Isolation now mandatory for returning residents

Education minister Julianna O'Connor-Connolly joined the panel for Friday's press briefing
Education minister Julianna O'Connor-Connolly joined the panel for Friday's press briefing. - Photo: Reshma Ragoonath

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Anyone returning to the Cayman Islands this week is legally required to isolate under the Public Health Law, officials said Friday. Failure to do so will be a criminal offence punishable by up to six months in prison.

Dr. John Lee, Cayman’s Chief Medical Officer, made the announcement as he confirmed there had been no new cases of the virus in Cayman with 23 more tests coming back negative. In total 88 tests have been carried out so far, with three cases confirmed – all associated with the Italian visitor who died at Health City.

All of the suspected cases from Health City have now come back with no further positive tests. The hospital could reopen within the next week if and when the Caribbean Public Health Agency confirms all the test results, according to Health Minister Dwayne Seymour.

Officials stressed the legal obligation for returning passengers to isolate to prevent any new introduction of COVID-19 to Cayman.

Dr. Lee read from the Public Health Law during Friday’s press briefing, emphasising that it was a legal requirement to follow the guidelines. Isolation is not optional.

He said, “I am making it a requirement that all returning people to this island be isolated for 14 days.”

“If you don’t comply with that you are guilty of an offence,” he added.

“There have been a lot of concerns and reports that people are not complying… it is of upmost importance to protect the health of the people of the Cayman Islands. We felt it was necessary to require people to stay put.”

Even for those that had not been exposed potentially to the virus, he said the best advice was to stay home and don’t gather with others.

Premier Alden McLaughlin added that it was essential that anyone coming into Cayman co-operated with the isolation protocols.

He added, “We require that anyone who is returning to these islands isolate for a period of 14 days, if it is not self isolation then they must be isolated in one of the facilities that the government has made available.”

Empty hotels are being used as isolation centres. So far 29 students have opted to stay at the dedicated centre with 7 more arriving today.

Responding to concerns about expat workers stranded in Cayman without income because their jobs had been impacted by mass closures, the Premier said the government would do what it could for them.

“We can’t and won’t let people who are here be without a roof over their head or without food,” he said.

He acknowledged this is a “worldwide crisis” and many countries’ borders were closed. He said the Needs Assessment Unit would take calls from people without the means to live, regardless of where they come from, and urged them to call the hotline on 946-0024.

He added that, where possible, employers should step up.

McLaughlin praised the banks for putting mortgages on pause for three months and urged landlords to be charitable to tenants struggling with rent. He said that with thousands of people leaving the island in the past weeks because of the collapse of tourism, apartments would be empty and market forces would drive rents down.

 

Education minister Julianna O’Connor-Connolly joined the panel for Friday’s press briefing. – Photo: Reshma Ragoonath

Meanwhile Education Minister Julianna O’Connor Connolly outlined plans for remote learning to continue with schools closed through the end of April. The U.K. announced the postponement this week of summer G.C.S.E and A-Level exams and it is not yet clear if Caribbean examining boards will follow suit. The education minister said the situation was being monitored.

Cayman’s first coronavirus case – a 68-year-old Italian man who was transferred to Health City from a cruise ship after suffering a heart attack – died from complications associated with the virus last Saturday. A total of 41 people associated with the East End hospital who came into contact with the victim were isolated and tested for the virus. Two medical staff tested positive. Their symptoms were said to be mild.

In a statement Friday, Health City confirmed that no further staff members currently in quarantine have tested positive for COVID-19.

“All of the 41 samples submitted for testing from Health City have now been tested, with a total of two medical staff members testing positive for the virus,” according to a statement from the hospital

“All Health City staff members, their families and any other individuals who were considered to be in direct risk of infection were tested. The direct contacts of the two individuals (who do not have any children) who have tested positive have also been in quarantine.”

The island will close its borders on Sunday at 11:59 p.m. With the exception of freight, there will be no air or sea traffic in and out of Cayman, for a minimum of 21 days after that time.

All bars, restaurants and barber shops will close their doors. Meanwhile returning residents are being instructed to isolate for 14 days to avoid the potential spread of the virus. Their families must also isolate for the measure to be effective. Empty hotels – closed because of the lack of tourists – are being used as isolation centers for returning students or to help segregate essential workers from their families where considered necessary.

  • With reporting by Reshma Ragoonath and Kevin Morales

Full coverage: Coronavirus

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