Breaches of ‘soft curfew’ could mean tougher restrictions

Police were out in force at supermarkets throughout Cayman on Saturday.
Police supervise the lines outside a Foster's store earlier this week. The supermarket company issued a statement denying that any of its staff members were diagnosed with coronavirus and were still working. - Photo: Stephen Clarke

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Cayman Islands residents could be hit with tougher restrictions if compliance does not improve with the current ‘soft curfew’, Premier Alden McLaughlin and Police Commissioner Derek Byrne have warned.

The premier said there had been 10,000 unique trips recorded on traffic monitoring software in the five hours after the round-the-clock lockdown was lifted at 5am Saturday.

He said the sight of droves of people lining up outside supermarkets Saturday morning was disappointing and unsustainable and the government was looking at measures to help prevent everyone showing up at the grocery stores at once.

There were also reports of people congregating outside liquor stores, sunbathing on public beaches, and of businesses remaining open in contravention of the ban.

The premier warned residents to co-operate with the restrictions and said it was “irresponsible” and “selfish” of people to break the rules.

He said it could not be “business as usual” and cautioned people to stay home unless absolutely necessary.

“Cayman is in a very good place at the moment, but we don’t know the extent of the community spread of this virus so we have to operate as if it is everywhere.

“If this soft curfew is not going to work, it will have to become more restrictive, and that is the last thing we want to do,” he said.

Police ensure customers adhere to social distancing rules as a large line builds up outside Foster’s in West Bay Saturday. – Photo: Stephen Clarke

The soft curfew allows for a select few essential businesses – pharmacies, banks, supermarkets and mini-marts – to be open during the daylight hours. It also allows people freedom to carry out 90 minutes of exercise each day. Walking on the beach and swimming are allowed but water sports are banned.

A hard curfew remains in place during the evening time.

The premier said too many residents were not taking the social distancing rules seriously enough and warned that their attitude presented the greatest danger.

“I don’t want one single one of my people to die of this disease in Cayman – that’s what we are aiming for,” the premier said.

He added, “We know we have crashed the economy” and acknowledged it would be a long time before normalcy resumed.

He said the economy could be rebuilt but only Jesus Christ had been known to raise the dead.

He urged people to be frugal with their spending and treat the situation as a “long hurricane”, saying he could survive himself for months on “corned beef and rice”.

Police Commissioner Derek Byrne said the hard curfew had been well observed but warned there had been numerous breaches of the ‘soft curfew’, which was introduced Saturday morning.

He said people had been warned for congregating and drinking outside a liquor store and for sunbathing on public beaches, among other things. A landscaping company was also warned for operating in breach of the regulations.

“I do not think that some people understand the serious situation we are in,” he said.

Byrne said the “soft curfew” was an alternative to a “full lockdown”, to allow essential businesses to operate. And he added that there had been more movement on the road during the morning than could be justified.

Despite long lines at the supermarkets, he said, people had been good-natured, and social distancing was maintained in most cases, with the assistance of the police.

But, he said, there were far too many people out of their homes. The commissioner warned that a hard curfew – or “total lockdown” – was easier for police to enforce, and there would have to be a “serious conversation” about tighter measures based on people’s behaviour on Saturday.

Governor Martyn Roper said the regulations were quite clear and people should not leave their homes for anything but 90 minutes of exercise or to go to the store once a day.

“Nobody should be sunbathing on the beach; that is not in the spirit of the regulations,” he said.

No new results

Dr. Samuel Williams-Rodriguez, medical officer of health at the Health Services Authority, said there were no new COVID-19 results to announce.

He said new reagents – chemical compounds used in the testing process – had arrived on island and Cayman Islands now had capacity for a further 480 tests.

“We had 60 tests left and we now have another 480,” he said.

He said calls to the flu hotline were dropping, and now averaged around 75 a day.

He said 19 patients were being tested Saturday and the results will be announced Sunday or Monday.

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. That patient has now been discharged and is in isolation at home. His family is also in isolation.

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 complications 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. That was lifted on Saturday to allow essential stores, including supermarkets and pharmacies, to open in the daylight hours.

A hard curfew remains in place from 7pm until 5am, through to next Friday.

  • With reporting by Reshma Ragoonath and Kevin Morales

Full coverage: Coronavirus

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