Premier Alden McLaughlin called on civil servants to stop leaking information to the public before formal decisions are taken in Cayman’s COVID-19 crisis response.
His comments followed a Cayman Marl Road post that outlined the contents of a proposed draft plan for the phased reopening of the local economy.
The premier, speaking at Friday’s COVID-19 briefing, said the document was an early copy of the decisions that were yet to be finalised by Cabinet and its publication prompted concerns from various sectors of the community.
He appealed to those who distributed the document to stop leaking information.
“All it does is cause questions, concerns, confusion, and myself, my colleagues and the governor to spend endless amounts of time refuting them, calming people down,” he said. “It really serves no positive purpose and, I regret to say this, but it’s civil servants that are doing it. I appeal, please, contain yourselves. We all need to get through this together. This is really, really unhelpful.”
The most recent leak was not the first time since the COVID-19 crisis began. In the early stages of the government’s response, some of Cabinet’s decisions made their way into the public domain before being formally announced, such as widespread rumors about the closure of schools and airports, and the curfew times being contemplated.
Referring to the leaked document, the premier said his concern was not so much about the actual information, as it was not “a military secret or something politically sensitive”, but the ensuing panic that it created when it was published.
The document supposedly contained a list of the construction companies being considered for the second phase of the reopening, most of which were the larger construction companies.
This, the premier said, triggered concerns within the industry.
He explained that when government holds such discussions, a lot of ideas get thrown around, “because that’s how you are able to debate the virtue or lack thereof of a particular position.
“But when you put out the information as though it has been a decision and, in this case, there was supposedly a list of companies of the big construction companies who had been approved to go and, then, of course, the obvious question is ‘So what happened to us small-sized, medium-sized construction companies? We’re not going be able to operate’.”
Government, he assured, was doing everything it can to be as fair as possible “while bearing in mind that risk always must be the principal consideration”.
He said government is working on a plan with Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee as to how it is able to ensure that small construction companies are able to operate.
“I mean, the simple answer to it, in practical terms, is if you’ve got four or five or six men, we test them all; then, you can go ahead and go to work and this worker doesn’t have to be spending his time or her time worrying about, is the person I’m working with likely to be positive or not,” the premier said.
He added, “But there are practical considerations around all of these things, and we’re still trying to work out the details of how we do all of these things, but panicking people in the construction industry… it’s just unhelpful and a waste of time.”
On Friday, the premier announced the updated shelter-in-place regulations, which is the first phase of reopening Cayman’s domestic market. It includes the reopening of money- transfer services, retail businesses (delivery only,) and pool and landscaping services, among others.
Changes were also made to the curfew with the allotted 90 minutes of exercise that people are allowed moved to between 5:15am and 7pm daily, except Sundays. Hard curfew, from Monday, will run from 8pm to 5am.
The new curfew regulations are set to run until Friday, 15 May, before being reviewed.
Beaches remain closed.