Premier warns of beach closures unless people comply with rules

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Premier Alden McLaughlin issued a stern warning Saturday that he will shut down public beaches if residents do not comply with the soft curfew and ‘shelter in place’ regulations.

The warning came after sunbathers flocked to beaches within hours of the lifting of Cayman’s 24-hour curfew on Saturday.

“That is not going to work, folks,” McLaughlin said at Saturday’s COVID-19 press briefing.
The premier, who was visibly displeased with the reports of large groups on the beach, said such gatherings were not envisaged in the regulations and the terms of the soft curfew.

“If the commissioner tells us tomorrow, ‘Listen, I can’t enforce this,’ we are going to close the beaches. Then no one will get to go there and anybody that the commissioner’s people see there, they will know are in breach of the regulations,” McLaughlin said Saturday.

Under the regulations, the public is allowed one and a half hours for exercise, walking the dog or a brief swim. Limited movement is allowed during daylight hours for going to the supermarket, pharmacy or gas station. No movement is permissible at night for anyone other than workers designated as essential staff and, in their case, only in the pursuit of their duty.

Premier Alden McLaughlin warned Saturday that public beaches may be closed if people do not stop sunbathing and gathering there, in breach of shelter-in-place regulations.
Premier Alden McLaughlin warned Saturday that public beaches may be closed if people do not stop sunbathing and gathering there, in breach of shelter-in-place regulations. – Photo: Stephen Clarke

The premier said people need to understand the consequences of what he called “irresponsible” and “selfish” behaviour.

“You force the government to become more and more restrictive, to get it to a position where we can actually enforce the rules,” he said.

Police Commissioner Derek Byrne, who spoke at the briefing, said “a very serious conversation is going to have to be had” in light of the public’s response to the soft curfew.

McLaughlin agreed.

“If this present construct is not going to work, we are going to have to make adjustments to it, and that is going to mean that it is going to become necessarily more restrictive. It is the last thing we want to do, but we cannot expect the commissioner and his team to do more than they are currently doing,” the premier said.

He added, at the moment, it is unclear how long Cayman is going to have to limit movement and enforce a night-time curfew. The current curfew is in place until 3 April, at which point it will be reviewed.

If non-compliance continues, the premier said on Saturday, it may come to the point where beaches will be closed to the public.

“I appeal again for people to be reasonable, to exercise common sense and to follow the rules; otherwise, you make life harder for all of the people around you – all of your friends and neighbours and family who will be deprived of access to the beaches because you decided you want to have a party,” McLaughlin said.

At the press briefing, Governor Martyn Roper reminded the public that the regulations are quite clear in stating, “that you can go out for 90 minutes for exercise, whether that’s walking a dog or going for a walk or jogging.”

“So nobody should be sunbathing on the beach. That is not in the spirit of those regulations,” he said.

The government is scheduled to hold a press conference to update the public on the latest COVID-19 developments at 2pm today (Sunday, 29 March).

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