Caymans

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Tuesday, Mar 02, 2021

Recap of CI Govt COVID-19 conference, 4 February

At the COVID-19 press conference, Thursday, 4 February 2021, Cayman Islands’ leaders gave updates on issues ranging from take-up of the COVID-19 vaccine, to border reopening plans and financial support measures for businesses and workers impacted by COVID-19.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr John Lee, revealed that 65% of persons over 70, and 55% of persons over 60 have already had their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Premier, Hon. Alden McLaughlin, noted that once 90% of persons over-60 have received their final dose of the vaccine, the Cayman Islands will reduce its quarantine requirements for incoming travellers to 10 days provided various conditions are met.

Given the impact of the continued impact of global pandemic on the tourism sector and small businesses, Finance Minister, Hon Roy McTaggart, Health Minister, Hon Dwayne Seymour, and Commerce Minister Hew Joey Hew outlined a range of measures across their various areas of responsibility that seek to provide support.to impacted persons and businesses. More detail is provided below.

Minister McTaggart spoke about the expansion of the tourism stipend to $1500. Health Minister Seymour announced assistance with the payment of health insurance premiums for tourism workers, meanwhile Minister Hew outlined a new, one-off payment for small businesses. All three Cabinet ministers also outlined the take-up of COVID-19 assistance offered by their agencies to date.

Prayer was led by Erika da Silva from the First Assembly of God.

Chief Medical Officer, Dr. John Lee reported:

CMO reported 11856 doses of the vaccine administered across the Cayman Islands. Of these 3929 were second doses. The vaccine is being rolled out in Grand Cayman at a rate of around 400 doses a day.
Dr Lee commented that 65% of persons over 70, and 55% of over persons over 60 have received at least one dose. The total population of the Cayman Islands over the age of 60 is estimated at around 5565 people.
Twelve percent of the general population have received at least one dose.
Out of 420 tests on inbound travellers and those in quarantine, 10 newly arrived travellers tested positive, as did two exiting quarantine.
CMO concluded that the 72 hours pre-boarding tests remained a sound means of reducing the number of infected persons. Yet as some persons are too early in the infection process to register as positive, and others contracted the disease after their test, the Cayman Islands quarantine procedures remained a necessary precaution.
Dr Lee also noted to the media that the Cayman Islands Government had declined to take part in distribution of the vaccine by the COVAX initiative. This was in recognition of the demand for the vaccine in countries more severely impacted than the Cayman Islands but also the British Government’s commitment to supplying the Cayman Islands with necessary doses of the vaccine.

Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin said:

Pleased at how well roll-out of COVID-19 vaccine is going.
Applauded health professionals for their work in this area, and praised the benefits of relocating the vaccine clinic to Owen Roberts International Airport. He noted that this allowed more persons to be vaccinated simultaneously and reduced time in the queue.
Moving to the next stage of border reopening is contingent on first having 90% of persons over 60 vaccinated, which at the current rate should be the end of the month.
Once this objective is reached the Cayman Islands will reduce the mandatory quarantine period from 14 to 10 days, although this will require 72-hour pre-arrival negative testing and negative testing on arrival. Persons must also have completed a valid vaccination programme approved by the Chief Medical Officer and must be staying in a household that has been fully vaccinated. A negative test on day 10 will be required to off-board the quarantine programme.
Adults travelling with children too young to vaccinate must quarantine for 14 days.The Premier likened the border re-reopening process to the phased reopening of the economy last year, stressing that it will be incremental and public health will guide all decisions
The reduction in the quarantine period is a first step towards reopening the borders and will help us to consider what to do next.
Thanked the UK Government for ensuring that the Cayman Islands has received the COVID-19 vaccine as part of the distribution programme to the British Overseas Territories.
Urged everyone to get protected, but noted that going forward the vaccine may only be taken by persons ordinarily and legally resident, unless they have had their first dose.
Noted there are still 2300 persons over 60 remaining to be vaccinated in order to reach the 90% target.
Urged people to get vaccinated and return for second doses.

