165,000 test kits from South Korea arrive in Cayman

Airport staff unload test kits from a private plane at the Owen Roberts International Airport on Wednesday morning.

Cayman has received a shipment of 165,000 test kits which government procured from a South Korean company. A further 35,000 are on their way from London, officials said Wednesday.

The overall cost of the 200,000 kits was US$4.4 million, or US$22 per kit, according to a press release from the Office of the Governor.

The Cayman Islands government is picking up the bill for half the cost, while local philanthropist Susan Anne Olde donated the other half.

The kits arrived via a private plane early Wednesday morning, according to a tweet from International Trade Ministry Chief Officer Eric Bush.

“The Cayman government received enough COVID19 testing kits to test the population more than twice! Another part of the collective and collaborative response to protect our people. Public and private sectors working hand in hand,” he said on Twitter.

Governor Martyn Roper announced the purchase of 200,000 kits last week, and said it was being done through government-to-government discussions.

Boxes of the test kits arrive on a private plane at the Owen Roberts International Airport on Wednesday morning.

Officials said in a statement Wednesday that the remaining 35,000 kits had to be sent by commercial means via London “due to capacity constraints on the chartered aircraft and will arrive at a later date”.

“Moving consignments around the world is proving extremely difficult at the moment, so I’m pleased we’ve been able to get these test kits here in such a short space of time,” Roper said in the statement.

He added, “This consignment will enable our health professionals and front line workers, and large numbers of the public to be tested. This is a huge step in keeping on track with the containment part of our strategy.

“I would like to pay particular tribute the private sector collaborators we worked with. The generous donation from Mrs. Olde and the financing of the aircraft by Dart demonstrate the real strength that we can bring to this fight when we combine government and private sector resources and expertise.”

In the same statement, Premier Alden McLaughlin said, “I would like to add my thanks to all involved in this operation. I know how challenging it was to source, procure and transport a consignment like this from the other side of the world in such challenging times. The work and generous donations from the private sector were instrumental.  Cayman is now in a much better place in our ability to ramp up testing and keep everyone safe.”

Philanthropist Susan Olde donated more than US$2 million to help the Cayman Islands government purchase 200,000 COVID-19 test kits.

While the volume of tests that were bought is significant, the governor had said earlier that number was the minimum amount that was allowed for purchase.

He said Cayman negotiated a good deal, given the global demand for the tests.

“This doesn’t mean we are seeking to test everybody on the island, but it does give us the capacity… and we will need to work out the most appropriate policy for testing, moving forward,” he said last week.

According to Wednesday’s statement, the “complex and challenging arrangements” for the procurement and consignment were led by the Governor’s Office in collaboration with the Cayman Regiment, the Ministry of International Trade, Investment, Aviation and Maritime Affairs, the private sector and the British Embassy in Seoul who undertook due diligence to assure the quality of the testing kits and helped with local logistics.

The team also worked closely with local businessmen Vernie Coe and Craig Merren who provided the initial contacts for the suppliers.  The logistics were supported by the Dart Corporation who arranged and funded the aircraft charter to fly the consignment from Seoul via Anchorage to the Cayman Islands.

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