A message from Cayman Islands Governor Martyn Roper
The world is a different place to where it was at the beginning of March. Across the globe 2.5 billion people are in lockdown, a third of humanity, a figure that is increasing all the time. COVID-19 cases have now passed the 1 million mark globally, a very sobering milestone. This underlines the gravity of the crisis we are facing.
Businesses have closed their doors, schools have shut, busy streets are now empty as more and more people watch developments unfold from the safety of their homes.
In Cayman, as we watched the number of COVID-19 cases around the globe steadily rise, the Premier and his Government took decisive, early action, far faster than almost anywhere else. Although the measures may seem drastic, social distancing and other social restrictions are slowing the spread. We have put ourselves in a good position to suppress the virus. If we succeed, and with our borders closed, that may allow us to relax some of the measures in the medium term.
I want to pay tribute to the Premier who has shown outstanding leadership. Team Cayman is united in doing everything it possibly can to protect the lives of everyone on our islands.
I want to thank the majority of people in our community on all three islands who have stepped up to the challenge and are giving full cooperation with the shelter in place measures. But we must and can do even better. We still need to see far fewer cars on the roads during the day. Further measures are under discussion and will be announced shortly.
Despite the increasingly difficult situation in the UK, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office continue to support the Overseas Territories. They have procured and funded personal protective equipment and the necessary materials for Cayman to continue testing and this consignment is due to arrive on island next week.
Baroness Sugg, Minister for the Overseas Territories, agreed to the UK air bridge, and my office has been working on the logistics for that. It is due to depart Grand Cayman for London Heathrow early next week. This is a vital link between the Overseas Territories and the UK. It gives those on island who wish to leave, the opportunity to do so. It also gives us the opportunity to bring in vital medical supplies to Cayman.
As the Premier and I have underlined in the recent press conferences, the air bridge also allows some of our people to return home (approximately 60 are due to do so). These are Caymanians and residents who have a right to return and have a compassionate need to return to be with family at this difficult time. They will go into mandatory 14-day quarantine on arrival in Government-supervised accommodation, which will be a condition of their travel. We believe this will fully mitigate any risk.
I appreciate that many in the community remain concerned about this. We would never take any action that jeopardised the health and well-being of our people. As the Premier said, the biggest risk we have is everyone here now not staying at home or following proper social distancing advice. At the end of the day, returnees are our people and we should show heart and compassion at this difficult time.
We are also in talks with the UK Ministry of Defence on the security of the Overseas Territories to look at any risks the crisis poses. The UK will provide further support if necessary.
This global crisis will come to an end. The answer to how rests in science. There is a lot of work going on in terms of international developments to try and find a COVID-19 vaccine. The UK is at the forefront of those efforts and has announced a contribution of £210 million to the international coalition working on a vaccine. This is currently the single biggest contribution of any country in the world.
There is a lot happening on testing. This remains central to suppressing the threat and finding a way out of this crisis. Here in Cayman, there is a lot of work behind the scenes on how we move forward with that, and we continue our discussions with Public Health England.
My office is working closely with the Health Services Authority and our embassy in Seoul to ensure we can bring in test supplies. We want to be in a position where we can test all our front-line health and emergency staff regularly, and ultimately everyone on island. That will help to turn the tide in our favour.
Finding drugs to reduce the severity of the disease could rapidly alleviate pressure on intensive care facilities if drugs are already approved and available. There is hope in science and we must follow the advice that is given. We must not give in to hysteria and fear.
I recognise this is a highly stressful and anxious time for everyone. But we will get through this. It will pass. What I need from everyone now is to stay home, even more so with the confirmation that we have community spread.
Please only go out if absolutely essential. We need to limit human contact. I cannot emphasise strongly enough that this will save lives.