In the Cayman Islands we have begun wider screening for COVID-19. Here's what that means:
What Testing Do We Use In The Cayman Islands?
Currently, the Cayman Islands tests for evidence of the virus by looking for its genetic material. This is called genomic (molecular) testing and uses a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine. You can read more about testing here.
Who Are We Testing?
We are testing two types of people for COVID-19:
- those who are at risk of having COVID-19 and are eligible for testing if their local doctor feels it is needed (e.g. people presenting with symptoms, travellers, or immediate contacts of symptomatic people or travellers); and
- a cross-section of the population, including frontline workers.
Phases of Screening
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines screening as the ‘presumptive identification of unrecognized disease in an apparently healthy, asymptomatic population by means of tests’. In the Cayman Islands, screening is being rolled out through phases with the goal of testing a large percentage of the population. These include the following:
- Phase 1: testing those who have a lot of contact with the public or who are at high risk of COVID-19 (e.g. healthcare workers, community homes for older people and the prisons).
- Phase 2: testing essential workers who are public-facing and at the frontline (e.g. supermarket workers, police officers, port workers and firefighters).
- Phase 3: testing a wider group of working-age and mobile people including construction workers and civil servants. Phase three testing will expand as time goes along.
What about the Sister Islands?
Cayman Brac and Little Cayman were able to work through their screening processes much faster due to their small population size compared with Grand Cayman.
On 5 May 2020, Little Cayman curfew restrictions were lifted except for Regulations under the Public Health Law related to physical or social distancing. Following this, on 7 May 2020, Cayman’s leaders announced the easing of restrictions on Cayman Brac.
You can read more on the regulations for Little Cayman and Cayman Brac here:
Why Are We Screening Healthy Individuals?
Screening healthy individuals for the COVID-19 virus helps us better understand the rate of spread of COVID-19 in our communities as we know that some people who have the virus are asymptomatic (not showing any symptoms). Therefore, If we can identify cases and do the necessary contact tracing (get in touch with everyone in contact with someone who has the COVID-19 virus) we can limit the spread and perhaps even stop it.
The Advantages of Screening
The following are some of the reasons for screening our population:
- Understand Infection Rate: To determine how widespread the COVID-19 virus is in the Cayman Islands we need to test healthy individuals as well as those that we think might be sick. Screening allows us to do this by testing a cross-section of the population.
- Stop The Spread: We know that countries that have large-scale testing processes tend to see more positive outcomes. This is because they can test, identify, trace and isolate people who may be asymptomatic and are a risk to others without knowing. This allows the identification of people who can spread COVID-19 and stops the virus from being passed on.
- Protect The Vulnerable: Individuals who do not experience symptoms when they have the COVID-19 virus are not likely to get tested otherwise. By identifying COVID-19 positive people during screening we protect the more vulnerable people in our community.
- Inform Policy: Screening for COVID-19 also allows for the Government to make better informed policy decisions that keep everyone safe and can guide the phased reopening of our Islands.
What Happens If Screening Comes Back Positive?
If a person who undergoes screening tests positive for the COVID-19 virus they are immediately contacted by the Public Health Department and are isolated. They are required, by law, to isolate with their entire household until they are declared 'recovered'.
A person is considered recovered if, after 14 days or when they no longer have symptoms (whichever is longer), they have two negative test results 24 hours apart.
The Public Health Department will also trace all contacts of the positive case as people who have had close contact with someone with the COVID-19 virus may be at risk of acquiring the disease. Contact tracing consists of an interview with the person who is positive to identify anyone who has had close contact with them during the time they are considered to be infectious. Public Health staff will then track these contacts and find these people as soon as possible. These contacts will be required to isolate, get tested, and asked to monitor their health for symptoms. If they become unwell, then the Public Health Department can take the necessary precautionary measures more quickly.
It takes a collaborative effort to protect the community from COVID-19. Therefore, if you have been asked to be tested during the screening process, we encourage you to do so. Not only does it help Public Health efforts to control COVID-19 in our islands but it also prevents the hospitals in becoming overwhelmed; this ensures we have a bed for you if you need it.
More questions? Visit our FAQs page.