Cayman Islands leaders provide updates on increased government services
Cayman Islands leaders provided updates on increased government services that are now available to the Cayman Islands public, as well as the provision of 10 WiFi hotspots that will provide free access 24/7 across the three islands.
At today’s (Tuesday, 23 June 2020) press conference, where prayers were led by Rev. Audley U. Scott, Cayman’s leaders explained expanded government services now available, notably in the Health Services Authority (HSA) and the Ministry of Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure. They also introduced “Travel Time” which will help with international travel to and from the Cayman Islands while the borders remain closed.
Chief Medical Officer, Dr. John Lee reported:
- Today’s results were 451 negatives and no positives.
- The total number of tests done in the Cayman Islands is 21,282.
- Of the 195 total positives so far, there are no symptomatic, 40 asymptomatic, none hospitalised and 154 recovered.
- There are 140 currently in government isolation facilities and 166 isolating at home.
- Six persons attended the ‘flu clinic yesterday with mild ‘flu symptoms and seven of the 24 calls to the ‘flu hotline were ‘flu related.
- The testing has revealed that the trending line is really encouraging and anticipated to continue.
- He is not anticipating a rising trend in the number of positives as we are re-opening. The medical community is seeing the tail end of previous infections in the positive cases now seen; there are no new infections.
- The new immunoglobulin tests started have so far shown a very low level of antibody positivity in known positives in the Cayman Islands.
Premier, Hon. Alden McLaughlin said:
- Test results continue to trend “incredibly well”, underscoring that the governmental strategies employed thus far are working well, which is generating a great feeling of optimism and encouragement all around.
- Phase 1 of Level 2 Suppression means that a large number of people are now back to work. This increases the need to follow strictly all prescribed protocols including social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands frequently and practising respiratory hygiene.
- Curfew Time will now transition to become Travel Time.
- The emphasis has shifted from “Stay Home Cayman” to “Stay Safe Cayman”.
- For full remarks by the Premier, see sidebar below.
His Excellency the Governor, Mr. Martyn Roper said:
- The Cayman Islands’ results continue to be encouraging with almost 1,000 negatives and no positives in the last two days.
- After a good stint of service, the UK Security Assistance Team will be leaving at the end of next week.
- For details from the Governor, see sidebar below.
Minister for Health, Hon. Dwayne Seymour said:
- Health Services Authority has begun initiating phased plan for reopening of elective surgeries and outpatient care.
- Shout-out went to Nelson Dilbert and Walker Romanica at Cayman Distillery for their ongoing supply of free hand sanitizer to the HSA over the past 3 months.
- The MRCU are aware and working hard to combat an upsurge in the mosquito numbers across the island.
- See sidebar below for more from the Minister.
Minister for Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure, Hon. Joey Hew reported:
- Ten (10) community Wi-Fi hotspots are now available across Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman for residents to enjoy, public access to free wireless Internet.
- The ministry continues to provide support for micro and small businesses across the islands.
- The Department of Commerce and Investment continues to provide exceptional service through their online platform and via remote working.
- The Department of Vehicle and Drivers Licensing (DVDL) staff, over the past three months, processed a total of 10,181 vehicle licence renewals.
- For details from Minister Hew, see sidebar below.
Sidebar: Premier Highlights Travel Time, Guidance for Businesses
As you know on Sunday, 21 June 2020, we moved to phase 1 of Level 2 Suppression which has meant more easing of restrictions. It also means a lot more people back into the workforce including helpers and caregivers, hair and beauty salons re-opening, churches, cinemas and theatres all able to open providing strict social distancing measures are in place.
So far, the reports I have received have been encouraging as businesses begin to fully operate. So as we continue to move forward, I ask you all to remain vigilant and as we ease restrictions, socially responsible. We have all done a great job so far and at great sacrifice. The virus hasn’t gone away, it is still here among us and that’s why we need to maintain our social distance, always wear a mask or a cloth face covering in public places and adhere to respiratory protocols.
Government will continue with our plan of aggressively testing and will carefully monitor results as more people come back into the workforce and gather socially.
