Plans for the 2020 census, set to take place in October, remain up in the air as Economic and Statistics Office Director Adolphus Laidlow has said officials are reviewing next steps as Cayman continues to battle the COVID-19 health crisis.

Laidlow, in response to queries from the Cayman Compass Friday, said no decision has been taken on whether the census will move ahead as planned.

“We are currently considering the pros and cons to conducting Census 2020 in the midst of COVID-19. The census was approved for later this year but the Ministry of Finance Officials and the ESO have not made a final decision thus far,” Laidlow explained.

The last census was conducted in 2010.

Laidlow said the census is not legally required every 10 years in Cayman.

This means there would be no legislative changes required to move the census date if needed.

“Some countries have it every five years. It’s just best practice for every 10 years if local conditions prevail, as most countries are currently postponing due to COVID-19 and budget constraints,” he added.

At a COVID-19 briefing this week, Premier Alden McLaughlin said while there is no official data available to determine Cayman’s current population, government estimates there are around 65,000 people on island. This, he said, is based on a calculation of the number of people who have already left the island on evacuation flights.

As for the October census, McLaughlin said, there is still time to consider whether to proceed with the survey based on the situation with COVID-19.

He said that the coronavirus outbreak in Cayman is evolving “pretty quickly and in a very positive way”.

While acknowledging there are still concerns about a possible second wave of COVID-19 infections in September, McLaughlin said, “[W]e hope to have insulated Cayman from that possibility,” adding that the country never really had a first wave.

He said government is doing everything it can to avoid waves happening in Cayman.

Assuming things continue on the present trajectory, the premier said he wouldn’t see any reason why the ESO couldn’t proceed with a census in October.

However, he said, the closure of the borders could lead to “artificial” results, and officials involved in the census have yet to discuss any possible issues with Cabinet.

The ESO previously suspended its Labour Force Survey, postponing the spring report that was scheduled for March, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is no timeline for when that survey will be rescheduled. Since the information is collected through face-to-face interviews, Laidlow said the government will not put household members and enumerators at risk of contracting COVID-19.

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