I welcome each of you to the 2020 Cayman Islands Healthcare Conference with the theme
‘Re-envisioning Life with a Pandemic’. Normally I would be welcoming you to our shores, but in the advent of COVID-19, we are holding this year’s conference virtually. Certainly, virtual meetings have become part of living life with a pandemic.
This virus has challenged the entire world and the Cayman Islands has been no different, save perhaps that because of our swift, decisive action, good public health advice and yes, perhaps even a bit of luck, we have been able to land in as good a place as anyone could have envisioned when we first started to do battle with the virus.
Indeed, at the time of writing this in mid-September, we have fared quite well. We have had 208 confirmed cases and have done more than 37,000 tests, the only death being that of a male cruise ship visitor who was hospitalised here as a result of a non-COVID medical emergency. Apart from overseas travel, our daily life is as normal as it can be, given the times we are in.
Preparation is key, and my Government started to focus on building our capacity to fight the virus back in January. Although the virus was very far from our shores, we knew it would arrive here and we had to be prepared. We obtained our own COVID testing facility and reviewed what personal protection equipment, hospital beds, ventilators and other equipment we may need should the virus become widespread on our islands.
In February, we banned travel to and from high-risk countries, as well as put in place measures at the border to help protect the public health of people. We also insisted that cruise ships and other vessels advise us of any illnesses on board prior to anyone being allowed on shore. In March, we required a 14-day quarantine period for those arriving in our islands, restricted public gatherings, closed schools and closed our borders. The National Emergency Operation Centre was activated and our first community cases of COVID were identified on island.
We slowed the spread locally and, over several months, we were able to open up our community and local economy, once again based on public health guidance. We have gone for more than two months with no positive cases of community transmission.
We are, however, seeing occasional positive tests in those who have arrived here from overseas and were in quarantine.
We have now turned our attention to safely opening our borders in a phased manner so we can begin to welcome visitors back to our islands.
However, the ‘show must go on’ as they say, so hosting a virtual conference, bringing experts from a variety of fields to provide our local medical and healthcare professionals with the opportunity to develop their knowledge, and to ultimately create a better experience for their patients, is the new reality.
This virtual conference also offers a wealth of knowledge to members of the community to educate themselves on ways to support their health and wellness, or the health and wellness of their families and clients. This conference is free and open to the public and Continuing Medical Education Certificates will be available for each presentation.
It is my sincere hope that everyone walks away from this virtual conference feeling they have learned something they can put in place to help ensure the health and well-being of themselves and those around them.
I hope that you enjoy the virtual conference. And I also hope that next year you will be able to visit us in person.
Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin
Minister for Employment and Border Control, Community Affairs, International Trade, Investment, Aviation and Maritime Affairs