Industry specific guidance is shared on our government website. The guidance has been developed to support the safe re-opening of a number of areas coming on line and includes guidance on:
- Babysitting Guidance for Parents and primary Caregivers;
- Welcoming your Child Caregiver back into your home;
- Guidance for the operations of Early Child Care Centers, Summer Camps, Vacation Bible Schools (which come back on line 5 July); and
- A framework for restarting sports on 19 July.
Guidance for the reopening of churches has received support from both the Cayman Ministers Association as well as the Conference of Seventh Day Adventist Churches and is available on the Government web page.
For the removal of doubt it is important to note that those attending church will be required to wear masks indoors.
As we continue to open up and as more of our people overseas are looking to return home we have decided to utilise the individuals who worked with in what was known as Curfew Time to migrate into a new body that we will call Travel Time.
Based on the success with which “Curfew Time” helped our Covid-19 mitigation, the new “Travel Time” operation will be run by the Chief Officer of the Ministry of International Trade, Investment, Aviation and Maritime Affairs, Eric Bush, and his team.
Travel Time will be tasked with co-ordinating the return of Caymanians, Permanent Residents and Work Permit Holders to the Cayman Islands. In doing this they will also manage the Government isolation facilities to ensure that there are sufficient rooms for those returning and who need to isolate as required. They will also work to co-ordinate the repatriation of those looking to return their homelands.
It is expected that Travel Time will assume full responsibility of this operation from 1 July. All arrangements and announcements made to date for travel to and from the Cayman Islands will remain the same.
Since 22 March 2020 when we closed our borders, the Government has arranged 30 emergency repatriation flights which have enabled our own people to return home and for expatriates to return to their own homes, amidst global travel restrictions.
These flights, organised through the National Emergency Operations Centre and the Governor’s Office, Cayman Airways as well as the Cayman Islands Government Office in the UK, required a huge amount of coordination. In the Cayman context, the flights were further supported by extensive and highly admirable work by civil servants and volunteers to create isolation centres and manage all of the logistics required to support the Government’s aggressive measures to stop the spread of this deadly virus.
As the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) is winding down, the entities and individuals that have coordinated emergency travel are returning to their normal operations.
For the next few months, whilst we still have restrictions, travel will require streamlined coordination between a number of government Ministries, statutory authorities as well as other countries via His Excellency the Governor and his office.
As I’ve mentioned, in order to create a streamlined experience for individuals who need to travel to or from the Cayman Islands, I have authorized the creation of a new entity which will coordinate these efforts. The new entity, called “Travel Time”, will manage and organize travel, and liaise with the public.
Through all of our combined efforts over the past three months, we have managed to keep Covid-19 from running out of control in our country. But we cannot rest on our laurels. The new Travel Time operation will enable Government to better facilitate travel to and from our shores while continuing to successfully manage the Covid-19 pandemic, without jeopardizing our hard-earned success.
Sidebar: Governor Notes Cayman’s Good Position
Encouraging test results once more. Almost 1,000 negatives in last 2 days and no positives. Shows our strategy is working. We are in a very good position on our Islands thanks to all the measures we have taken and your excellent cooperation.
Globally WHO report pandemic still accelerating. 183,000 new cases on 21 June – the highest in a single day so far. 9 million cases worldwide. And sadly almost 500,000 deaths.
WHO say no evidence that less potent strains of virus are emerging. Nothing has emerged to suggest a decline in communicability or impact of the infection.
I say this to underline that we must not let our guard down. We need to adopt good habits of social distancing, basic hygiene and good respiratory behaviour (when coughing and sneezing) and wearing masks in public places.
That is best way to protect yourself, family and community, including our elderly and vulnerable.
As we work out how to open border safely, trade-offs will be necessary. There is no zero risk solution. So we need to remain disciplined under a ‘new normal’ until a vaccine is developed.
The Security Assistance Team (SAT) will be leaving us at the end of next week. They’ve been here for two months and I’m very grateful for all the assistance they have provided. Their coordination during the RFA Argus visit including the hurricane exercises and the helicopter support provided to the RCIPS was vital. The air crew assisted in the detection of a drugs shipment and just last week responded to two kayakers in difficulty of the Grand Cayman coast. The team included logistical experts who have supported the HSA laboratory and have provided assistance with the BA Airbridge flights. It also, most importantly, the team have supported the recruitment, training plans and legislation needed to develop the Cayman Islands Regiment. Bringing the team in, with the agreement of the Premier, at a challenging time in the immediate aftermath of the lockdown was a sensible, planned measure and a signal of UK commitment. I am grateful to the team for all the support they have provided.
