As Cayman gradually restarts its domestic economy, thousands of workers are being given the green light to return to their jobs as part of the first phase of reopening.
“It’s really, really good to be back in business,” said Greg Bennett, who has been running a mobile car wash for just under one year. “It’s a little slow, but it’s expected; slow is better than nothing at all.”
Most businesses have been given permission to reopen partially, which limits them to either deliveries only or kerbside pick-ups. Each business must have plans that demonstrate how they will help prevent, as well as mitigate, the spread of COVID-19.
“When we come to work, we try to follow all the guidelines given by the government and the experts,” said Alex Arteaga, the operations manager of CMC Landscaping.
Arteaga and his team have been busy beating back the overgrown hedges and unwanted weeds along a section of the Esterley Tibbetts Highway.
“We have the [exemption] to work, but the virus is still here on the islands,” said Arteaga. “We need to protect ourselves. On one side, we are happy to be back at the work, but at the same time we are a little worried because we know the virus is still here.”
Donna Bailey owns and runs Bailey’s Pet Grooming services. When she reopened her doors on Monday, it was with new rules.
“We have a sign that says, ‘Stop and someone will come out to you’,” said Bailey. “We now go out and collect the pets and take them back to the store for grooming, to help reduce the amount of people who come into the store.”
Bailey employs Jeannette Salipot and Victoria Cas-Oy, a mother-and-daughter duo, who work as pet groomers. The women are among tens of thousands of people who have had to endure the last five weeks without an income.
“It’s really hard for us here and our families back in the Philippines,” said Salipot. “I just recently started in Cayman and then the coronavirus came, and boom. So, it’s really hard.”
Cas-Oy said although she is happy to be back at work, the coronavirus remains a daily concern.
“We still have to be careful, because this is the kind of enemy that we cannot see or feel,” she said. “So, we have to be careful with it.”
Despite the closure of Cayman’s borders and shutdown of the domestic economy, Bennett said he was fortunate to be able to ride out the pandemic, though it forced him to rethink how he prepares for the future.
“Well, there is no way to make up for the lost six weeks of earnings,” he said. “That’s where the government comes in. They have done a good job so far and now we just have to find a way forward.”
Speaking at a COVID-19 briefing last week, Premier Alden McLaughlin confirmed that the Economic and Statistics Office was drafting a plan to help kick-start the domestic economy.
“We are going to have to do a lot ourselves, with the borders remaining closed for quite some time, to keep money in people’s pockets, food on people’s tables and businesses open, while depending principally on the domestic market,” said McLaughlin.
The premier noted the second phase of reopening is expected to take place in the coming weeks, but said that was contingent on continuing to contain the spread of the coronavirus.