People need time to adjust, says Panton

| 20/09/2021 | 146 Comments
Cayman News Service
Premier Wayne Panton at Friday’s press briefing

(CNS): Premier Wayne Panton has said the community needs time to adjust to the idea of living with COVID-19 after many people reacted with shock and fear when Cayman’s coronavirus-free bubble burst some 12 days ago. He said the pause in reopening would allow the government time to build up public confidence that the country can manage the return of the virus and not see any significant surges or high levels of sickness.

While government leaders have often said the phased reopening would see COVID return, it still came as a surprise, coming sooner than expected. Speaking at Friday’s press briefing, Panton said the resulting pause is not indefinite and the border could still reopen before the end of the year, but whatever day is set, the country needs to be in the best possible place regarding the vaccine and public must be comfortable with the virus being among us.

The reaction by some to the return of COVID and the response by others to the decision to delay reopening is polarizing the country, but the premier is seeking to use this outbreak and pause to the border reopening plan to build up the confidence that is clearly missing after Cayman has lived for more than a year with no local transmission, a rare situation around the world.

“This pause gives us an opportunity to strengthen some of our controls so that we reduce the likelihood of a surge of COVID-19 cases that puts lives and all commerce at risk,” Panton said on Friday, adding that this would give government a better sense of the way forward and the people time to come to grips with the virus return.

He said the government also wants to test the resilience of institutions to the current outbreaks and to focus on containing and managing it and seeing how it affects local children.

Panton was clear on Friday that government will not lift any quarantine restrictions, as previously planned on 14 October. This could happen sooner than the end of the year but a date was difficult to pin down until the impact of the current outbreaks have time to play out.

“We are looking to pause for as much as to the end of the year but we have to have the flexibility,” he said, explaining that it depends on how confident we can be about lifting quarantine because everyone now accepts we must reopen.

The premier said he was reassured that most people who have become positive from community transmission remain asymptomatic or are suffering only mild symptoms.

But he said he was aware that the reaction to the outbreak was driven by emotion, which is why he believes the country needs a little more time to adapt and get used to the idea of living with the virus before the government moves to Phase 4 of the reopening plan.

“We need time for society to adjust and to make sure we understand what was involved with this current outbreak,” Panton said. “We still don’t know how it happened and no evidence… it happened because of a traveller, so we are still looking around for the possible… sources of this… We have been in this cocoon for 18 months,” he noted, adding that coming out of it has created a level of shock that government could not ignore.

Panton explained that before we relax controls further, government wanted to see how the vaccines, public health experiences, the strategic planning, continuity of operations, school bubbles and people in general react and work together to prevent a surge of cases.

“We have all known that COVID-19 would reach our shores and enter our community. We all knew, both those who believe we need to open the border and learn to live with COVID-19 and those who believe otherwise,” he said, adding that with the virus already here, the government has no intention of implementing a mandated lockdown but was keen to have an organised managed response.

“I believe we can get through this if we all do what we are supposed to do,” he said as he outlined the well-worn COVID protocols of masks, distance and sanitizer, plus the vaccine. “This pandemic requires us to balance the economy and the society, and we are as far as possible putting our people first in these circumstances.”

He said PACT was in unanimous agreement about the values that will guide the decision-making but there was no “playbook for COVID-19. We need to stick together as a community and adapt as circumstances change,” the premier said.

Opening was always going to see the virus return, but combing “our collective efforts we can get through this” and open the borders without going back to lockdown. He warned it will always be impossible to eliminate the risk but the aim was to manage the risk in the community with confidence.

See the full conference below on CIGTV:

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Category: Health, Medical, Politics

Comments (146)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    No expats will leave. none, Cayman is still the best place to be, we all know that.

  2. Anonymous says:

    None of them write their own speeches. I work for government so I can tell you that.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Wayne, you wanted a Big Boy job, you wanted to be Boss Hogg, suck it up Bobo.

    There is more to being Premier than riding in the Range Rover with the Cayman Flag flying over the hood.

  4. Annie says:

    Pact didn’t just drop the ball, they took the ball and threw it in our face. Disgusting, cowardly, and spineless at best.

  5. Anonymous says:

    yep, the bubble has burst. Two main reasons: Reducing quarantine to 5 days and allowing people to quarantine at home.

    This, of course, has been organized on purpose under the pressure of the commerce.

    cayman can be proud, it is too late now.

  6. Anon says:

    Are Caymanian children different somehow? CIG can look at the U.K., raging pandemic for 18 months now but barely perceptible effect on under 16s.

  7. Anonymous says:

    We don’t need time to adjust. We need decisive leadership, not someone who changes his mind and back tracks on his announced policy depending how many angry emails he gets. I honestly feel sorry for him. Caring too deeply about what people think or say about you when you have to make difficult decisions that cannot please everyone must be causing him agonies. I am guessing this is not what he thought the job would be like.

    • Anonymous says:

      Alden was a leader, might not have liked him, but certainly respected him for sticking to what had to be done…despite heavy opposition.
      Wayne is doing his best I know, but he is surrounded by a highly paid bunch of people who want to be liked.

      • Anonymous says:

        He would have done the same thing. Leaders would have finished the park they started in 2019, not to mention get it fixed after the hurricane destroyed it. Leaders would have realised a pool cleaner is a non contact job and would have let us go back to work.

  8. anon says:

    and another airline bites the dust – United airlines cancelled up to 11th February
    thats on top of american – New year and Southwest 10th March
    deep joy !!!
    population will probably decrease by 5000 expats now as they want there freedom !! Cayman islands the jewel in the crown ?? mmmm more like a a piece of plastic in a fake crown

    • Jotnar says:

      Living with COVID is easier than living with a government who can’t make a decision and stick with it. At least with COVID you know the risks and how to protect yourself against them. With PACT you have no idea what they are going to do next – especially when they tell you!

    • Whatever says:

      Can you promise 5000 expats will leave?

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