Cayman’s borders could remain closed beyond 1 Sept., Premier Alden McLaughlin said on Tuesday.
Earlier this month, Cabinet agreed that Cayman’s borders will remain closed until 30 Aug.
But, at Tuesday’s COVID-19 press briefing, the premier warned, “Given what I and everybody else is seeing in the United States, the September 1st reopening date is not looking good.”
On Tuesday, Cayman’s coronavirus cases reached 111 as Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee announced 17 positive cases, the highest total released in one day. Those results were from 1,182 tests that were processed over the long weekend.
McLaughlin said the positive cases rate remains “very low”, at 1.4% of those tested.
Asked about the likely date for reopening the borders, the premier said, “It depends on how well things go not just here, but elsewhere.”
He added, “I mean, if the virus continues to rage around us, how can we possibly open our borders and invite it to come after all the efforts we’ve made to keep it under control here.”
Cayman’s borders have been closed since late March, shortly after the announcement of its first COVID-19 case, an Italian passenger off a cruise ship. The ban applies to international flights, as well as to cruise ships and pleasure craft.
McLaughlin acknowledged that some may be fearful hearing about 17 new cases but he said he believes “as long as we keep the rate under 2%, we are in a very good place”.
He said the latest numbers might remind people “not to let down their guards” and not to press for social gatherings or for households to mix.
“Because that is what will almost certainly, in the current circumstances, cause the virus to take off again through the community,” he said.
He said Cayman is “hunting down the virus now”.
Positive cases, the premier said, have been found through the screening process and are isolated.
The individuals who have the virus are also subject to contact tracing and those they have interacted with are isolated.
“Hopefully, that will allow us, as we continue this extensive testing process, to virtually eliminate the presence of the virus in this community because we’re going to continue testing for the foreseeable future,” McLaughlin added.
Since the border closures, only freight planes and repatriation flights have been allowed to land at Owen Roberts International Airport. Only limited numbers of Caymanians and permanent residents have been allowed back into the country. Upon their return, they are quarantined in government isolation facilities for 14 days.
Governor Martyn Roper said Tuesday that the facilities are now at capacity, with 112 people isolating, so no one will be brought back on any of the return legs of repatriation flights.
Hazard Management Cayman Islands Director Danielle Coleman said the Margaritaville resort was no longer operating as an isolation facility, and that another government site will be coming offline soon.
“We’re just extending the capacity we have internally at one of the facilities,” she said.
Coleman added government is looking for alternative locations to make sure that “we do have capacity to bring people home who want to come home”.