.

He said it was normal practice to get the tests confirmed by another institution, in this case CARPHA.

“Because this is a new test, we are doing due diligence,” he said.

Bars to close from Sunday

Despite the positive news, Premier Alden McLauglin said Cayman’s efforts to contain the virus would continue.

As of Sunday night, bars will be closed and restaurants will be restricted to takeout only. Gyms will also be ordered to shut their doors. That follows the decision announced yesterday to close the airport to passenger travel for 3 weeks from Sunday night.

He said the measures would help prevent or slow the spread of the virus. He added that government was not ready to “ratchet up” to a full curfew at this point.

“We are trying to be rational and proportionate… As of now, we have one COVID-19 case confirmed and, unfortunately, that has resulted in a death, but we don’t have any other evidence of any local transmission.”

He said government believed it was inevitable that Cayman would have to deal with that at some point and all efforts were focussed on slowing transmission and ramping up hospital readiness.

Lee said four new ventilators – used to help people with severe breathing difficulties – were being brought to the island. Once Health City reopens, there will be 32 “ventilated beds” in the Cayman Islands, which he said was sufficient compared to other countries.

However, with the potential for the crisis to escalate, Lee said health officials were scouting locations for possible emergency field clinics.

“We are looking for buildings, that… we can designate as emergency medical facilities, should that need arise. If we can flatten the curve enough or manage to stop it (coronavirus from spreading), I hope we never need that.”

Government stipend

McLaughlin said government would be making a one-time financial stipend of $425 to those on financial assistance to support those struggling in these times.

He said other measures were also being worked out to help those who will lose income as the tourism industry crashes.

Returning students

The premier added that, following the closure of the airport, hundreds of students would be returning home to the islands from the US or the UK.

He urged them not to treat the situation as a “spring break” and said they should put themselves and their families into isolation for 14 days.

He said isolation has to be self-enforced.

“We don’t have the legal force or the resources to enforce self-isolation,” he said. “We appeal to people to do what is right by themselves, their communities and their families because they put everyone at risk by not doing so.”

The premier said the police could not enforce isolation because it was not illegal.

“It is a crime against morality,” he added.

Health officials said anyone returning to the island would need to isolate along with their families for the process to be effective.

Governor Martyn Roper said the country needed to create a culture of self-enforcement through positive peer pressure.

“This is a really difficult situation,” he said. “If we are going to get through it, we need everyone to step up and support everyone else.”

The premier said government’s immediate priority in terms of the economic impact was to ensure that everyone had access to food, utilities and healthcare and had a roof over their head.

He added, “We need to focus on how we keep many businesses running as possible so the whole country is not flat on its face. We can’t do this long term. We have to keep this period as short as possible.”

  • Reporting by James Whittaker, Reshma Ragoonath and Kevin Morales

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  1. Question. How does reducing operating hours at the grocery stores and pharmacies reduce the spread possibilities of the covid 19 virus. It seems to me that with lower operating hours more people will be forced to use the store during those hours so ithe early closure will have the opposite effect!!!