Note: This blog was accurate at the date it was published. To view the most up to date information and details of current policies, visit our policies page.
A number of proactive measures have been taken in the Cayman Islands to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Alongside these announcements comes the closure of all education facilities as of Monday, 16 March 2020 through to the end of the 2019/2020 academic school year.
While these measures may seem extreme, they were proactive precautions taken by the Government to halt any potential spread COVID-19 in the light of the first confirmed case in the Cayman Islands on Thursday, 12 March 2020.
Here's how closing schools, and taking measures such as banning larger public gatherings, are intended to slow the spread of virus and flatten the curve:
What Kind Of School Closures Are We Doing?
There are two types of school closures when we consider coronavirus:
- Proactive — these closures happen before schools have even one case of infection.
- Reactive — closing of schools happens in the event of infection within a school.
In the Cayman Islands were carrying out proactive school closures. We had no confirmed COVID-19 cases in the schools as of 13 March 2020.
What We Know About Closing Schools & Its Impact On The Virus
Proactive school closures can be one of the most powerful non-pharmaceutical interventions (methods of responding to this virus without drugs). They don't just keep children safe, but the closures can protect the whole community.
When you close schools, you reduce the mixing of the adults and children — parents dropping off at the school, the teachers being present too. It is the intention that this reduced mixing can slow the spread of a virus and protect our most vulnerable population, especially the elderly or those with chronic illnesses.
Despite appearing to be affected less by the COVID-19 virus, children can still carry the virus. By closing schools we can reduce the spread of the virus substantially.
In our case, some evidence suggests this can lower the impact of a potential epidemic by up to two thirds. It also ensures that our healthcare system can easily treat and manage any potential cases.
Why Public Gathering Bans Also Work Against The COVID-19 virus
Much like the proactive closing of schools, out of an abundance of caution, the Cayman Islands Government implemented a ban on gatherings of large groups of people who are not members of the same household. Hospitals, supermarkets and pharmacies are exempt from this ban.
The intention is similar to closing schools. When less people meet and mix, the impact and spread of any potential virus is lowered dramatically.
What Other Precautionary Measures Are Being Taken?
The Cayman Islands Government also took the following early precautions:
- All cruise ships were denied entry to the Cayman Islands as of Monday, 16 March.
- In order to protect its patients, the Health Services Authority restricted all visitors except for parents accompanying children and those accompanying women in labour.
- As of Sunday, 22 March at 11:59pm, Owen Roberts International Airport and Charles Kirkconnell International Airport were closed. Cargo flights, courier flights and ambulance flights needed to take residents overseas for medical treatment continue.
- From Sunday, 22 March at 11:59pm, a number of businesses were closed, including bars, nightclubs, gyms, spas, cinemas, tourist attractions, beauty salons, barbershops and tattoo parlours. Subsequently, all but essential businesses and establishments were closed from Saturday, 28 March.
- A "hard" curfew under the Police Law was first imposed on Tuesday, 24 March 2020.
For ongoing updates to these policies restrictions visit our policies page.
The Impact Of These Announcements
We understand these measures in the Cayman Islands will have a huge impact on our society.
We do not expect or intend for this to be implemented forever, so we ask that for the duration of these restrictions we all work together to support our community.
While social distancing is encouraged, this does not mean you cannot support a local restaurant by asking for delivery instead of dining in. If you are self-isolating, the Public Health Department can support you with your needs.
We continue to consider the impact COVID-19 will have on the local economy and will update the public with further announcements and support as we make these available.
What Else Can I do?
- Frequently wash your hands. Soap and water are effective against coronaviruses. If you do not have soap or water, an alcohol-based hand gel can help keep your hands clean. Make sure you clean your hands regularly, including when entering new spaces and touching new things, or even when just going home. When washing your hands, do so for at least 20 seconds.
- Practice social distancing. Keeping the kids at home is hard, and will present some challenges for many families. It might seem tempting to use this as a chance to catch up with friends or arrange play dates. If you can, it is best to avoid this. Social distancing is hard, but incredibly effective at slowing the spread of viruses. While it seems like children may not be as affected by coronavirus as adults, they do have the ability to carry the virus from one household to another. In general, try to maintain a distance of at least three feet from other people. Do not shake hands or hug people - instead try waving or nodding to avoid touching.
- If you think you might have coronavirus call your general practitioner by telephone. Do not go to the hospital or doctor; you may infect others and we need to protect the community. Do not use public transport or taxis. Do not go to the supermarket or to public spaces. Instead, your doctor will advise you to stay home and self-isolate. This means staying in the comfort of your own home for 14 days and not interacting with people. If you live with people, they will need to isolate with you. If you need food and do not have any friends or family who do not live with you, Public Health can bring you supplies.
I have more questions
Visit our frequently asked questions page for more answers.