Premier hails COVID-19 heroes as hard curfew lifted

Two new COVID-19 cases announced

Premier Alden McLaughlin hailed the heroes of Cayman’s COVID-19 response, saying the island had avoided the most tragic consequences of the deadly virus.

He said Cayman had made “major strides” to suppress the coronavirus and virtually all curfews and lockdown measurers were now being lifted. The hard curfew is over from Sunday and most remaining restrictions will be lifted in the coming weeks.

McLaughlin said he was now confident that the measures, strategies and sacrifices taken by so many had paid off.

“We have avoided the tragedy that has played out in so many countries, but we must remain vigilant,” he said.

In a lengthy speech that had a valedictory note, McLaughlin thanked everyone who had stepped up to help Cayman through an unprecedented crisis.

He singled out the ‘Curfew Times’ staff who have spent the last months processing requests for exemptions to the curfews. Overall, he said, the team had dealt with more than 19,000 requests during the COVID crisis. Those staff will go back to their day jobs as the curfews, and the need for exemptions, disappear.

Recapping some of the measures taken over the past three months, McLaughlin also paid tribute to the police officers, customs officers, health workers and other government staff who had put themselves at risk to keep Cayman safe.

The National Emergency Operations Centre will cease daily operations today, he said, again suggesting that the worst of the crisis was over for now.

McLaughlin said there would be a one-time honorific payment of $1,000 to those public servants who had borne the brunt of fighting COVID-19 in Cayman. A further one-off $500 payment will be made to those who were at the highest risk.

He added, “We are not yet out of the woods, and we will continue to rely on our civil servants to continue to keep these islands safe.

“I would like to thank those on the front line of our COVID-19 response, for all of your remarkable and tireless efforts. You are indeed heroes.”

Governor Martyn Roper added his praise for the front-line workers and said Cayman had effectively created a “safe bubble” and was one of the safest places to be in the world right now.

New results

The Cayman Islands has two new cases of the coronavirus after the latest batch of testing.

There were 987 tests carried out over the last 24 hours. Both the new COVID-19 patients are asymptomatic.

The results follow two consecutive days when there were no new cases announced.

Cayman has now tested more than 20,000 people, with 195 positive cases.

There are currently 51 active cases, with two displaying symptoms and one person in hospital in a stable condition.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee said antibody testing has now also begun at the Health Services Authority. Those tests are designed to determine the level of past infection of the virus.

The normal testing, known as PCR testing, only determines if a person currently has the virus.

Lee said both the HSA and Health City would be carrying out antibody tests and the results would be announced in the government briefings.

He said antibody testing was an inexact science, but it appears that contracting the virus does create antibodies that offer a degree of immunity against the virus. While there have been cases of people catching COVID-19 twice, he said this was extremely rare.

He cautioned that it was not clear how long the immunity lasts, and suggested antibody testing could not be used at this point to provide “immunity passports”.

End of hard curfew

Meanwhile, Police Commissioner Derek Byrne announced the end of the overnight ‘hard curfew’ from Sunday.

He said there would be several new ticketable offences under the revised regulations, with fines ranging from $250 to $750.

He added his thanks to the community for its support during an extraordinary period in the islands’ history.

“My impression is we were all in this together, we held firm and the results have been outstanding,” he said.

The governor added an update on evacuation flights, confirming a flight to Chennai, India, has been scheduled with tickets on sale from Monday.

Work is under way to arrange a flight to Nepal.

A charter flight to Mexico is also being organised by a private citizen.

The latest COVID-19-related regulations can be found here.

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