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Premier Alden McLaughlin today announced details of a coronavirus survival plan he labelled, ‘Stay Home Cayman’.
Speaking at a press briefing, during which public health officials stated that Cayman has no new confirmed cases of COVID-19 after 15 more tests came back negative, the premier said the round-the-clock curfew would be lifted Saturday morning, but a nightly curfew will remain in place.
Businesses allowed to open during the day will include supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations, liquor stores and banks.
All other businesses will remain shut. Churches will be closed for now because of the restriction on gatherings to two persons.
Residents will be allowed out only for a once-a-day trip to the exempted businesses. There will also be a 90-minute-a-day allocation for people to exercise or walk their pets in groups of two or fewer.
“Other than that, you are required to remain at home,” the premier said.
Walking on the beach and taking a swim will be allowed but recreational water sports, including fishing and using jet-skis, are banned for now. The premier said this was a capacity issue for the police, who are unable to watch the waters and keep people safe while enforcing the curfew at the same time.
McLaughlin said ‘shelter in place’ regulations were being introduced from Saturday, which would outline the rules and exemptions in full.
He added, “I prefer to describe it as a soft curfew. The hard curfew will continue from 7pm to 5am each day.”
Under the ‘hard curfew’, all businesses are shut down – the one significant exception being restaurants that are providing delivery service up to 9pm. The ‘soft curfew’ will be more flexible, but will still ensure most people stay at home during the day unless they are on a specific mission – to exercise or to get groceries or medicine.
The current plan is for the nightly hard curfew to continue until next Friday, 3 April.
“During that time, it is essentially full lockdown, with only the most essential of services and personnel being allowed to operate,” the premier said.
McLaughlin acknowledged that, technically, a full 14-day lockdown would be the most effective policy but said this was impossible.
“People need the basic essentials of life. That is why we have agreed to the soft curfew in the daylight hours,” he said.
“We can get through this together if everyone is calm and co-operates,” he added.
The premier accepted that there would be business-owners who are upset at not being allowed to open, even under the more flexible conditions of the soft curfew.
But he insisted Cayman was in the “emergency stage” of its coronavirus response.
“Let me repeat, the government’s focus is on saving lives, not saving businesses,” he said at Friday’s press briefing.
He said if the island could get through the next week to 10 days and contain the virus, the conversation could start to move towards economic recovery.
“If we don’t suppress this virus, all the rest of it is really for naught,” he added.
McLaughlin said the country had been “absolutely exceptional” over the course of the curfew and urged that co-operation to continue to prevent another full lockdown. He said he had been driven the length of Grand Cayman Thursday night and seen the streets were empty.
“I was so proud to be Caymanian, so proud of the way as a people we are respecting this and taking it seriously. We can do this together, Cayman,” he said.
Commissioner of Police Derek Byrne said he was seeing “almost total compliance” with the curfew requirements. There were 15 breaches Thursday night and four arrests. Police stopped 400 people today up to 2pm and warned seven people for breaching curfew.
Attorney General Samuel Bulgin outlined a list of exempt persons from the ‘shelter in place’ measures, including police, fire and healthcare workers, as well as essential infrastructure services and media, as well as taxi drivers so long as their vehicles are carrying no more than two passengers. Full details can be found here.
Bulgin said supermarkets, grocery stores, pharmacies, mini-marts and gas stations could open during the day, but only between the hours of 6am and 6pm. Banks and retail credit unions will be allowed to open from 9am to 1pm.
Even these businesses are asked to maintain a ‘skeleton crew’.
All other businesses must remain shut.
McLaughlin added that the policy was designed to contain the spread of the virus.
“Thus far, there have been no persons who were resident here who have succumbed to the disease and we still have very limited evidence of community spread. That is a remarkable achievement. Overall, it seems our strategy is working,” he said.
He added a note of caution, saying, “we are not out of the woods yet”.
No new cases
Dr. Lee, Cayman’s chief medical officer, said the Cayman Islands had no new cases of the coronavirus after 15 more tests came back negative over the last 48 hours.
A separate case of a Honduran man, who lived in Cayman, and recently died in Honduras, was not related to COVID-19, Dr. John Lee, Cayman’s Chief Medical Officer, confirmed.
In total, Cayman has had eight confirmed cases of the coronavirus, all associated with people who had travelled.
A ninth positive sample, involving a patient at the Cayman Islands Hospital with no travel history, is still under investigation.
Dr. Lee said there had been no reports of those patients suffering anything other than mild symptoms.
The first coronavirus case in the territory was a 68-year-old Italian visitor who was initially transferred from a cruise ship to Health City after suffering a heart attack. He later tested positive for COVID-19 and died from complication associated with the virus.
The island was put under a round-the-clock curfew on Wednesday, running through to Saturday morning, to help prevent the local transmission of the virus.
- With reporting by Reshma Ragoonath and Kevin Morales
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