Deputy Governor has asked me to highlight, in a strong demonstration of the civil service’s customer focus, that starting today applications for British Overseas Territories Citizenship (BOTC), Naturalisation/Registration, British Registration and the expungement of criminal records can be submitted to the Deputy Governor’s Office via email and the relevant fees (US or CI cash, debit, credit cards or local cheques) can be paid at Post Offices. Applicants need to download the relevant application form, visit a Post Office, pay the relevant fee, then email the form and a copy of the receipt to the relevant point of contact as follows:
- BOTC Naturalisation/Registration: [email protected]
- British Registration/Naturalisaion: [email protected] (scans must be in colour for British Registration)
- Expungement of criminal records: [email protected]
Hard copies and cheques will still be accepted. These should be delivered to the curb-side drop boxes at the Government Administration Building.
Sidebar: Minister Seymour Underscores Expanded HSA Services
Good Afternoon to my fellow Caymanians and residents.
As you are aware, Grand Cayman has moved into Level 2 Minimal Suppression of the COVID-19 response and as many of you have heard the Health Services Authority (HSA) has begun to initiate its phased plan for the reopening of elective surgeries and outpatient care.
In this phase people who require non-emergent and minor care can now access the Cayman Islands Hospital, all outpatient clinics including the District Health Centres, the Faith Hospital in Cayman Brac and the Little Cayman Clinic.
HSA understands that because of the closures to many of their services during the pandemic there is patient demand for medical, surgical and procedural care and I can assure you that the HSA staff are carefully and appropriately prepared to meet this demand.
There will be a phase-in of all services across all HSA facilities over time with a focus on stringent measures to protect patients and staff from COVID-19 based on the established guiding principles. All patients with a previous appointment will be contacted to reschedule. If patients have any questions or concerns about a missed appointment or need to make an appointment please call 949-8600. Public Health will also launch a vaccination campaign over the coming weeks providing an opportunity for patients to receive any missed immunisations. There is a list of safeguarding measures which include:
- Pre-registration of all patients prior to their appointment to minimize lines and congestion;
- Pre-screenings of all patients for temperatures and COVID-19 symptoms before they enter the clinics or departments;
- Changes to waiting room seating in all clinics to maintain social distancing of at least six feet;
- Dedicated clinic days for the elderly and immuno-compromised patients only;
- Clinics and diagnostic services will be arranged such that adequate social distancing between patients is maintained, including additional outdoor space to expand waiting areas;
- Expansion of telemedicine services;
- Medical records can now be obtained at the information desk in the hospital atrium;
- COVID-19 screening will be required for all patients being admitted for elective procedures (including elective C-sections) 3 business days prior to their procedure and will be directed to the designated screening area.
There are further steps including PPE for all staff and daily screenings of their employees as well as careful logistics to ensure social distancing. For a full list of other measures I would encourage you to please visit the HSA website.
We know many of you are also hopeful to hear that you can start visiting loved ones as well and I am pleased to tell you that the HSA will take all necessary steps to gradually ease current visitor restrictions but only under guidance from public health to prevent the spread of this disease and protect patients, staff and visitors.
There is a visitation policy which must be adhered to which they have made public however, as there are still some questions I am happy to go over them with you all now:
- Visitors must be 18+ years old and wear a face mask at all times.
- All visitors will be screened prior to entering the Cayman Islands Hospital.
- All visitors are asked to sanitize their hands upon entering and exiting both the patient’s room and the hospital.
- Visiting Hours are from 11am – 8pm for Medical, Surgical and Critical Care Units.
- In-patients who require assistance may have one caregiver as part of their care team.
- One visitor will be permitted to accompany a patient to facilitate care or treatment such as an ambulatory visit, procedure or same-day surgery.
- One visitor, per day, will be permitted in the Maternity Ward.
- Two persons (parent, guardian or caregiver) for patients on the Paediatric Unit
- Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) unit allows for one parent daily.
