9-year-old child tests positive for COVID-19

Diving ban could be eased shortly

A 9-year-old child has tested positive for the coronavirus in the Cayman Islands, Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee said Tuesday.

The child has symptoms that Lee said could be associated with the virus, but has not been admitted to hospital. It is not clear how the child acquired COVID-19, though the case is not associated with travel. Public health officials are investigating, he said.

All of the other 72 active cases of COVID-19 in Cayman are asymptomatic.

There was one new case announced at the press briefing Tuesday. The child was one of nine cases announced Monday.

Lee said the case was “sobering” and a sign that Cayman had to continue to be vigilant and treat the virus with caution. Seven children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the crisis began, some of whom have had mild symptoms.

Premier Alden McLaughlin added that while results were generally encouraging, the case showed Cayman could not be complacent.

“We continue to find the virus in our population,” he said. “We are still in the suppression phase and we must remain cautious.”

He said the case of the child was important and showed why reopening schools and childcare institutions was difficult.

“As we have pointed out from the very beginning,” he said, “children are the single biggest vector of the disease.”

He added that it was much harder for children to curb the natural human instincts to touch and be close to each other.

Lee acknowledged there were concerns regarding how the lockdown was affecting the mental health of children.

“This is impacting children right across the world… we are looking forward to a time when we can let the kids go out and play together again,” he said.

Despite the fact that cases continue to emerge, McLaughlin said the phased reopening of the economy was on track. Around 300 businesses – retailers, realtors and construction firms – got back to work on Monday.

The premier said the plan was to move slowly and carefully in two-week increments, to give health officials time to assess the impact of easing restrictions on the test results.

Diving regulations could be relaxed soon

During Tuesday’s briefing, Lee addressed concerns from the scuba diving community that the sport continues to be banned. Several divers, who spoke to the Cayman Compass, said the rationale for not allowing diving while allowing other sports, made little sense.

Lee recognised those concerns and urged people to be patient. Based on feedback, he said he would recommend that divers who own and use their own gear be allowed to get back in the water next time the regulations are changed. The next round of regulation amendments are expected to be implemented on 22 June.

He said public health guidance to government was based on a cautious assessment of risks.

“I seem to have been saying ‘no’ an awful lot in 2020,” he acknowledged.

He said it would be easier for him just to say ‘yes’ to every request and he recognised that people arguing for the opening of diving were doing so in an articulate and rational way. He said allowing people with their own gear to dive likely presented no risk and he would recommend that concession.

He urged people to be patient and said, “It is not yet business as usual… let us not run before we can walk.”

Lee estimates up to 15% in Cayman may have had virus

Asked about the potential of antibody testing, which will soon be available at Health City,  Lee said it would provide data on the penetration of the virus in Cayman.

If it turns out that a large percentage of residents has had the virus, he said government could be more relaxed about opening up tourism as the population would have developed an element of herd immunity.

“If there has been a huge exposure that we don’t know about, that may make us more relaxed,” he said.

However, Lee said he suspected only 10-15% of the population had been exposed to the virus. The antibody tests, which determine if someone has had the virus at any point, should provide clarity on that.

He said all front-line healthcare workers would get the test and health officials would work with the Economics and Statistics Office to try to identify a method of testing a representative proportion of the wider population.

Evacuation flights

Governor Martyn Roper said talks are going well to arrange two flights to India, to Chennai and Delhi.

The British Airways flight to London on 12 June is fully booked, though there are still seats available on the incoming leg of the journey.

The bulk of the Cayman Airways flights to Miami are also fully booked, although some seats are still available for Friday.

Roper welcomed the news that Jamaica was now allowing a repatriation flight from Cayman and said some Cayman residents would return from Kingston on the same plane.

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