By Staff Writer
In the coming weeks, Cayman will start the process of making the major transition from the protective bubble it has had in place for the past year against COVID-19.
With a soft opening of the borders on September 9th followed by a mid-October full reopening to international travel (with land-based tourism for now), officials are reinforcing the urgency of the vaccination drive.
Opening the borders comes the real risk of cases of the COVID-19 creeping back into the jurisdiction, despite protocols which will still be in place.
The message has been driven home by Hon. Minister for Health and Wellness, Sabrina Turner, who also announced a new phase of the vaccination campaign targeting the remaining persons who have still not been vaccinated.
“I would like to reiterate that our best protection as a community as a whole, for all of those who are eligible and their age groups to take up the backseat. Go and get vaccinated. This is the best defence that you have as we are so ably able now to give a definitive date, which for many weeks, that’s what the public has been asking, when is the opening date. I therefore urge everyone to come forward and be vaccinated against the COVID-19.”
According to Min. Turner, the renewed vaccination drive is being focused on bringing the vaccination directly to residents.
“In our efforts in increasing the access of vaccines, we as a government have decided earlier this morning that we’re going to be able to offer it in our various constituency offices around the island...We’re going to take a bus and go throughout the islands, we’re going to do a roadshow starting from West Bay, and we’re going to even take it over there to the Sister Islands. We will be coming to your area, and we’ll be using all social media platforms in our efforts to make this possible.”
Officials have been stressing the balance between revitalising the economy and maintaining a safe public health environment against the pandemic.
Since the global outbreak of the COVID-19, despite the economic downturn of during which several businesses have been struggling, the broad performance of the economy has generally been stable, propped up with various measures of government support.
The main focus now is on safely restarting the tourism segment of economic activity according to Hon. Min for Tourism and Transportation, Kenneth Bryan.
“I’m very pleased that we have been safely reached this point. And I, like everyone in the tourism industry, am looking forward to receiving tourists back to our shores. But on the other hand, I’m deeply concerned by the reluctance of some within our community, to protect themselves from the virus and its variants. This is troubling to me because the fact is, we cannot stop COVID from entering our shores one day in the future, once we reopen our borders. And I’m not sure if everyone fully understands this.”
Mr Bryan said he was “particularly concerned for many people in the tourism industry because tourism workers and frontline staff have a lot more contact with visitors on a regular basis. This is why it is so important for them to be vaccinated, because if they’re not, they’re basically putting their lives, the lives of their people, and loved ones at risk.”
The tourism minister also disclosed that there was considerable interest by international airlines to get Cayman back onto their schedules.
But the success of a safe re-opening depends on the next phase of the vaccination campaign.
HE Governor Martyn Roper said Cayman was still in the top six of the global vaccination programme, but he cautioned against the risk of complacency.
“I strongly support this renewed effort to get more people to come for them to take the vaccine. We are doing extremely well internationally. We’re up there amongst the top six or seven countries in the world for vaccine uptake, but because the Delta (variant) is so incredibly infectious, we need to go further so we can have some confidence that our level of vaccination rates will protect us. But to have even more confidence we need more people to get the vaccine. Simply the more people we vaccinate the more lives we save.”
Mr Turner also repeated his advice to residents to avoid misinformation about the vaccine saying the evidence from the UK, the US and elsewhere has demonstrated the efficacy of the vaccines in safeguarding against serious illness from COVID-19.
“We are now on a path to reopen the borders, and we have clear timelines and dates and clear policies to manage the risks as we move forward,” he stated.
“There’s a major prize within our grasp, to be able to open up without having to go back into lockdown as so many other countries have had to do and because our vaccine uptake is already high, and could go higher, that prize really is within our grasp, if the community rallies round and takes a vaccine so please do come forward and take it when you,” Governor Turner said.
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