General Information & F.A.Qs on COVID-19
This section covers general questions relating to COVID-19 in the Cayman Islands. Click the links below to skip to the relevant questions or scroll down to read more:
- What do I do if I think I have COVID-19?
- What is COVID-19?
- How serious is the coronavirus outbreak?
- How long can the virus live outside the body?
- In the Caribbean will the warm weather kill the virus?
- Are tests for the virus being done locally?
- Do we have enough testing kits for the virus?
- How many people are being tested for the virus in other countries?
- What happens to my job if I have to self-isolate, become sick, or cannot work due to the restrictions?
- How do I dispose household waste if I have or think I have COVID-19?
- When do we say someone has “recovered” from COVID-19?
What do I do if I think I have COVID-19?
You can take our online COVID-19 self-assessment here or register for screening here. We advise anyone who has questions to call your GP or the 24-hour Flu Hotline on 1-800-534-8600 or 925-6327 (Flow) or 947-3077 (Digicel), or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Do not visit a medical centre or hospital unless it is an emergency, for example if you are having trouble breathing
- Do not go to work
- Do not use public transport
- Do not use taxis
- Do not go to school
- Do not be in public areas
What is COVID-19?
The Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus, which was first identified in Wuhan City, China in 2019. The COVID-19 virus (which is called SARS-CoV-2) is a member of the coronavirus family (a group of viruses) that has never been encountered before.
The main symptoms of COVID-19 are:
- breathing difficulties
- loss of smell and taste
These symptoms are usually mild but commonly occur within 1-10 days after a person has been exposed.
Learn more at hsa.ky/public-health/coronavirus.
How serious is the COVID-19 outbreak?
Available evidence suggests that the majority of people who contract the COVID-19 virus will have a mild case and will recover within two weeks. However, elderly people and those with underlying health conditions are vulnerable to further complications and may require additional medical care if they contract the virus. There is no vaccine for the new strain of coronavirus at this stage. Treatment aims to relieve the symptoms and supporting bodily functions while your body fights the illness.
How long can the virus live outside the body?
If someone infected with the virus coughs on to their hand and then touches something, that surface may become contaminated. Door handles and lift buttons are a good example of a surface that might pose a risk.
It's not yet known how long the new coronavirus might be able to live on such surfaces. Experts suspect it is hours rather than days but it is best to wash your hands regularly to help reduce the risk of infection and the spread of the virus.
The virus is transmitted from person to person. It spreads through small droplets from the nose or mouth when a person infected with the virus coughs or sneezes. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch the virus by touching these objects or surfaces and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also catch the virus if droplets land on them from a person infected with the virus. This is why it is important to stay at least three feet from other people at all times.
In the Caribbean will warm weather kill the virus?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States says it is simply too soon to know how COVID-19 will react when the weather warms up.
Are tests for COVID-19 being done locally?
Yes. Though the first local samples were sent to the regional public health laboratory at the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad, testing for the COVID-19 virus became available locally as of 16 March 2020. The introduction of local testing significantly reduced the waiting period for confirmation of COVID-19 from 5-10 days to 24-48 hours.
Local testing currently takes place at the internationally accredited forensic lab at the Health Services Authority (HSA), in partnership with the HSA clinical lab, and at Doctors Hospital. All inconclusive results and positive results are sent for cross checking to CARPHA, along with 10% of our negative cases as part of regular quality assurance measures. Currently, testing for COVID-19 is free.
Testing occurs in a Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine. This is the recommended standard testing for COVID-19 by the World Health Organization (WHO), Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and Public Health England (PHE). Facilities with patients meeting the criteria to be tested for COVID-19 will collect the sample and send it to the HSA for testing.
Do we have enough testing kits for coronavirus?
Currently the Cayman Islands has adequate supply of testing kits for COVID-19.
In the unlikely event that local testing is temporarily unavailable, including due to a lack of necessary reagents to conduct the tests, the Public Health Department will continue to send samples to the regional Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in Trinidad.
