Multi-million dollar plan for small businesses

Minister Joey Hew

Government revealed details of a $14.5 million life support plan for small and micro businesses Monday as the coronavirus crisis continued to take its toll on the islands.

Though there were no new local test results to announce, the news that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had been taken into intensive care, suffering from the impacts of COVID-19, prompted fresh warnings about the potential seriousness of the virus.

In Cayman, the number of positive cases sits at 39, with two people currently in hospital suffering symptoms.

The closure of the borders and a series of curfew measures to keep people safe have also meant hard times for businesses.

Commerce Minister Joey Hew announced what was described as the “first tranche” of government’s economic recovery plan.

That includes a $5 million ‘soft loan’ programme aimed at small and micro businesses. Small businesses, employing up to 12 people, can apply for loans of up to $50,000 and micro businesses, employing fewer than five people, can apply for loans up to $20,000.

The loans, which will require no repayment on principal or interest within the first six months, will be administered through the Cayman Islands Development Bank.

Government is also planning a $9 million grant programme for up to 3,000 small and micro businesses to help them survive the loss of revenue due to the coronavirus crisis.

Hew said this would provide up to $1,000 monthly to selected businesses to help with cashflow for up to three months. Those grants will be targeted at businesses which are deemed to have the ability to survive the COVID crisis with government’s help.

Tourism-dependent businesses that can show a plan to transition to work in the domestic economy, will also be eligible for grant funding.

Hew said the reopening of the islands to visitors was “too far down the road” and it did not make sense to put funds into businesses that were 100% dependent on tourism.

“A key part of this is that if you are a tourism-related business, you have to be able to convert your business into one that can survive in the local economy,” he said, adding those companies would get help and support to do that.

A $500,000 training and support programme is also being put in place to provide technical support to those businesses, Hew said.

The minister said further measures for larger businesses were still being worked out but government would be providing help to prepare the island for the “post-COVID economy”.

BA flight overnights in Cayman

Governor Martyn Roper also confirmed that the British Airways flight would arrive from London via Bermuda this evening and overnight in Cayman.

He said the flight crew would be carefully “risk managed” in line with the “regulations and protocols” in place.

More than 100 Bermudians will be repatriated to that Atlantic island before the flight arrives here. No one will be boarding the flight in Bermuda.

The flight will return to London, via the Bahamas, on Tuesday morning. More British residents will be collected in Nassau.

Premier Alden McLaughlin said discussions were ongoing to get a flight out to the US, to allow Caymanians to return from that country and for island residents who had lost jobs to return to their homes.

Two coronavirus patients in hospital

Two people who have tested positive for COVID-19 are currently in hospital, Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee confirmed Monday.

There were no new results to announce, but the doctor did give an update on the health of the existing coronavirus patients, saying two were in hospital.

He said there was plenty of capacity at the Cayman Islands Hospital after they had cancelled all elective surgeries to create space.

Lee clarified that there 17 people had been tested on Cayman Brac, with still just the one positive result, which was announced Saturday.

He said the contacts of that person had all been reached and put in isolation.

Lee added that 43 students who returned from overseas two weeks ago and who had been staying in isolation in empty hotels had tested negative for the coronavirus and been released to return to their families.

The premier also highlighted progress with government support for people who had lost income because of the coronavirus. He said the Needs Assessment Unit was supporting 1,651 families, with 136 applications being processed.

Expats who are struggling and can’t get off the island can email [email protected]

On-spot ticketing starts later this week

Police Commissioner Derek Byrne said 14 people had been found to be in breach of soft curfew Monday, mainly people shopping outside of their allotted days.

He said a new system allowing police to issue on-the-spot fines was not up and running yet and tickets would be printed today [Monday]. He said, for now, curfew breakers were being warned for prosecution.

The Cayman Islands is operating under a fluctuating soft and hard curfew to contain the spread of the virus. The hard curfew, now in place from 7pm to 5am and all day Sunday, limits movement to essential workers only.

The soft curfew restricts movement during the daylight hours while allowing people limited freedom to visit the supermarket or pharmacy or to exercise.

As of this week, further limits are in place. Anyone with the surname beginning A-K is only allowed to go to the supermarket, bank or gas station on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

The L-Z group is able to do the same on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Exceptions are made for 90 minutes of exercise, which is still allowed every day except Sunday, as well as for trips to the pharmacy or medical facility.

Police will have the power from Tuesday to issue on-the-spot tickets for breaches of the soft curfew. Penalties range from $250 for failing to maintain six-feet social distance in a public space, to $500 for supermarket shopping outside of people’s allotted day, and up to $750 for opening a business without exemption.

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  1. Lifeboat Cayman

    There is no doubt that our government is doing a brilliant job safeguarding the population.
    But how can we revive the economy since the tourism market may be dead for a long time? Clearly it takes just one person arriving as a tourist with the infection and it can start here all over again.

    Could there be any merit, once the virus has been stamped out here, to market the island as a safe place for vulnerable people to live for the next year or so?

    Of course they would have to be tested for the virus before they board a plane and perhaps seating could be better spaced. But once here they could live safely.

    How many such vulnerable people would it take to get our economy moving again? 2,000 maybe? Hotel rooms could be used at a reduced cost by only having maid service once a week and perhaps a microwave cooker and small fridge in the rooms.
    Could hotels make money at, say, $150 per night with occupancy guaranteed for a year?
    Rental condos could be used as well of course.

    I think there would be no shortage of customers.

    Jobs could come back in restaurants, rental cars and taxis too.

    Just a thought. I’m not in the tourism industry.