- COVID-19 positive patients will NOT be allowed visitors.
We know it’s a lot to remember so please also rest assured that the HSA team is working on many reopening items including signage which will help us all navigate the changes safely.
As your Minister for Health I am so pleased to let you know that you can safely go to the hospital again. Our hospitals regularly manage infectious diseases and have put additional measures in place to ensure patient safety during this time.
It would be remiss of me to not echo the sentiments of my team at the HSA to remind patients and visitors that we are still living in a worldwide pandemic and to continue to really drive home the message that we must all take the necessary precautions to protect ourselves.
Today I also wanted to include a shout-out to Nelson Dilbert and Walker Romanica at Cayman Distillery for their ongoing supply of free hand sanitizer to the HSA over the past 3 months. They have donated over 5,000 liters of sanitizer. The donations have gone to various entities and authorities island-wide in Grand Cayman as well as some 55 gallon drums which have gone to Cayman Brac.
The donations have gone out to, but are not limited to, the following entities:
HSA, RCIPS, Department of Environment, CBC, Port Authority, HMCI, Isolation Hotels, Northward Prison, Judicial Administration, various Doctors’ Offices and Private Clinics, Charities including Meals on Wheels, Humane Society, Cancer Society, One Dog at a Time, and various others; Countless medics, officers, front line workers and individuals; Protocol office and the Legislative Assembly for their recent sessions.
Thank you for playing such a great part in this fight against Covid-19.
Additionally, I know many of you are concerned about the Saharan dust plume that is spreading across the Caribbean. I wanted to take a moment to remind the public of the statement issued by the National Weather Service saying that we can expect hazy conditions across the Cayman Islands over the next 24 hours. Due to this the Public Health Department is advising the public that these conditions could increase symptoms in persons with asthma, and other respiratory illnesses due to the elevated dust and particulate matter concentrations. Such persons are advised to stay inside as much as possible during this time.
Finally, there have been numerous reports of an upsurge in the mosquito numbers across the island. The MRCU are aware and working hard to combat these. Aerial spraying occurred last night across the North Side and Prospect/Red Bay areas and will continue again tonight across Frank Sound and North Side areas. Ground spraying continues as well in the Whitehall Estates, Snug Harbour, Smith Road, Walkers Road, North Sound Estates and Bodden Town areas tonight.
We are experiencing more mosquitoes currently due to above-average tides and recent rainfall. Thankfully these are not disease carrying mosquitoes but annoying unfortunately.
I want to assure the public that the MRCU has been surveying and treating the production sites and emergent, flying and biting mosquitoes throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. They have done so whilst, and most importantly, ensuring that personnel and staff adhere to all the proper precautions related to risk of COVID-19 transmission. They have tried not to allow COVID-19 to impact their service, but it has influenced and impacted operations to some extent.
In the past two weeks the aerial program has serviced all three islands whilst working closely with the airport and airport operations, operations that are also impacted by COVID-19 and doing what they can to ensure safety in the workplace. Aerial and ground operations both have been impacted by high winds this month that sometimes made spray operations impossible. Despite this, and in spite of COVID-19, personnel of MRCU have been working in the field since mid-March to survey and control mosquitoes. They will continue to do so diligently until the current mosquitoes population return to a normal level.
In closing, I thank God and pray for the continued merciful protection over our islands and remind the community to please continue to practice social distancing, wash your hands, wear your masks and keep yourselves and your kids at home if you are sick.
God bless us all.
Sidebar – Minister Hew Provides Updates on Ministry Initiatives, WiFi Hotspots
Good afternoon everyone,
Thank you, Honourable Premier and other members of the panel for giving me the opportunity to share some updates from my Ministry with members of the viewing public.
Over the past few months, the departments and agencies under my remit have continued to provide most services to our customers – online or through remote delivery. We have been doing business, just not in the usual way.
Only a few of our services have been reduced or stopped as a result of COVID-19. These include those in-person services which we have been unable to transition online – written and driving tests for DVDL and some front counter services within Government Administration Building.
As the Government moves forward with further easing of restrictions, I want to reassure members of the public that we are in the process of implementing plans to return to full service delivery- in a safe way – both for employees and customers.
