Dr. John Lee is the Chief Medical Officer for the Cayman Islands Government. He has played a pivotal role in guiding the country through the challenges brought on by the global COVID-19 pandemic. His public health advice, and reassuring presence, have helped steer the islands to safety. In 2020, he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II for his outstanding contributions to health services in the Cayman Islands.
‘Breathe Easier’ is this year’s Healthcare Conference theme. Can you speak to this theme, and what it signifies for the Cayman Islands?
Breathe Easier recognises Cayman’s move from a period of high stress and uncertainty stemming from the global pandemic to one of recovery and forward thinking. There is a shift in focus to self-care and mental health, as well as discussions on the long-term effects of COVID-19 disease and improving the environment around us.
What do you see as some of the challenges going forward post-pandemic?
Acceptance is a major issue: that the world may not be the same again, that we need to change how we look after our world (its plants and animals) and that humankind should be humbled by a pandemic so that we all rethink our paths.
How well are the Cayman Islands prepared for the next phases of re-opening?
Cayman is ready for the next stages; we have cared for our people and now we have excellent vaccination rates – we have ridden the storm to this point with determination. We have the skills and resources to face our future and have learned we do this much better, together.
In what ways can people living in Cayman prepare for the next stages in terms of their health and well-being?
Number one would be to protect yourselves, your family and your community through vaccination. Then, minimise your risks of COVID (which will be different for everyone). For the elderly and vulnerable, go back to exercising care and use masks, hand hygiene and distancing, and by having a trusted circle. And be kind to one another, to everyone; we need kindness to help us all negotiate life.
You’ve certainly been through the thick of it, steering the country through the crisis from the start. Are there any lessons can we take away from the pandemic?
Communication has been a really key issue in helping people get through to this point, and it remains a take-away message. It is so straightforward to do, and it so helps the public understand what is going on, and why things are as they are. Additionally, as the Chief Medical Officer, I have never shied away from the truth and explaining things as best as I could, whilst always encouraging people to listen to trusted news sources.