Premier rages at businesses over lockdown delay

| 24/03/2020 | 232 Comments
Cayman News Service
Premier Alden McLaughlin at the press briefing Tuesday afternoon

(CNS): The business community appears prepared to put their economic interest above the lives of Caymanians, the premier said after government was inundated with requests for companies that are not essential to exempt their workers from the imminent lockdown. Government wants businesses to close their doors so that as many people as possible can remain at home for the next ten days in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

But speaking at a press briefing on Tuesday evening, Premier Alden McLaughlin said government received hundreds of calls and emails about the potential lockdown, with bosses from every sector claiming that their workers are all essential.

“Everyone thinks they are an essential service,” McLaughlin told the press, as he expressed his clear frustrations with the overwhelming number of requests for exemptions from employers whose workers would be required to stay home and for their businesses to close.

The proposed lockdown, which the premier wanted to introduce tomorrow, would require everyone to ‘shelter in place’, in other words to stay home. The only exemptions would be those who are part of what will become a mandated list of essential services, but that has now been delayed because of the struggle to create a definitive list and get the support of so much of the private sector.

However, the curfew will begin this evening at 7pm and only people who are part of the emergency or security services, medical and health providers, utility and fuel workers, food suppliers and delivery people from restaurants will be allowed on the road.

The police commissioner said that during this first night his officers will be reasonable and fair in the application of the law but that it will not be a liberal consideration of the law. He warned that police visibility will be high, and while officers will consider reasons people put forward for breaching the curfew before they are prosecuted, names and addresses will be taken.

The requirement for people to practice six feet social distancing as well as the reduction to only two people in any given place other than family homes is also now mandated.

The premier was clearly furious that the full ‘shelter in place’ order has had to be delayed because so many employers are insistent that their staff are essential. McLaughlin was particularly outraged after suggestions that the entire financial services sector, which is more than capable of working remotely and has business continuity plans, should be exempt.

He said the message was obviously not getting through to the business community that this is a national health emergency in which hundreds of people could die if we don’t act to curb the spread of this novel coronavirus. “We have requests for thousands of people being exempted,” he said. “It would be pointless for us to proceed with a shelter in place order if we granted all of those exemptions.”

He said everyone was concerned about the economic consequences and so was government, but the economics were not more important than lives. What the government is proposing will have a negative economic effect over the ten days it is proposed to run. But the premier said that if the strategy succeeds in containing or restricting community spread, lives will be saved and there will be no need for a full lockdown that could last months.

McLaughlin explained that government was abandoning the plan for Tuesday night to grapple further on Wednesday on how best to do it and try to get the cooperation of the business community who, he said, “seem prepared to risk the lives of their employees” to save their businesses. But he warned he would impose a radical 24/7 full curfew if they did not support the ‘shelter in place’ order tomorrow.

“We are not going to allow economic considerations to kill our people,” the premier said, adding that he would not let economics to come before anything else.

Urging people to understand that government was doing all it could to deal with this national health emergency, he said he was worried that “we will have to bury some of our own people” before the community takes this seriously.

McLaughlin said that what government was trying to do was avoid the death and disaster seen in so many places around the world with this short term lockdown for just ten days, hopefully giving Cayman a chance to limit or even contain any further spread of this deathly pandemic.

See the full press conference below

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Category: Business, Health, health and safety

Comments (232)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    “..the business community who, he said, “seem prepared to risk the lives of their employees” to save their businesses. But he warned he would impose a radical 24/7 full curfew if they did not support the ‘shelter in place’ order tomorrow.”

    Closing all businesses, including supermarkets, pharmacies and petrol stations is not a logical response to businesses asking for exemptions from a work from home or close policy. The logical response to that is to say no and not grant the exemptions. It is a logical reaction to finding that we have people who are in the community and infected – particularly if they cam in on flights within the last week and cannot be trusted to self isolate so have to be forced to stay at home and all businesses closed to remove temptation to stray out. But that would mean you have to admit that the decision to let people in after Thursday was , an error – and thats as likely as admitting that you let 2100 people ashore from a cruise ship that had already been denied landing in Jamaica.

    Alden needs a whipping boy – so its the cruel heartless private sector that is forcing him to do this – not the inevitable consequence of earlier bad policy choices.

    • Anonymous says:

      Call them back Moses! Glad to see our partners doing their best to try and kiss trumps ring and get some bail out. Congress may refuse and put these partners out of business. Where is Moses anyways…? Aldens clever but lack of bread won’t get votes in basket.

    • Anonymous says:

      Those of us who have been in isolation from the time we arrived back on Island last week are already running low on groceries, water, medication etc. We could. not go to the supermarket then, we had to go straight home and stay there. Many of us have done that as we are taking this seriously. There was no way we could go and purchase groceries today and paying an additional $40 to have groceries delivered on Monday was the best we could do. I bet there are a lot of people with no food and no money and no way to get to the shops but govt. does not care about them. Im sure they all have enough food for weeks. The rest of us can suck it up. I know we have to isolate to prevent the spread but give people a chance to get what they need. This is exactly why people have been panic buying. There are a lot of employers who couldn’t care less about their staff. We have a crappy labour law years behind most of the world. It needs to be updated to protect staff but its all for the employer. This has just made it abundently clear. Its all about money.

    • John says:

      Quite so. Alden threw his toys out the pram because businesses didn’t want their employees to have no pay check.

      Do here what they have proven to be successful in Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong; masks for everyone when you go out.
      More testing. Not just those in hospital.
      That’s how you lick this. Not by closing everything down.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Take solace with this Mr Premier, – just under 200 comments by mid-afternoon, you know there’s more than a good percentage paying attention

  3. Caymanian Culture over all says:

    Lock up the old people and make the young people work. Use your brain, maybe this will get rid of the old corrupt way of thinking.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps people want to deposit or cash their pay cheques otherwise they will have no money. Some employers stll pay by cheque.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know anyone that can generate profit once they die – do you? Let’s stay our *** home!

  6. David says:

    “The business community appears prepared to put their economic interest above the lives of Caymanians, the premier said…” I hope the Premier or CNS is using the term “Caymanians” inclusively here to mean everyone, because there will surely be many work permit holders in the same position. Cayman Kind, we are one community, the virus doesn’t distinguish and we all need to unite.

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