Before I provide updates from some of my departments and agencies, I would like to announce a new initiative across our three Cayman Islands, which has been borne from successful private/public sector partnership.
Ten (10) community Wi-Fi hotspots are now available across Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman for residents to enjoy, public access to free wireless Internet.
Having Internet access at this time, is more critical than ever, as we require more people to go online for essential services. This initiative will allow students, families and even young entrepreneurs to access online resources and keep in touch with friends and family.
A number of partners contributed time, expertise and materials to implement this project. I must thank:
- Global technology company Cisco for donating the technology infrastructure and equipment for the public Wi-Fi hotspots;
- OfReg for coordinating the overall project;
- Local IT provider, Unified Technologies, for the installation of all the IT infrastructure;
- Flow C& W, for the necessary bandwith access;
- Ministry of CPI; and
- A number of government agencies and departments for providing the locations.
The community Wi-Fi hotspots are located at:
- District Administration Building in Cayman Brac
- Government House in Little Cayman; and
In Grand Cayman
- George Town Public Library
- James M. Bodden Sr. Civic Centre
- North Side Community Centre
- Seafarer’s Association Meeting Hall
- South Sound Community Centre
- University College of Cayman Islands (UCCI)
- West Bay Public Library
- William Allen McLaughlin Civic Centre
Wi-Fi hotspots are accessible twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. All the hotspots mentioned are now live, with the exception of the UCCI location.
Members of the public are required to adhere to relevant safety and social distancing guidelines when visiting these locations.
Again, thanks to all the partners who made this possible.
Cayman Islands Centre for Business Development
Turning to other portfolio areas, the Government, through my Ministry, continues to provide support for micro and small businesses across our islands.
Last week Honourable Premier gave an update on the uptake of the Government’s relief measures for micro and small business, offered through the Cayman Islands Centre for Business Development.
I just want to add that, as of yesterday, 22 June:
- Seven Hundred and Forty Nine (749) applications have been received for the micro and small business grant programme. 83% of all applications received have so far been processed.
- The total value of grant applications approved is $1,076,000.00. Of this amount, $660,969.41 has already been received by applicants.
- For the low interest loan programme, 60 applications have been received representing 37% of available funds approved by Cabinet. Three (3) applications were recently approved by the Cayman Islands Development Bank.
In addition to current services, once we can safely begin in-house services – the Centre will provide a residential business incubator where micro and small business owners can operate rent free with business advisors on hand for financial and strategic guidance.
Department of Commerce and Investment
The Department of Commerce and Investment continues to provide exceptional service through their online platform and via remote working.
Between March 21 – June 17, over 2,900 trade and business licences have been processed and issued. This includes over 600 new trade and business licences, which I believe, speaks to the confidence in our local economy and demonstrates that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well.
I want to remind members of the public that in March, Government temporarily waived the trade and business licensing application fees, (for both new and renewals), until 31July.
Late trade and business licensing fees have also been temporarily waived until 31July.
There is still a window of opportunity for micro and small business owners, in particular, to benefit from these waivers.
I also want to mention that all the Boards – Trade and Business Licensing, Liquor Licensing, Special Economic Zone and Film Commission – are up and functioning.
Thank you to the DCI team and members of the Boards for your stellar response during the past few months.
Department of Vehicle and Driver’s Licensing
Turning to DVDL, over the past three months, staff processed a total of 10,181 vehicle licence renewals.
- Of this number, 7,873 vehicles or about 132 vehicles/per day were renewed online. This is proof that the online system is working and I would like to encourage members of the public to continue utilizing the online platform.
- DVDL will refine the online system to make it even more efficient and easy to use, with the hope that customers will not have the need to return to the offices in numbers previously seen.
- There were 2,288 vehicles renewed over the counter for essential personnel and the elderly.
- The total number of drivers’ licences renewed during the period is 1,686. I would encourage the public to use the online registered user portal.
The Department is now finalising procedures for the re-opening of the written and driving test, and the public will be advised accordingly.
Department of Planning
As it relates to planning matters, the Department of Planning has played a crucial role in the phased reopening of the construction sector. Planning personnel have provided in-field inspection services for those projects that had inspections pending (prior to the shelter in place regulations). They are now transitioning to multi-family and commercial projects as these projects come back on stream.
