The phrase “Cayman strong” has emerged as a symbol of hope and heroism in a time when this country continues to face an invisible adversary, COVID-19.
The virus, which continues to leave a trail of death and economic destruction in its wake, touched local shores through a humanitarian effort by local doctors to save the life of a cruise ship passenger on 23 February.
How we got here
The passenger, a 68-year-old Italian man, had suffered a cardiac emergency aboard the Costa Luminosa cruise ship, a vessel that would later provide the breeding ground for the virus among those aboard.
At the time of his arrival in Cayman, the tip of what would be a globally devastating iceberg was only emerging and the passenger, who came from Italy – a country where the population is reeling from the impact of coronavirus – had shown no signs of the virus.
However, that would change in early March as his deterioration in condition would trigger a lockdown at Health City Cayman Islands and prompt local leaders to initiate Cayman’s COVID-19 response plan.
What followed was period of locking down, starting in March with border closures and limited movement around the islands to suppress the spread of the virus.
Premier Alden McLaughlin said the move to shut the country down was no “easy decision” and he knew the action would send the economy into a “free fall” pushing the tourism industry into total collapse.
However, he said the primary focus of the national unity government was to save lives and slow the spread of the virus.
“I think, collectively, we are all of the view that if Cayman can come through this with minimal loss of life and without too many people becoming sick, and certainly not having the sort of meltdowns we are seeing in other parts of the world, when the crisis is over, we will be very well placed to get back into the business faster than most other places, and that’s what we are aiming to do,” the premier said mere days into Cayman’s curfew lockdown.
On 31 March, Cayman’s first evidence of community spread was confirmed and shortly after that a case was confirmed on Cayman Brac.
With the pressure on to boost testing locally, but challenges to access test kits, Cayman found itself in a difficult position to execute its mandate to increase screening for COVID-19.
That is when a group of Caymanians and local businesses stepped in to purchase and deliver 200,000 testing kits. The Cayman Islands Government paid for half the $4-million cost, while local philanthropist Susan Olde donated the other half.
With the provision of those kits, government has ramped up its testing and as the numbers of active positive cases drop, the country moves closer to coming out of lockdown.
It is a feat that could not be accomplished without the herculean effort from those who have now become, and will always remain, Cayman’s heroes.