His Excellency the Governor, Mr. Martyn Roper said:

Reiterated UK’s firm commitment to distributing vaccines to UKOTS, based on population size and availability.
A third consignment of around 15K will arrive on next BA flight 11 of February. Further flights are planned end of February and March.
Three batches will potentially facilitate close to 40,000 doses.
The Cayman Islands’ vaccine roll-out is going very well.
The UK will continue to send the Pfizer for the next two to three shipments but may eventually be sent the Astra Zeneca vaccine.
Vaccine rollout to millions of people around the world has worked well with no serious side-effects or complications. This includes 10.5 million in UK and 33 million in US.
The vaccine has gone through rigorous testing and been given the green light internationally by highly respected health regulators.
Recognised people do have some genuine concerns and urged these persons to go to official trustworthy sources. Don’t be taken in by sensational stories on social media.
New variants are causing concern and anxiety globally. Yet there is not enough data so people need to remain vigilant.
Noted the superb news that the AstraZeneca vaccine is the first to stop a person from transmitting COVID-19. Vaccines are the way out of the global pandemic.
Praised pivotal role of UK scientists in developing the vaccine.
Stated that a military team is here and in quarantine, to do training for the second cohort of Cayman Islands Regiment reservists.

Finance Minister Roy McTaggart said:

When he joined the Government in 2013 the country was still dealing with the impact of the 2008 recession. Tourism numbers were at their lowest for 10 years.
Before the impact of COVID the Cayman Islands economy was the best in the region and is arguably still the same today. Growth averaged over 3% from 2014-2019, and unemployment was below 5%, the lowest in years.
Noted the construction and development sector helped to drive jobs. In 2019 about 750 projects were approved at a value of $890m plus. Several recommenced after long lockdown helping to keep the local economy alive.
Investments are still coming to Cayman Islands and bode well for our future economy. This is prompting the business sector to invest and fuel opportunities and economic growth for thousands of Caymanians
This will continue as long as business leadership remains confident in the direction of the country. Government has demonstrated through sound planning and leadership that this trust is well placed. Same planning judgement and leadership has helped to guide the islands through the worst of 2020 and has brought valuable prospects to the country in 2021.
Overall the 2020 deficit is less than forecast. Central government itself is expected to close financial year with an operating deficit of 50-75 million dollars. Number will be clarified in coming weeks.
What also leaves us in a good position is that at the end of 2020, we had $449m in the bank. This is the result of work done to secure the country’s finances, which has allowed us space to keep health and safety at the forefront of decision-making
Noted that Government had yet to access line of credit $403m line of credit approved last year.
Contributing to this strong position were higher than expected stamp duties on land transfers, mutual funds licensing and administrator’s licences.
Certain expenditure categories also incurred fewer costs in 2020, including personnel.
Significant COVID-19 expenditures totaled approximately $65.4 m. These included $33 m in health related and quarantine costs. The remainder was used to support impacted families and businesses.
While the local economy is performing well the tourism sector is suffering. Announced an increase in the tourism stipend from $1000 to $1500, from February to June 2021

Health Minister Hon. Dwayne Seymour said:

I am pleased today to also be announcing further assistance to displaced tourism workers through a new round of the health insurance premium payments assistance programme.
From April to June the Ministry of Health and Health Insurance Commission offered an initial assistance programme that was taken up by 1250 people at a cost of $400,000.
The Ministry and Commission in partnership with eight approved insurance companies agreed to the new programme, focused on assisting those in tourism and hospitality industries who have suffered job loss and income reduction
Questions may be sent by email to hic@gov.ky or by telephone to 926-2084. Applications may be downloaded from dhrs.gov.ky
Health and wellbeing of all remain the Government’s highest priority

Commerce Minister Hon. Joey Hew said:

Government has been supporting micro and small business owners and entrepreneurs through access to financial support, technical assistance, advice and training
It has also sought to provide special support to businesses that have the systems in place to allow then to aid in the economic recovery
In phase 1, micro and small 1432 businesses benefited from approx. $4.3million in support.
In phase 2, 370 businesses received grants ranging from $6-20,000 each to a total of $4.5 million.
Minister appealed for those notified that their application has been successful to be patient with process to reach completion.
He noted that a further 29 loans were disbursed by the CICBD/Cayman Islands Loan Interest Loan Scheme, with a value of over $1 million.
Technical assistance was also provided to 44 small businesses under loan scheme
The Minister also announced a one-time payment of 3K approved by Cabinet as a stipend to small businesses that unsuccessfully applied in phase two. As such no further action is required from beneficiaries. The payment will be by electronic transfer, irrespective of number of businesses owned and number of applications to the assistance programme.
The Centre for Business Development is set to open a business incubator for businesses that do not currently have a work space.
It is expected that up to 20 micro and small business owners will be able to benefit at any given time. Residential space will be made available free of charge. Successful applicants will also have access to laptops, business advisors and a special advisory panel consisting of legal, accounting and business professionals.
Benefits will include strategic business development guidance. Thanked team at the Centre for their accomplishments since opening last year.

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