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The Cayman Islands is being put on ‘lockdown’ in an effort to contain the spread of coronavirus through the community.
The night-time curfew, imposed Monday, has been expanded to the hours of 7pm to 5am, and will be in place for the next 10 days, subject to constant review by the Commissioner of Police.
At all times of day, public gatherings will be restricted to a maximum of two people, unless they are members of a core family group.
All non-essential businesses will imminently be required to close, unless they can operate with staff working from home.
Premier Alden McLaughlin said, “Non-essential persons are required to shelter in place. That means, stay at home.”
“We are not going to allow economic considerations to kill our people.”
He said Cayman was treating this as a war and the aim was to keep casualties to a minimum.
The premier said measures would be implemented to allow people to go to the supermarket, the pharmacy or the doctor, but everyone in the country is advised to stay home unless absolutely necessary.
The ‘shelter in place’ order for businesses was later temporarily postponed as Cabinet grappled with the details of who should be exempt. It is expected it will be put in place Wednesday.
McLaughlin said government had received a slew of requests for exemptions from private sector companies, adding that some businesses seemed to be prepared to risk the lives of their employees to keep running during the crisis.
If that attitude continued, he said, a 24/7 curfew could be necessary.
“We are not going to allow economic considerations to kill our people,” the premier warned.
“Quite frankly, it seems the message has not got through to the private sector and employers,” he said. “We have on our hands a national health emergency, capable of killing hundreds of our people.”
He said there had been requests for thousands of exemptions from all kinds of businesses and it would be pointless to proceed if they were all granted.
“Everybody is concerned about the economic consequences of the order; we are, too, but economic consequences can never be more important than lives.”
McLaughlin added, “I am coming to the view sometimes that we are going to have to bury some of our own people for this message to get through.“
He accepted the provisions would have a significant economic effect over the next 10 days.
But if the strategy proves successful, he said, it would not only save hundreds of lives but also prevent a potential months-long lockdown with far more severe economic consequences.
“If we can get through these 10 days without significant community spread, we will have achieved a huge victory,” he said.
Anyone who breaks the 7pm to 5am curfew (adjusted from an earlier announcement of 7pm to 6am) could face a $3,000 fine or a year in prison.
Emergency services, Customs and Border Control, environmental health workers, doctors and named supermarkets are among those deemed essential and exempt from the curfew.
Supermarkets are not allowed to open during curfew hours, but can have staff in their stores to stock take, for example.
Earlier on Tuesday, the premier announced further restrictions on movement, including the limit of two people for social gatherings at all times.
People can still go to the beach during the day if they stay six feet from others, he said.
The new level of restrictions followed confirmation of a positive coronavirus test involving a patient at the Cayman Islands Hospital, who was not believed to have travelled or been in contact with anyone who had been overseas. This brings to six the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Cayman Islands.
Over the past few weeks, Cayman’s leaders have been implementing a series of escalating measures to help contain the spread of the virus. The territory’s borders were closed on Sunday night, schools have been closed for over a week, and public gatherings have been banned, among other emergency actions.
- With reporting by Reshma Ragoonath and Kevin Morales
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