Anyone who returns to the Cayman Islands on the emergency British Airways flight next week will be confined for 14 days in a government-monitored isolation unit.
Premier Alden McLaughlin urged people to stop panicking about the incoming flight from London, saying Cayman residents had more chance of contracting COVID-19 at the supermarket than from the returnees being kept in strict isolation.
His comments came amid widespread community anxiety over plans to repatriate Caymanians stranded in the UK.
McLaughlin cited concerns that the flight could cause a reintroduction of the virus to the islands and said that was not a great threat, given the measures government was putting in place.
Those people will be put into mandatory isolation “in a place outside their home and under strict monitoring from the government”, he said.
“They will be locked away for 14 days,” the premier emphasised.
McLaughlin said the main purpose of next week’s BA flight was to bring in much-needed medical supplies and to evacuate work permit holders who had lost their jobs.
“There are a significant number of people that now want to leave and we are encouraging them to leave because the less people there are here, the easier it becomes to manage this crisis,” he added.
But he said the island had a responsibility to bring its people home.
And he insisted they presented no special threat to the community.
With community transmission of COVID-19 now confirmed, he said there was more risk from residents who failed to follow the curfew and shelter-in-place regulations.
“Given what Dr. Lee has said today, that we are now absolutely certain there is community transmission, there is far greater risk of you contracting COVID-19 in Cayman from going to the supermarket or to the bank than from people who are being mandatorily quarantined for 14 days,” he said.
“They pose far less risk to this community than individuals who move about freely, not practising social distancing and hanging together in groups.”
Governor Martyn Roper backed the stance and said there were people who needed to return home to Cayman for compassionate reasons.
“The small number that do come back will be very effectively supervised,” he said.
“The UK has spent 75 million pounds chartering aircraft to bring its nationals back to the UK; we should be able to bring 20-30 people who urgently need to come home to Cayman,” the governor added.
The flight will arrive in Cayman via Bermuda on Monday or Tuesday next week. It will return to London via the Bahamas.