Work Permit Holders to Join
Over 380 Caymanians and permanent residents have been able to make their way back to the Cayman Islands since the COVID-19 pandemic closed borders across the world several weeks ago.
Those whom could have otherwise been stranded, received assistance from civil servants, volunteers, statutory authorities and CI Government entities such as Cayman Airways, who all facilitated the multi-agency effort, according to official sources.
In many instances, those returning to Grand Cayman had been studying overseas or receiving medical treatment before finding themselves affected by school closures or on the other end of cancelled and postponed treatments due to the danger posed by the virus if persons are vulnerable after medical procedures.
“Helping to facilitate the return were interdisciplinary teams of Civil Servants and volunteers working across areas such as health, human concerns (which operates shelters), security and law enforcement (emergency services), evacuation (including the Civil Aviation Authority, Cayman Islands Airport Authority, resource support (procurement) and relief aid,” read a Cayman Islands Government press release.
An early point of contact for inbound and outbound passengers was the Emergency Travel Helpline, led by the Office of the Governor and staffed by the Cayman Islands Regiment. The Governor’s Office also led on international negotiations.
To ensure that returning passengers were clear on the conditions for all arrivals, the National Emergency, working through the Cayman Islands Government Office in the United Kingdom, the airlines and government channels all played a role in communicating flight requirements.
All incoming passengers to the Cayman Islands are placed in the mandatory isolations facilities set up by the Territory’s government.
Upon arrival, they are met by public health officials conducting health checks, before being guided through the customs and immigration process and onto buses waiting to take them to the isolation facility.
“Regular sanitization and social distancing measures are use throughout the process and are reflected in the arrangements for accommodation, board and dare of the isolation facility residents, including their daily periods of exercise,” noted Suzette Ebanks of Government Information Services.
She added Health checks are also continued at the facility and a negative COVID-19 test result is required before the person departs.
“We have some 70 public servants and Red Cross volunteers working on a rotation basis to support the facilities. Contributions range from grocery shopping to procuring catering. laundry, garbage collection and security services. Workers also provide much needed moral support to the residents. I cannot speak highly enough of the teamwork, compassion, efficiency and energy that our NEOC teams have brought to this role,” said Deputy Governor Franz Manderson.
Over 1000 people have now left the Cayman Islands; many of whom were workers let go from jobs due to the technical closure of the economy. Many of those who left were bound for destinations such as London, Miami, Toronto, Honduras, Cancun and Costa Rica.
Nationals from Nicaragua who were working in the Cayman Islands before the pandemic have been unable to return home due to restrictions on travel in their country, which took effect just a day before a Cayman Airways flight was set to return workers; causing the flight to be cancelled.
The Government of the Cayman Islands recently announced that work permit holders and their spouses and dependents are now able to return the Territory. Previously only residents were allowed.
All work permit holders will be required to spend two weeks at an isolation facility at their own cost.
Currently, CI Government isolation facilities are being used to house returning residents for whom the CI Government picks up the tab.
Persons going into isolation upon returning to the Cayman Islands will undergo a COVID-19 test after fourteen days, in order to re-enter the general population.
Several sectors of the economy in the Cayman Islands have re-opened, with more to come in the days ahead, provided the current trend of low cases persists, according to officials. The return of work permit holders is a major source of revenue for the CI Government and the move to get them back to the Islands points to the importance of foreign labor to Cayman’s economy.
Jobs are slim however and dwindling.
Many Caymanians say they are hoping to be able to fill some of the spaces left by persons who may have returned to their home country.
“This the time now they need to be hiring Caymanians. I understand that Government needs the money from the work permits but everything has changed and if we need to make this be a chance for young Caymanians to get back into the work-force, then so be it,” noted Makada Smith, who said she had lost nearly everything in the wake of the economic fallout caused by the pandemic.
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