Premier: Health of frontline staff a major concern

The health of Cayman’s frontline staff, and the country’s ability to provide human resources to bolster any shortfalls should they fall ill, continues to be a source of sleepless nights for local leaders, Premier Alden McLaughlin said Wednesday.

At the daily COVID-19 briefing, he acknowledged that the issue was “a major concern and one that is keeping a lot of us awake at night as we grapple with this”, and he pressed home the message that the community should stay indoors.

Such concerns were why, he said, “it is absolutely critical” that Cayman does not allow the virus to become an epidemic locally.

He pleaded with people to stay home and reduce “the risk of us having significant community spread of this virus so that we don’t get to the numbers that really challenge our ability to cope, because there’s not many places in the world, if any, to which we can turn to for assistance”.

On Wednesday, Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee reported eight new positive COVID-19 cases, which included one by community transmission.

The announcement takes Cayman’s total cases to 22, with one inconclusive case still pending, which is now with the Caribbean Public Health Agency, Lee said. He expected to inform the public of the result in that case shortly, possibly by Thursday.

Cayman is currently on lockdown, with only essential workers allowed to traverse local roads during nighttime hours and limited movement of residents during daytime hours.

Many of Cayman’s frontline workers, like police, first responders and medical personnel, are out in the community performing their duties.

They are following protocols as outlined by health officials, but nonetheless face risks of contracting the virus, with community transmission now confirmed.

Cayman, like many countries, is challenged by a lack of testing kits for COVID-19, and McLaughlin has said the islands do not have the ability to do wholesale testing.

However, recent boosts to supplies have helped in that regard.

Cayman is in a “much better position,” he said, when it comes to being able to test “quite a number of frontline staff to see how they are”.

McLaughlin said if any frontline workers are feeling ill, “they ought not to come to work and they ought to report that”.

He said whatever healthcare resources or access they require, it will be provided.

“All government employees are entitled to free medical. So, there’s no question about that aspect of it,” the premier said.

However, he added, “We have a limited number of staff. We all worry immensely about significant numbers of police officers or doctors or nurses getting sick – that would pose some really, really serious issues for us.”

As it stands, McLaughlin said, the coronavirus is “unlike other catastrophes which we have all had to deal with here”.

“This one is global in nature. So, it’s not simply a case of us saying, ‘Well, we can go to the UK and get assistance, or go to the US and get assistance’ or anywhere else, to our brothers and sisters in the Overseas Territories, or even brought more broadly in the Caribbean,” he said.

Added to the challenge, should Cayman require outside support, those countries are also dealing with health crises.

“We are deeply conscious of these challenges,” the premier said. “Even if we can get the people, the personnel [from overseas], we would have to quarantine them for two weeks.”

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