Dr. Lee: ‘Virus has burned out in Cayman’

Government officials confirmed this afternoon that masks will no longer be legally required in Cayman – including in schools.

Appearing in front of the media for the first time in over a month, the panel gave further details on the updates to the COVID suppression and control regulations.

Cayman’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee said officials had a high degree of confidence that the virus had been effectively controlled within the local borders.

He said the equivalent of over half the population had been tested and he thanked the public for their support.

“It is only with the public’s co-operation that the virus had been able to burn itself out,” he said.

There are two people currently classified as positive for COVID-19 in Cayman. Both came in on repatriation flights, and will remain in isolation facilities until they test negative for the virus.

Lee said he felt safe advising that masks and social distancing should no longer be mandatory. The regulations still allow for the wearing of masks to be enforced at certain institutions, including prisons and healthcare facilities, at the discretion of those institutions.

Masks are still mandatory on public transport.

Arrangements for schools

Lee confirmed it was no longer necessary for schools to mandate mask wearing for children, adding that his professional opinion was that children under 10 should not have to wear masks in countries where COVID is well controlled, like Cayman.

The Department of Education Services released its own updated guidelines for the new term later on Tuesday confirming that masks would beĀ  required on school buses but optional in class and physical distancing would not be required.

The staggered start for different year groups has also been dispensed with and the return to class for Years 3, 4, 5, 8 and 9 pushed forward from 9 Sept. to next Monday, 31 Aug. Other year groups begin returning to school this week.

Latest test results

Lee also announced 216 new negative tests for COVID-19 in the latest batch of results. He added that antibody tests – which determine if a person has had the virus at any time in the past – had revealed 58 positives out of 2,402 people tested.

That included 21 people who had not previously tested positive.

He also noted that PCR tests, which up until now have involved swabs that are inserted deep into a nostril, can now be done via less uncomfortable oral and nasal swabs.

New regulations

At the briefing, Premier Alden McLaughlin ran through the main changes in the regulations, which were gazette on Monday evening, and highlighted several key points, including:

  • Public gatherings of up to 250 people now allowed
  • Up to 250 passengers now allowed on a boat
  • Renting of scuba equipment now allowed under certain conditions
  • Masks no longer mandatory, except on public transport
  • Masks can also be mandated at airports, prisons and healthcare centres if required by owner/operators
  • Social distancing no longer required
  • Border still scheduled for phased reopening, beginning 1 Oct.

McLaughlin said Cayman was still at Level 2 – minimum suppression – because of the threat still posed from the rest of the world.

“Although we are living in a quite safe bubble here, the virus is still raging around us,” he said, explaining why all restrictions had not been lifted and why Cayman had not been given the official ‘all clear’.

He said more announcements would be coming on measures to support the economy, including a loan scheme and the global citizens initiative which would attract people to live in Cayman and work from home.

Government is also close to agreeing a deal for a line of credit to help supplement its revenues and fund its programmes.

Commercial British Airways route confirmed

Governor Martyn Roper confirmed that British Airways had agreed to run a fortnightly scheduled flight between London Heathrow and Grand Cayman.

The last ‘air bridge’ flight organised by the Governor’s Office will come in later this week, bringing back around 150 people to the island, and returning to London with a fully booked plane, mostly for Caymanian students attending school in the UK.

The first BA commercial flight, bookable on the airline’s website, will come into Cayman on 17 Sept. and depart the following day.

Roper said he recognised that many people needed to travel to visit family or for school, and he was grateful that BA had agreed to put on a consistent schedule of flights. Anyone coming into Cayman on these flights will still be required to apply for approval through the ‘travel time’ hotline in Cayman.

Arriving passengers on the 17 Sept. flight are expected to be part of a ‘phase one’ trial of government’s procedures for border reopening, which include testing and the use of a ‘BioButton’ to allow them to isolate without being in a quarantine facility.

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  1. This is wonderful news and testimony to the swift action of Premier McLaughlin. His action has put that of much larger countries to shame.

    But the virus hasn’t exactly burned out. Instead it never really got a foothold here. Virtually no one here has been exposed to it. This means the entire population is susceptible to infection if it is bought here by an arriving passenger. Just one person would be enough to set off a chain reaction of infections. Against which we have no immunity and no barriers.

    I have grave concerns about the effectiveness of this experimental BioButton.

    What stops the arriving person buying groceries on the way home from the airport? How about the rental car agent or friend who picks them up?

    We must bring tourists and property owners back here. No question. But the only safe way is 14 days isolation in their own home with a responsible, paid person buying their groceries and checking up on them at random times.

  2. although the equivalent of more than half the population have been tested, the figures include many people and essential workers who have been tested on multiple occasions. There are thousands of members of the population who have not been tested at all and who may prove positive should they be tested.