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Recruitment plans for the development of the Cayman Regiment has been put on hold, according to Governor Martyn Roper.
With Cayman’s COVID-19 crossing into double digits on Sunday and the country on lockdown, Roper said the focus was mainly on coronavirus efforts.
“I do think a crisis like this just shows how valuable a defence regiment will be for the Cayman Islands,” he said on Sunday at government’s daily COVID-19 briefing.
In December, the National Security Council had authorised an initial force of seven officers and 50 reserve volunteers, all of whom would have been put through initial training and equipped before summer 2020.
“We’ve had to pause it because of COVID-19. As you all know we had got the commander, appointed two senior officers, five junior officers who’d gone to Bermuda for training and a sergeant major. The next step was to recruit the 50 new reservists and send our officers to Sandhurst but we’ve had to pause that,” Roper explained.
The five junior officers completed basic training last month with the Royal Bermuda Regiment. They have been deployed locally on COVID-19 support.
“Three of the officers have been helping Hazard Management and three of them have been working on our hotline and we’ve also had one of them at [Comfort] Suites helping with the supervision there of our returning students,” he said.
Former UK Royal Dragoon Guards officer Simon Watson was appointed commanding officer for the local regiment. Watson is supported by Simon Spiers and former Trinidad and Tobago judge Andre Mon Desir, who serves as senior legal advisor.
Roper said work is continuing on the creation of an air bridge between Cayman, the UK and other Overseas Territories.
As for the emergency travel helpline, the governor said it remains open to those who need help.
“We’ve been speaking to British Airways about arranging a flight. I hope to be able to make an announcement quite soon on that. Now we’ve had good discussions, but we do need to know if there are people out there who need to leave to go to London so please do ring the helpline if you want to let us know,” Roper said.
The travel hotline is 244-3333 and is manned Monday to Friday from 9am-5pm.