Premier targets total eradication of coronavirus in Cayman

Runners on South Sound
Population growth has fueled Cayman's economy but has also put pressure on public spaces. -Photo: Taneos Ramsay

Premier Alden McLaughlin said Tuesday he believes it is possible to completely eradicate the coronavirus from the Cayman Islands.

He said government was ahead of the curve and was pursuing such “aggressive” suppression measures because he believed it was possible to create a “virus-free” island.

He acknowledged there had been a drop in the standard of living because of the restrictions and that businesses and the economy would suffer. He accepted that no country in the world had completely eradicated the virus.

But for Cayman, he said, it was possible. If the island can get to a point where it has no new cases for 14 days, he believes the restrictions can start to be relaxed.

“It is absolutely achievable to eliminate the disease here,” he said.

Premier Alden McLaughlin believes it is possible to eradicate COVID-19 from Cayman. – Photo: GIS

“We have the capacity to test every single person here and some more. That is why we believe eliminating the disease within Cayman, with our borders remaining closed (is possible).”

He said it would require collective determination and will to do so.

“The advice we have had is that if we can get to a point where there are no positive results for 14 days, we can start to look at easing some of the restrictions on a phased basis.”

That is unlikely to include the reopening of schools across the island. The premier said he believed that would not happen until the next academic year in September.

Education Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly is expected to give a fuller update at Wednesday’s briefing.

40 tested in George Town complex

Around 40 people from a George Town apartment complex have been tested for COVID-19 amid fears of an outbreak after a patient failed to isolate.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee said public health teams had now swabbed everyone in the 26-unit complex.

He said further contact tracing was taking place on the residents’ wider connections. It follows an announcement Monday that a patient who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and was supposed to be in isolation at their apartment had failed to stay home. That person has been put into a secure government isolation unit.

Lee said there were no new results Tuesday because the lab technicians, who had been working non-stop, needed to be given a break.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee gives an update on coronavirus at Tuesday’s daily press briefing. – Photo: GIS

In total, Cayman has had 54 positive cases and 526 negative cases, with six people fully recovered and six clinically recovered. Patients are only declared fully recovered after they record a negative ‘clearance’ test. Lee said more would move into the ‘recovered’ group once further testing was done.

There are 16 people currently symptomatic, including five who have been admitted to hospital, with one on a ventilator. All those were said to be stable.

Lee said Cayman was still in a situation where it had “clusters of cases”, rather than widespread community transmission.

“That is where we hope to stay,” he said.

“That is why we are putting these immense efforts into the suppression of COVID-19, so we don’t move to sustained community transmission… That’s where the number of people getting sick and the number of people dying starts to rise.”

McLaughlin said there was no thought of putting people who tested positive into mandatory state-run isolation facilities. He said to do so would risk people hiding symptoms and not volunteering for tests unless they were “gravely ill”.

There have been very few people with coronavirus who have not complied with mandatory isolation and Governor Martyn Roper said he believed the balance was currently right.

Evacuation flights a work in progress

Roper said work was continuing to organise evacuation flights for work-permit holders who had lost their jobs.

He said he was confident that flights to Miami, Canada and Nicaragua would be arranged. A flight to Jamaica is proving more challenging.

Another British Airways flight is being organised from London.

Any prospect for Cayman’s Indian community to get home is not workable for the time being, Roper added. He said Indian airports were closed for the next three weeks and nothing could be arranged.

Easter weekend busy for police

Police Commissioner Derek Byrne said 84 people had been warned for prosecution over the Easter weekend – meaning they will be charged for breaching curfew and will appear in court at a later date.

He said Easter Sunday was the worst day to date for violations of the hard curfew, with 50 people caught in breach.

Cayman is currently operating under a fluctuating soft and hard curfew to contain the spread of the virus. The hard curfew, from 7pm to 5am and all day Sunday, means only essential workers can leave their homes.

Beaches are off-limits for everyone until Friday at least. Byrne said he was not concerned that this could potentially force people who are out legitimately exercising into a smaller number of public areas, such as the South Sound boardwalk, which has become crowded with joggers and walkers in the evenings.

At Seven Mile Beach, Saturday evening, the coast was already clear. Someone had left a hand painted sign with a message for Cayman Islands residents. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay.

Both he and Lee said people out exercising were ‘doing the right thing’ but urged them to maintain social distancing.

Lee also advised that joggers (15 feet) and cyclists (60 feet) should keep even wider distances because the speed at which they move risks broader transmission of particles in their breath.

  • Additional reporting by Reshma Ragoonath

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  1. If we can make these Islands 100% virus free I’ll turn cartwheels.

    Here are some facts. Feel free to check the infection numbers on:

    And population numbers on Google.

    Cayman Islands population about 60,000. 54 infections and 1 death.

    South Korea. Population about 53 million. 10,564 cases. 222 deaths

    Hong Kong. Population 7.4 million. 1,013 cases. 4 deaths

    Vietnam. Population 93 million. 266 cases. 0 deaths

    What are these countries doing?

    Lots of testing.

    Isolation of infected people with their household.

    Everyone wears a mask outside their homes.

    Here’s the kicker. Their economies are NOT shut down although social distancing is required.

    • My point above is that we need to learn from the best practices of other countries.

      South Korea may have 10 thousand cases but their population of 53 million is 1,000 times that of these islands. By comparison we “should ” have 10 not 54.

      Hong Kong is extremely crowded with people living in tiny apartments close to each other. Yet even so, with a population 150 times greater than ours they have just 1,000 cases.

      Again, by comparison we “should ” have just 6 cases, rather than 54.

      I speak to friends in Hong Kong almost daily and restaurants are open, although tables are further apart and so are ALL retail stores, with limits on how many customers at a time. Likewise public transport is in regular use.

      Asia had practice for this in 2003 with SARS and learned from what they then.

      FACE MASKS when outside the home.

  2. Testing every single person in Cayman is great. But you have to realize that finding a single positive is like “closing the barn door after the horse has run out.” Cayman can do better. In a population of 50K now, Cayman can eradicate Covid-19 through effective social distancing, staying home and staying safe, no groups together, always wearing a mask for the store, the bank etc. Shame on you folks that think its OK to congregate on the beach, in a home and the like. You know what? Taking the measures to prevent transmission will lead to the result that testing is a verification of your great works as individuals in preventing transmission–rather than a much more complex effort at tracking transmission and the sad outcome of laying to rest our parents and grandparents because we did not take individual and collective responsibility. The beach was here long before you were born and it will be here long after you die. Please obey and protect this legacy for all that are still with us!