(PRESS RELEASE) – The Ministry of Health, Public Health Department and the management of the Health Services Authority (HSA) are in a high state of preparedness for the coronavirus (COVID-19). As of 5 March 2020, there are no cases in the Cayman Islands.
The opening of the Cayman Islands National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) on Wednesday, 4 March brought together Government and community partners to prepare for the possibility of the virus reaching Cayman. NEOC is coordinating efforts including health, economic continuity, uniformed and support services and utilities. Teams are meeting at least once daily to share information and take key decisions.
While there are no confirmed local cases, the Public Health Department continues to work with international health partners, to monitor and prepare for the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
Chief Medical Officer, Dr. John Lee comments: “With confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Florida, the Dominican Republic and St. Barts concerns among local residents are real”.
He adds: “As more cases are confirmed worldwide, the overall risk of the coronavirus (COVID-19) coming to the Cayman Islands is high and the situation is evolving rapidly. Continuing preventative measures such as washing hands regularly and avoiding others with respiratory illnesses are essential. Increase your distance from people to a minimum of three feet, and preferably six feet. Having a family and household plan can also help to slow the spread of the disease.”
Dr. Lee concludes: “A review of our plans to protect residents and visitors is an ongoing process. We remain vigilant while working with stakeholders to ensure our borders are protected and that any imported case is managed efficiently to minimise the impact.”
International dialogue continues to take place. On Sunday, 1 March, Hon. Roy McTaggart, Minister for Finance and Economic Development, and other senior government and health officials, represented the Cayman Islands Government via video link at a Special Emergency Meeting of the Conference of the Heads of Government (CARICOM). The meeting was convened to discuss regional preparations and response to COVID-19.
In response to the high level of preparedness and response to COVID-19 by on-island stakeholders, Minister for Health, Hon. Dwayne Seymour, emphasises that since the number of cases continues to grow globally, persons must remain prepared.
“It is essential that we separate fact from fiction when it comes to the constantly evolving information about the virus. Please visit hsa.ky for the facts. I am grateful to the experts from the Ministry of Health, Public Health Department, the HSA, Hazard Management Cayman Islands and the wider civil service who ensure the community remains safe and prepared. I urge you to continue to look out for each other and to prepare thoroughly, while guarding against stigma and panic,” Minister Seymour stresses.
Premier, Hon. Alden McLaughlin, thanked the Ministry of Health for their leadership and expressed confidence in the steps that the Cayman Islands had taken to prepare for COVID-19.
“We understand that members of the public have many questions around the possibility that this virus reaches Cayman. I assure them that our country has world-class structures in place encompassing both public health and hazard management. With experts meeting daily, planning for every eventuality and with Government’s full support behind them, I am confident that we will be able to achieve the best possible outcome when it comes to protecting the Cayman Islands and its people.”
Minister for Financial Services and Home Affairs, Hon. Tara Rivers says: “HMCI is well equipped and stand-ready to coordinate a multi-agency national response. Past experiences have stress-tested our approach and our agencies’ ability to respond.”
“The financial services industry is following its business continuity plans, in order to ensure that services continue,” Minister Rivers adds.
Minister for Tourism, Hon. Moses Kirkconnell, notes that coronavirus poses unique challenges for the local tourism industry. The Ministry and its agencies are continuing to work closely with public health and with security officials to protect the well-being of visitors and residents. “The Ministry of Tourism is in close contact with cruise line partners and are adhering to established medical protocols with respect to the landing of cruise ships and passengers. Similar measures also apply to stayover visitors.”
For more information on COVID-19 and for guidance on how to best protect your household, please visit www.hsa.ky/public-health/coronavirus or contact the Public Health Department on 244-2621. Details of the steps that Government is taking to combat the disease are also available from www.gov.ky/coronavirus.