One hundred days into the local COVID-19 crisis, Cayman now has 187 confirmed cases of the coronavirus as officials announced one new case on Friday.
The latest confirmed case, which is believed to be locally acquired, comes from a batch of 599 tests, Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee said at Friday’s press briefing.
The first COVID case reported locally was confirmed on 12 March, when an Italian cruise ship tourist who had been hospitalised after suffering a heart attack, tested positive for the virus.
Suppression Level 2 likely on 22 June
As Cayman continues to record mostly single-digit confirmed cases daily, the islands are preparing to further ease restrictions that have been put in place to help combat the spread of the virus.
Premier Alden McLaughlin on Friday revealed some details of the planned next stage of COVID-19 regulations – Level 2 (Minimal Suppression) – stating that it was likely to consist of two phases, implemented over four weeks.
The premier said the first phase of Level 2 likely would come into effect on 22 June, and the second phase would be in place from 5 July to 19 July “and beyond”.
“We’ve got the framework and structure done,” he said. “The hard work is working out the details and making sure all the pieces work well together.”
The introduction of Level 2 is dependent on continuing low numbers of cases being confirmed.
Cayman is currently in Level 3 (Moderate Suppression) of the five-level system. Level 1 is ‘All Clear’.
One person in hospital
At the briefing, Lee said one person, who had previously tested positive, had been hospitalised. That patient is the only person who is currently being treated for COVID symptoms in hospital and is in stable condition, he said.
Of the confirmed cases, 115 have recovered.
Lee said there are currently 317 people in self-isolation at their homes and another 96 in government isolation facilities.
He added that there are now three symptomatic cases and 67 asymptomatic.
As of Friday afternoon, 17,227 people have been tested for coronavirus in Cayman.
Governor Martyn Roper said it was encouraging that just one new case was confirmed Friday, meaning Cayman remained “on track to ease restrictions from 21 June”.
In the meantime, he urged people to continue to observe social distancing, basic hygiene and the wearing of masks.
Repatriation flights and quarantine
The governor stated that 278 people were waiting to board the Heathrow-bound British Airways flight which was due to depart late Friday afternoon. The flight, via Turks and Caicos, arrived here on Thursday, and brought about 100 people onto the island.
McLaughlin addressed social media exchanges that have claimed that new work-permit holders had been given priority for seats on Thursday’s inbound BA flight and places in the government isolation facilities.
He insisted this was not the case, saying that Caymanians and permanent residents had been given priority “from the very start” and made up the vast majority of those on the BA flight.
Giving a breakdown of the passengers on board, he said 69 were Caymanians, two were permanent residents, 12 were civil servants who are expats, and 12 were individuals coming to work on the airport project. In total, there were 19 people on the flight who are on work permits.
The premier acknowledged, however, that there is an issue with the availability of rooms in government-approved mandatory isolation facilities on island. There are currently three such facilities available – the Holiday Inn, the Wyndham Resort and Palm Heights – with a total room stock of 226.
The Palm Heights rooms are available at a cost, and have mostly been taken up by work-permit holders isolating after arriving on island, as well as some Caymanians and permanent residents “who prefer more upscale accommodation”, he said.
The number of isolation rooms available has an impact on how many people are allowed to travel to Grand Cayman from overseas. The premier said the government is continuing to seek new quarantine accommodations and discussions are under way with a major hotel.
In the meantime, a number of Caymanians and permanent residents remain overseas, awaiting permission to be allowed to return home. McLaughlin said he had been advised that 223 Caymanians and permanent residents in the US and other countries had registered as wanting to come home to Cayman.
He reiterated that anyone arriving in Cayman from overseas is required to be quarantined in a government facility for 14 days.
“We understand some would prefer to self-isolate,” he acknowledged, but said the level of infection being seen in the US and the UK meant that Cayman could not run the risk of allowing people to self-isolate as the authorities here do not have the means to effectively monitor if people are staying at home for the required 14-day period.
Civil servants invited to donate to needy
Deputy Governor Franz Manderson announced a new community-support initiative in which civil servants are being invited to donate to people in need in the Cayman Islands.
Members of the Civil Service can give one-off donations or arrange for payments to be taken from their salaries to assist people as part of the voluntary initiative, to be known as CIG Cares.
“We all know there has been a huge increase in the number of people going to the Needs Assessment Unit, and we ant to make sure that no one in Cayman goes hungry,” Manderson said, adding that civil servants had been very supportive of the programme.
Officials said the next press briefing would be held on Wednesday, 17 June.