Government Addresses Concerns About Omicron Variant
At a COVID-19 community update press conference held today, Government leaders headed by Premier Hon. Wayne Panton emphasised that the new COVID-19 variant Omicron is being taken seriously in the Cayman Islands.
All efforts, including coming changes to regulations, are aimed at reducing the severity of the spread and the consequences of Omicron, of which currently there is one confirmed case in the Cayman Islands and 10 more suspected cases. The confirmed case is in a traveller from the US, as well as the majority of the suspected cases. The other suspected cases are from the UK, Canada and Mexico.
Also addressing the media were Tourism and Transport Minister, Hon. Kenneth Bryan; Health and Wellness Minister, Hon. Sabrina Turner as well as Interim Chief Medical Officer Dr. Autilia Newton and Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Samuel Williams. Prayer was led by Pastor Reinaldo Dracket.
Highlights from the Premier included:
- There is a change to the rules concerning visiting healthcare facilities, care home facilities and prisons or places of detention. Individuals will now have to do the test on the day of their visit, either with a certified LFT, or at the facility upon their arrival. It previously was within 72 hours.
- The public gathering numbers are again curtailed. Large events of over 250 persons made possible by partitioned venues will not be possible. The limits will be 100 persons indoors and 250 persons outdoors.
- Mandatory testing for frontline workers will be introduced, regardless of their vaccination status.
- Opening hours at bars and nightclubs will be reduced to midnight until 30 December, starting Friday, 17 December.
- The list of restricted countries will be revisited.
- Get the booster shot. For the unvaccinated, get vaccinated.
- Employers should look at reducing the density of employees in their office buildings. If staff can work from home, that should be the default position.
- To participate in indoor gatherings, persons are advised to do Lateral Flow Tests to ensure they are negative to the virus.
- The Christmas Marketplace planned for Saturday, 18 December is cancelled but the fireworks on the waterfront will take place and people can safely view seated in their vehicles.
Notable points from the Health Minister included:
- People are reminded to remain vigilant, even more so since the highly transmissible Omicron is a reality. They should follow Public Health’s guidance of social distancing, limiting gatherings, wearing masks and practising proper hand hygiene.
- If someone tests positive for Omicron, Public Health is currently requiring all in the household to isolate for a minimum of 14 days.
- All are urged to do the right thing and report positive LFT results and ensure they are isolated. This is vital for controlling spread of Omicron.
- Government will continue to ramp up vaccinations and booster shots, which currently are at 21% with the aim to reach 80% if not 100% to minimise Omicron’s impact.
- The new Vaccination Clinic at 131 MacLendon Drive is open from 7.30 am to 12 noon Monday -Friday and 10am– 2pm weekends and Public Holidays. However, this is not available for isolation exit testing.
- Booster shots and vaccinations are also available one day each week in the districts to enable a better reach. See hsa.ky for times and more details.
- Government is pursuing arrangements with Pfizer for the procurement of vaccines for children. This is currently progressing and we hope to have a children’s vaccination programme available sometime in the first to second quarter of next year.
- The regular flu vaccines are also now available at all District Clinics, Monday-Friday, 10 am to12 noon. Outreach activities are also being coordinated at supermarkets and other prominent locations.
- The Health Services Authority has extended the operating hours of the Flu Clinic from 4 pm to 11 pm daily. This allows other medical services to continue with lessened risk for both patients and staff.
- The HSA has re-established an agreement with the Jasmine Health Care Facility for utilisation of their property if necessary.
- Additional supply of oxygen has been ordered pending the arrival of the HSA’s oxygen generating plant to provide supplemental support for patient care and contingency plans for any surge in COVID-19 patients.
- The health insurance Payment Assistance Programme has been extended until March 2022.
- The conversion of the Family Life Centre to an emergency Field Hospital is now complete. It is awaiting final inspection and approval by the regulatory authorities.
Tourism Minister’s highlights included:
- The cruise ship visit on 28 December by a Holland America ship will continue because they have met Government’s stipulated seven safety criteria which are:
- Grand Cayman must be the first port of call.
- Passenger capacity is limited to a maximum of 1,600 representing 60% capacity of the vessel.
- All guests and crew must be fully vaccinated with an approved COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior to the start of the cruise.
- All guests must have a negative PCR or antigen test taken within 2 days of their embarkation.
- All guests and crew going ashore must observe local requirements regarding face masks and social distancing.
- No unwell guests or crew will be allowed ashore.
- The tourism stipend recipients will receive an additional $500 for Christmas and every effort will be made to distribute the payment before Christmas. Additionally, as of 1 January 2022, the Ministry of Labour will manage the programme because that entity has staff with expertise in labour matters including assisting persons find jobs and transition back into the workforce.
- Government will be reviewing in early January the travel policy relating to children so that unvaccinated children may be able to take their parents’ vaccination status for the purposes of travel.
To view the entire press conference, persons can play back the CIGTV broadcast at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tFqgO8vYS0.
Issued by: Government Information Services (GIS)