Two new coronavirus cases, community spread confirmed

Dr. John Lee, Cayman's chief medical officer at a recent press briefing
Dr. John Lee, Cayman's chief medical officer at a recent press briefing.

Public health officials have confirmed two new cases of coronavirus with no links to overseas travel.

Dr. John Lee, Cayman’s chief medical officer, said the two incidents meant that Cayman now had community transmission of the virus.

“We should accept this condition is in our community and I do implore everybody to please stay home,” he said.

He warned that anyone who had to go out should follow strict guidelines on social distancing and should protect themselves as much as possible.

He said people needed to steer clear of each other and, particularly, of older relatives who are especially vulnerable.

“Show your love from a distance,” he said.

Photos: Alvaro Serey

As of Tuesday afternoon, Cayman had a total of 14 reported positive cases, 205 people who had tested negative, and one inconclusive result that is still being investigated.

To anyone afraid of catching the virus, Lee said, they had to steer clear of each other and “see yourself as an island”.

He reiterated the core message of all government’s measures – “Please, stay at home.”

Patients who have tested positive are either better or have been isolated at home, he said. Public health has been doing extensive tracking and contact tracing on the new cases to test and isolate those who had been in contact with them.

No change to current restrictions

Premier Alden McLaughlin said the news of the two community-transmission cases did not change government’s game plan. He urged people to just follow the measures in place and “stay home” unless absolutely necessary.

“There are not many more things the government can do, short of going to a total lockdown, which is, quite frankly, impractical,” he said.

He said the restrictions could be in place internally for six weeks to two months, and had to be flexible enough to allow people to live.

“The measures we have in place are exactly what we need to have in place,” he said.

“We have said from the start, we need to behave as though the virus is among us. If people comply with what is in place, there will be no need for further lockdown.

“Stay home as much as you possibly can, use social distancing when you have to go out. That is all you have to do.”

BA flight

The premier added he had heard significant concerns about the British Airways flight that will be coming into the island early next week and the potential for a new introduction of the virus to Cayman.

Anyone who comes back to the island on that flight 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,” he added.

He acknowledged life was going to get tougher for people in the tourism industry particularly and that hundreds more people may lose their jobs and wish to leave Cayman. He said they should try to get on the BA flight. For people from the region, Cayman Airways flights could be put on to help them get home where possible.

McLaughlin added that Cayman had put in extra measures to assist those impacted, including expats who are temporarily out of work. He said government was currently providing support to 1,653 families with food vouchers, rent and financial assistance, with 81 applications being processed.

Residents generally abiding by nightly curfew

Meanwhile, Police Commissioner Derek Byrne said there continued to be good compliance with the nightly hard curfew. He said there had been five people warned for breach of curfew overnight in Grand Cayman, including two people arrested for driving under the influence. Three people were warned for breach of curfew up to 2pm Tuesday.

He said police were concerned that too many people were still on the roads and his officers would be getting tougher on violators.

“The news today [of two new coronavirus cases] does step it up a little for us; we are four days in now and we will have to do a bit more enforcement,” the commissioner said.

The Cayman Islands is operating under a fluctuating soft and hard curfew.

‘Shelter in place’ regulations were passed Saturday, allowing a select few essential businesses, including supermarkets, pharmacies and healthcare facilities, to operate in the daylight hours. Those regulations also allow limited movement for residents to visit the supermarkets or exercise for 90 minutes.

A near total lockdown remains in place from 7pm until 5am daily, with all but the most essential workers confined to their homes.

Residents have been divided alphabetically and allocated days when they are allowed to shop or visit the bank.

The islands’ borders have been closed since 22 March, and it is hoped that if Cayman can limit the local transmission of COVID-19, it can prevent any loss of life for its inhabitants.

The curfews and restrictions on movement will be in place until next Tuesday, 7 April, at least, and could be renewed after that. If the infection rate remains low, it is possible that the island could reopen for business internally.

The borders are likely to remain shut for the foreseeable future, however. With the COVID-19 crisis escalating in the US, any easing of flight restrictions could risk the reintroduction of the virus to the Cayman Islands.

  • With reporting by Reshma Ragoonath

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