Governor Martyn Roper has announced the imposition of a curfew from 9pm to 5am to prevent the spread of the coronavirus following the confirmation of two new cases on the island.
Residents must remain in their homes during that time period unless they have written authorisation from the police commissioner.
Breaking the curfew could mean a fine of up to $3,000 or a year in prison, the governor said as he announced the measure Monday.
The curfew starts tomorrow (Tuesday, 24 March) and will be in place for an initial 10 days, with a review every 48 hours by the commissioner.
Governor Roper said it was a “sensible precautionary measure” to limit people’s movement because so many people had returned to the island from areas where COVID-19 was rife.
The ban on public gatherings has also been hardened, so that no more than 10 people are allowed to congregate in one place at any time. Businesses that need more than 10 employees are exempt but must put provisions in the workplace to prevent employees from coming within six feet of each other, Premier Alden McLaughlin announced.
Major supermarkets and pharmacies will be exempt, but must put measures in place to ensure social distancing is observed. Gas stations and mini-marts are not included in that exemption, and must allow no more than 10 customers in store at any time.
Public transport, with the exception of taxi drivers who are limited to two passengers, is being shut down for an initial two weeks.
For now, public beaches remain open but police will be on patrol enforcing the 10-person congregation limit.
The premier said this would be reviewed if people flouted the public gathering regulations. He said he had seen examples of this already and urged Cayman residents not to view it as a “spring break”.
“The police will arrest people who are breaking the law,” he added.
“If we have more instances of this, we will be forced to shut down the public beaches. That would be a terrible consequence in terms of the options remaining for people to live life with some sense of normalcy,” he said.
He said Cayman was ahead of the curve but needed a huge national effort to avoid the risk of a three-month lockdown and hundreds of deaths.
“This is a massive national effort to save our own lives and those of the people we love most,” he said. “It needs everybody to believe in this in the way we believe Christ died for sinners.
“Unless it becomes that kind of mindset, for Cayman we are going to face the consequences we see every day on the television. We are not exempt from this virus.”
He made a plea to the community to do its part.
“Let’s set an example to the world about how you manage an epidemic like this. Let’s do this with the seriousness it deserves, which it warrants, and let’s save Cayman together.”
Despite reports of relatively low death rates globally, he said Cayman was taking no chances.
“Statistics are great unless you are one of those statistics, or your mother or your father is one of those statistics. Every life is important. We are not going on statistics here, ” the premier said.
This followed confirmation from Dr. John Lee, Cayman’s chief medical officer, of two new confirmed COVID-19 cases originating from Health City Cayman Islands.
Police Commissioner Derek Byrne confirmed that he was using his powers under the Police Law, Section 49, to impose a curfew. The law allows him to do so with written approval from the governor on consultation with Cabinet and the National Hazard Management Executive.
“We seek the full co-operation and assistance of the community, and I don’t think we will get anything less,” he said.
“Normal policing will continue and additional resources will be in place throughout the island to enforce the curfew.
“We are looking for full co-operation and partnership and it is for the good of the island that this is being done.”
He confirmed that exceptions would be made for medical emergencies.
The premier said the night-time lockdown allowed people the freedom to get to work, go to the supermarket or the pharmacy during the day, while limiting the chances for anyone to congregate at night.
He said he was proud of the students who had isolated themselves and urged young people in general not to see the situation as an opportunity for a party.
Cayman closed its borders at 11:59pm Sunday in an effort to prevent any new introduction of coronavirus to the island.
The territory has been on high alert since the death of a 68-year-old visitor on 14 March from complications associated with the virus. The victim, an Italian tourist from the Costa Luminosa cruise ship, who was initially taken to Health City after suffering a heart attack, was Cayman”s first conformed case of COVID-19. Two medical staff who treated him later tested positive for the virus. Two more people connected with Health City have now been confirmed to have COVID-19.
A series of escalating measures, including the closure of schools, bars and restaurants, have been put in place to contain the spread of the virus in Cayman.
- With reporting by Reshma Ragoonath and Kevin Morales
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