Population details still in question

| 02/04/2020 | 26 Comments
Governor Martyn Roper at Thursday’s press briefing

(CNS): The current population and demographics of the Cayman Islands are uncertain, as the most recent figures have not yet been released. The estimated population in the Spring 2019 Labour Force Survey by the Economics and Statistics Office was around 68,000, but some estimates indicate that the real figure could have been as many as 70,000, including 30,000 permit holders, before the recent exit due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After Cayman began its lockdown procedures and announced the closure of its borders, people began leaving. Between 15 March, two days after Cayman’s first positive case was confirmed, and 22 March, when Owen Roberts International Airport was closed, 12,574 people left the islands, Wesley Howell, the chief officer in the Ministry of Employment and Border Control, confirmed to CNS this week.

Howell also revealed that 4,003 people returned, leaving a net migration of 8,571, suggesting that there may still be 60,000 or more people resident here. There is no breakdown of the people who left to indicate how many were visitors and how many were expatriate workers, so government does not know with any accuracy the number of people it has to deal with during the COVID-19 health crisis or how many it will have to lend assistance to so they can leave.

The population and demographics, including the number of work permit holders, will be increasingly important in managing the pandemic and testing policies, as the current lockdown is expected to last for many more weeks.

The British Airways flight next Tuesday offers the first opportunity since the airport closed for some people to depart, and the governor has said that 200 seats will be available.

In last few days Premier Alden McLaughlin has said he is aware that the number of expatriates who no longer have work or money is growing and that this is going to be an increasing problem. While many of these workers want to leave, and McLaughlin said the government is encouraging them to do so, the challenge now is how they do that.

The premier has said that Cayman Airways could be deployed to make regional air-lifts to take people home if they can secure permission to land at airports that are now closed. However, that is dependent on regional governments, the ability to test those passengers and the numbers of people wanting to go to which countries.

A travel hotline was set up for those wishing to use the BA air-bridge to get to London. However, Governor Martyn Roper is now encouraging people to call that number wherever they want to go. This will enable the authorities to understand how many people need or want to leave Cayman, he explained during the latest press briefing.

While some permit holders are essential workers or are able to keep working from home, given the estimated number here on permits before the health crisis and the speed with which things changed here, it is probable that many got caught out.

While McLaughlin has said numerous times that government will help people who are stranded here and have no money, ensuring they have access to a healthcare, a roof over their heads and food, questions remain over how long it can deal with that as well as support the local population.

The premier has urged employers to take responsibility for their permit holders, but with the economy on pause, business owners outside of the offshore sector or essential services will find it increasingly difficult to support them. While many are helping their permit holders and local workers as much as they are able, there is already anecdotal evidence to suggest that significant numbers of employers have already abandoned those they recruited from overseas and in some cases their former local workers as well.


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Comments (26)

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  1. Paula Beck says:

    Kick them all back to their countries of origin. Simple. Not our problem. US?UK just did the same.. so all Ex-Pats MUST leave. & take back all purchase to stay programmes as well. They’ve all expired.

    CNS: The premier has explained on several occasions that when the economy begins to open, we will need those expats who are still here to keep it afloat. So if we “kick them all back” (really, it’s people we are talking about here!) our economy will not recover.

  2. Anon says:

    The civil service is like a virus!
    Eventually disables its host- self propagating- immune to basic forms of eradication- serves absolutely no useful purpose except to propagate its own kind. With one exception viruses are ultimately governed by nature, Civil servants (an oxymoron) is governed by nothing except themselves!

    • Anonymous says:

      Can’t agree with you, we cannot do without such a service. It has certain parasitic relationships though that harm the whole service.

  3. Anonymous says:

    What happened to the magical fingerprint system?

  4. Right ya so says:

    Is nobody going to comment on the last para in this article, particularly the final sentence?! Disgusting and shameful

    While many are helping their permit holders and local workers as much as they are able, there is already anecdotal evidence to suggest that significant numbers of employers have already abandoned those they recruited from overseas and in some cases their former local workers as well.

    • Anonymous says:

      And they should be denied any access to work permits in the future if they have done this. They have left the Caymanian people to pick up the tab, and caused significant human suffering.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I think the estimate from an earlier press conference was around 54,000 people on island, down from nearly 68,000. There are many businesses that told their staff to stick around and hold – still paying them – or take a severance, leave, and not expect a re-hire. As time goes on, the only number that will really matter is the total number of domestic and imported social assistance cases, and that number is not going to remain static for long. Of all the deluded businesses that ought to have known better, Kirk Freeport, thought this was just going to blow over and the cruise ships would be back in a couple weeks! Dart kept all it’s hotel staff on. Bad gambles.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Check the supermarket lines, looks like we have 100,000 on island! How have they not worked out deliveries?! Woody Foster is front and center and they can’t even put together a simple delivery system. Hurley’s and kirks are maxed and won’t respond. And yet this government wants to stop my pool guy (who has zero contact and actually needs income) from keeping my pool nice so we can continue to get our daily exercise and free from Zika/West Nile/chikungunya carrying mosquitoes. Alden has done a pretty good job so far but his ego is showing with stopping zero contact business from continuing.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I am still trying to get my head around the 4000+ who returned.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why? Students, Caymanians working in overseas offices, Caymanians on vacation. Off the top of my head I can could come up with 100 that fit that category & yet I can go to the grocery store or caymana bay (before this!) & not see anyone I know.

      • Anonymous says:

        I am thinking more in terms of risk. Those numbers are a lot higher than any I had previously heard in press cons/media.

    • Anonymous says:

      Boarding/college students, and Caymanians traveling and/or working abroad. Can’t be that hard to understand.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Should be a lot less after this blows over so any count now is invalid

    • Anonymous says:

      Except we need to know it accurately now to be able to understand our food security needs, budgeting needs, testing needs, and ventilator needs.

      • Anonymous says:

        The census should be delayed. No use doing an exercise that is supposed to inform decisions for 10 years during a crisis that distorts the numbers. If it can’t be delayed it should be repeated when things return to normal.

        • Anonymous says:

          It should coincide with a mandatory testing of everyone here before we reopen our borders.

  9. Anonymous says:

    They have no idea how many are here. That is a national disgrace. This stuff ain’t brain surgery.

    • Anonymous says:

      No way there are 80k on this island let alone 100k. 60-65 is about right.

      • Anonymous says:

        Sure, but you think we could know within 5%? Lives and livelihoods may depend on it. Why do they not know?

        • Anonymous says:

          CMR claims to be 97%, 97% of the time. What should we ascribe to the ESO?

        • Anonymous says:

          It seems they do not know how many Caymanians are here, despite their expensive and robust border controls. They also do not know how many Permanent Residents, work Permit Holders, Spouses of Caymanians, Dependents, Certificate Holders, student Visa Holders, Visitors, and Overstayers there are. All that it seems needs to be done is to add those numbers up. What do they need to do that? A Calculator?

          • Anonymous says:

            What ever happened to the E-Government, National ID Project. I thought that agency was a national priority?

    • Anonymous says:

      yep…the usual incompetence from the over-paid underworked civil service

  10. Anonymous says:

    LOL, if they admit how many people left and yet we still have 70-80k people left, the cat will finally be out of the bag on Cayman already having 100K population so no surprize on the delay to give what will likely be ambiguous statistics!

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