By Lindsey Turnbull
America’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC, announced Tuesday that the Cayman Islands had been placed at Level 4 – as having a ‘very high’ level of Covid-19. As such, it suggests to would-be travellers to Cayman to avoid travelling here. “Because of the current situation in the Cayman Islands, even fully vaccinated travellers may be at risk for getting and spreading Covid-19 variants, it said. If people did decide to travel to the Cayman Islands, travellers should follow recommendations or requirements, including the wearing of masks and staying 6 feet apart from others.
At the time of writing, there had been 678 positive tests found from testing last weekend and of these positive results, nine were in travellers and 669 were from the community.
These results brought the number of active cases of Covid-19 in the Cayman Islands as at 8 a.m. on Monday, 8 November to 2,118. This translates to about 1 in 34 people with Covid-19.
The Public Health department also confirmed that up to 8 a.m. on Monday, 8 November there had been 832 total positive lateral flow tests since the introduction of the lateral flow test programme in the Cayman Islands.
Opposition airs concerns
Opposition Leader Roy McTaggart stated he and his Opposition member colleagues knew there was a lot of concern throughout the country with the escalating high level of Covid-19 community spread, and said they shared that concern.
Referring to the CDC’s moving of Cayman up their travel risk ranking to the top level 4 category, Mr McTaggart said this had serious implications for Cayman’s tourism business – particularly as Cayman was poised to re-open its borders and reintroduce visitors to the Islands.
“We will have tourists willing to visit, but the rise in community spread of the virus, coupled with the CDC now recommending that travellers should avoid the Islands, will temper any enthusiasm for visitors to come here,” he worried. “We are used to being in the top ranking for financial services and tourism, but not for Covid-19 spread.”
Mr McTaggart felt the implications to people’s health and the health of the economy was now “at the gravest it has been since the onset of the pandemic”.
“This is a regrettable set of events and I remain of the view that this is down to serious mismanagement by the government and specifically the Premier and health minister,” he stated.
However, he acknowledged that bemoaning the cause of the current situation would get Cayman nowhere.
“What is needed now is leadership, and the Premier must now lead from the front. He and his government must take action to have firm rules in place regarding all the necessary public health protocols and these must be enforced,” he stated. “This action is needed now to limit the further spread before we start to have tourists arrive here in ten days’ time. Hopefully, it is not too late. The government’s cavalier attitude towards the pandemic must end.”
Mr McTaggart felt that, so far, it did not seem like a planned border re-opening.
“Rather, it seems we are hurtling toward the 20 November date and praying for the best,” he said.
“I have been trying very hard to give the Premier and the government a wide berth to get things together, while still fulfilling my duty to the country to hold the Premier and the government to account. We in the Opposition will continue to be vigilant and to point out where the government is going wrong. But time is running out.”
Bigger fish to fry
Marc Langevin, President of the Cayman islands Tourism Association and General Manager at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, felt the CDC advisory situation was currently not the most worrisome for Cayman’s beleaguered tourism industry.
“I’m not so concerned by this announcement as it is just temporary while our destination is going through the initial process of community transmission, which is cyclical,” he stated.
However, Cayman’s tourism industry had far more critical issues ahead, he felt.
“We are more concerned about the delay in commercial airlines until February and March, and by the regulation preventing visitors’ unvaccinated children to travel to the Cayman Islands,” he stated.
New regulations that come into effect on 20 November state that cruise travellers or unvaccinated tourists which includes unvaccinated children who are tourists are not permitted to travel to the Cayman Islands.
Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce President Mike Gibbs also felt the CDC announcement should not be a barrier for visitors wishing to travel to the Cayman Islands.
“The Cayman Islands has one of the highest Covid-19 vaccination rates per capita in the world and, as a result, a very low rate of hospitalisation,” Mr Gibbs said. “Vaccinated visitors from the United States and other countries should feel confident that a trip to the Cayman Islands will be safe.”
Mr Gibbs said Cayman’s hotels, condominiums, watersports operators, restaurants and small businesses were eager to welcome visitors back to Cayman’s shores on 20 November, so visitors could experience Cayman’s beautiful islands, beaches and people.
“The Chamber, in partnership with Government, will be hosting a series of webinars to prepare for the reopening and I would encourage business owners, employees and the general public to attend these online webinars,” he stated.
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