Private aircraft to collect 200,000 testing kits for Cayman

Governor: Shipment could arrive next week

Government has secured a private aircraft to deliver 200,000 COVID-19 testing kits from South Korea, Governor Martyn Roper said Friday.

“We are hopeful that that will happen within the next week, which is clearly very good news,” Roper said Friday afternoon as he updated Cayman on the latest developments with the shipment of the urgently needed kits.

Roper said the order has been confirmed and will be paid for by the Cayman Islands government.

The governor declined to share the total cost of the kits until the transaction is completed.

“I’d rather wait until we’ve definitely got these goods here. It’s a very fluid and challenging global situation, so I think we just need to be a bit cautious on that,” he said, in response to queries from the Cayman Compass.

He said the kits would be ready from Wednesday to be collected by the aircraft.

On Thursday, Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee clarified that the kits that will be arriving in Cayman are the same polymerase chain reaction or PCR test, which is currently being used “as the gold standard to say whether you have active disease or not”.

He said once the kits arrive on island, Cayman will have the capacity to do more testing, which will be run on either the Health Services Authority or the CTMH Doctors Hospital machine, which is being prepped for COVID-19 testing.

Roper explained that 200,000 was the minimum amount of kits Cayman was able to purchase.

“Many countries across the world are buying far more in greater bulk than that, and we had to negotiate a special deal to buy 200,000. I also want to clarify that this does not mean we are seeking to test everybody on the island, but it does give us the capacity to test everybody on the island, and we’ll need to work out the most appropriate policy for testing moving forward,” he said.

Premier Alden McLaughlin welcomed the significant boost in testing supplies, but emphasised that following the heath guidelines, such as washing hands frequently, staying indoors and practising social distancing, can greatly assist in reducing the risk of contracting COVID-19.

He said, with the arrival of the kits, Cayman will be able to test frontline staff, such as healthcare workers, police and supermarket workers “as a priority”.

On Tuesday, a specially arranged British Airways flight is expected to touch down in Cayman carrying a further 1,700 testing kits, as well as various personal protective equipment for frontline health personnel.

At least 60 Caymanians are also expected to arrive on that flight, all of whom will be immediately quarantined at government’s isolation facilities.

Local testing ‘robust’

On Friday, Lee reported on the results of 10 test samples sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency for cross-checking and confirmation.

Cayman has been sending all its positive samples, as well as one in every 10 negative tests, for confirmation to the agency.

He said CARPHA has “corroborated” the 10 samples that were recently sent for checking.

“There were five positives and five at a random sample of our negatives, all which CARPHA have concurred with the results produced by the Health Services Authority laboratory,” he said.

Roper welcomed the findings, saying it was reassuring that CARPHA has confirmed the tests that have been done here.

“So we can be very certain that we have a robust testing system on these islands,” he added.

Navy ship to render help

Roper also announced that Royal Navy ship RFA Argus, which is now on the way to the Caribbean, will be available to help Overseas Territories with any COVID-19 issues, if required.

The ship, he said, was coming primarily for hurricane support.

“It does have a fully equipped sort of hospital on board, a hundred beds, operating theatres, a critical care unit. So, that again is another really important asset for us in the region,” he said.

Roper added that next Wednesday he will be conducting a virtual teleconference with many departments in London around security issues in Cayman.

Through the discussions, he said, they will be looking at contingency planning on security and talking through possible scenarios to be clear “where the UK might help us or might need to help us depending on how things develop”.

“But at the moment, everything remains very stable on law and order. And yet again, I’m very grateful to the police commissioner and his force for maintaining that,” Roper said.

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