For the period, 15 March -19 June:
- Number of Permits Issued – 108; valued over $44million;
- Number of Certificate of Occupancy Issued – 38, valued over 59 million.
- Number of Projects approved – 38, valued over 10 million
- Number of inspections completed – 663.
I am also pleased to report that the Department of Planning has partnered now with the Postal Service to allow customers to pay planning fees at three post offices – Airport, Savannah and West Bay. These locations are able to process cash and cheque transactions on behalf of Department. I want to thank the Postal Service for this partnership, which highlights efforts being made by the civil service to improve service delivery options to the public.
National Roads Authority
On the topic of infrastructure, the NRA began critical road works this month to take advantage of the reduction in the number of vehicles on roads.
- NRA crews have already completed resurfacing on Shedden Road, Harbour Drive and Crewe Road.
- In the coming weeks, they will begin resurfacing
- In George Town – North Sound Road (by Alissa Towers); and Elgin Avenue (by the police station),
- Bodden Town area – Manse Road, Pease Bay, and sections of Breakers; West Bay Road; and sections of East End by the Blowholes.
- Work is also underway for the widening of Chrissie Tomlinson roundabout and Rex Crighton Boulevard, which will be completed by the end of July.
- In addition, work is set to begin on the Airport connector road in the coming weeks. This will connect the Esterley Tibbetts Highway to Sparky Drive to alleviate heavy traffic through industrial park and also ease congestion onto the Butterfield roundabout.
On Wednesday of last week, I attended the NRA board meeting via zoom and we agreed to continue our focus on making our roads safer for all users by adopting the complete streets methodology where ever possible.
However, if space does not allow us, we will follow the shared streets methodology by using signage and road markings to identify and remind users that the streets are to be shared by motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians alike.
I would like to encourage everyone to continue to be cautious and take our time whilst using the roads. Just a couple weeks ago, we were restricted in our travel days and times and we seemed to have managed. Let us continue to show the same levels of patience, plan our days to reduce time on the road, and continue to share the roads with those of us who may walking, jogging, or cycling to get around or simply for exercise.
I have not touched on all the areas but I want to highlight the importance of the work E-Government Services Unit, particularly throughout this period. They have provided support government-wide, across agencies and departments.
During the shelter-in place, the EGov team have implemented a number of technology solutions across government:
- The Covid-19 self-assessment tool;
- The Chatbot assistant for gov.ky/coronavirus site; and
- Distribution via text message of ESID numbers to persons whose driver’s licences are expiring to allow them to renew online with the registered user portal.
The E-Gov team are currently working with the Computer Services Department and vendors for the launch of a number e-commerce solutions in July. These include:
- Online application for the Centre for Business Development which will allow for micro and small businesses to apply for the grants or loans;
- Online system to facilitate the submission of items to be published in the Gazette;
- Additional online services for DVDL such as new vehicle registrations and vehicle transfers; and
- Online system to support the submission of applications for British Overseas Territory Citizen Naturalization and Registration and proof of nationality.
This COVID-19 pandemic has brought the importance of digital services and the digital economy to the forefront. While we have benefitted significantly from the efforts to date with our existing online services, we have become more aware of major opportunities/gaps particularly in the digital sphere, a key one being the absence of a national identification system.
The good news is that E-Gov team have been working on this system and a few other projects. The team has made progress that will move the Cayman Islands forward significantly in the digital economy with implementation of the Population Register and National ID system.
The team have been working towards the procurement of a comprehensive suite of services, equipment, software and support in relation to the ID system. It anticipated that this will allow for the issuance of National IDs, starting in the second quarter of 2021.
The key dependencies to achieve this – is the completion of the population register; supporting legislation and the procurement process.
The Population Register is still on track for launch in the fourth quarter of this year with the majority of the technical solution currently implemented and ready.
Before I close, I want to thank E-Government and the Computer Services Department teams for all the work behind the scenes in supporting government to transition services online. Also, a big thank you to all the employees of the Ministry for their dedication in serving the people of these Islands. In spite of the circumstances under which we have been operating, they continue to give 100%.