It is also important to note that confirmation from laboratory testing that a patient has the COVID-19 virus does not change the care they will receive. 80% of persons who contract the virus will have mild symptoms which can be managed at home. For those who may require medical care, there is no particular treatment for this disease and patients will be provided with supportive care as required, such as oxygen to assist with breathing.
How many people are being tested in other countries?
The World Health Organization (WHO) is gathering data from around the world on confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) and deaths. These statistics and more are published in daily WHO Situation Reports. However, there is no central reporting system on the number of tests being conducted or what percentage of the population has been tested. Around the world, the number of tests and testing rates (i.e. persons tested as a percentage of the total population) vary widely for many different reasons. Not all countries and territories have official sources publishing the most up to date information on testing.
In the UK (which has a population of approximately 67 million), the Department of Health and Social Care, Public Health England and the National Health Service work together to provide reliable and timely data, including details of testing, on their official website and other channels. Similarly, our Ministry of Health and Public Health Department work together to update our local dashboards regularly. You can always find the latest figures for the Cayman Islands on this website.
What happens to my job if I have to Self-Isolate, become sick, or cannot work due to the restrictions?
The Department of Labour & Pensions encourages employers and employees alike to follow the guidelines outlined by the Chief Medical Officer and the Public Health Department. All employers owe their staff a duty to protect their health and safety and should have plans in place to manage business continuity in the event of COVID-19 impacting their operation.
As part of this, employers should communicate with employees to assure them that the employer is monitoring the situation and taking steps to plan for disruption. The communication should also relay the current Government advice in relation to infection prevention, including in relation to hygiene: that regular proper hand washing is the best way to protect ourselves against infection.
If you do get COVID-19, the majority of cases to date have been mild, meaning that, depending on your job, you may still be able to work remotely. Employees are encouraged to speak to their employers about flexible working options and arrangements during this public health emergency.
Provisions for sick leave vary from company to company. Many employees will have contracts that allow them their normal pay while they are unable to work because they are sick. The situation with self-isolation is more complicated. Workers may not actually be sick so will not automatically be entitled to their contractual sick pay. If there is no agreement to utilise sick leave and/or vacation leave (including vacation leave not yet earned, which may be advanced by agreement), it would be at the employer’s discretion to either pay the employee during this time or approve unpaid leave given the circumstances.
While the Labour Law (2011 Revision) does not address this specific situation, it does establish the required minimum standards and allows employers to establish conditions of service more advantageous to any employee than the minimum employment standards established by this Law.
The Department of Labour and Pensions will make every effort to work with employers and employees during this time to ensure the proper observance of the Labour Law and its Regulations.
How do I dispose household waste if I think I have or I have COVID-19?
If you or a household member’s COVID-19 test is positive or if you have been categorised as a suspected case for COVID-19 and await your tests results you should follow the below Ministry of Health guidelines on how to dispose your household waste.
You can securely store personal waste, such as used tissues and disposable cleaning cloths, within disposable garbage bags.
Household waste should be:
- put in a garbage bag, tied securely when full, and then that bag should placed into a second bag
- kept separate from other garbage and in a suitable and secure place and marked for storage until the test results are known
- put aside for at least 72 hours before being put in your usual external or communal trash bin
- handled with gloves when removing garbage bags or handling and disposing of trash, if available.
Other household waste can be disposed of as normal.
If you have COVID-19, continue to do this until you are re-tested and your results come back as negative.
When do we say someone has recovered from COVID-19?
It is important to remember that most people who acquire the virus will recover.
A positive case is considered recovered based on the following criteria.
For symptomatic patients:
10 days after symptom onset, plus at least 3 additional days without symptoms (including without fever and without respiratory symptoms). Persons will then be retested and must obtain two negative tests 24 hours apart.
For asymptomatic cases:
10 days after positive test for COVID-19. Persons will be then be retested and must obtain two negative tests 24 hours apart.