Another big push in the Cayman Islands COVID-19 ‘vaccination challenge’ happens this weekend.
Led by the PACT coalition government, it’s part of ongoing efforts aimed at getting around 70 per cent of the adult population to take their shots.
In an interview with Caymanian Times HE Governor Martyn Roper again reminded residents of the need to get the COVID-19 jab.
He listed their own health, ensuring that the economy can be reopened safely, and avoiding having to dump any of the vaccines donated by the British government.
“I think our vaccine rollout programme is actually going extremely well,” he told Caymanian Times publisher Ralph Lewis.
“We've seen quite a significant step up since Saturday (May 8th) when ministers who hadn't had a vaccine got theirs. I think since then we have seen a significant increase in people coming forward. So I'm pleased that we are much closer to the point where we will be using all the vaccines.”
But Mr Roper reminded "we're not quite there yet.”
He said, “We still have a number of vaccines left and for me as Governor, it would be a crime against humanity if we had to waste any of these vaccines, particularly when so many countries around the world are desperate for the supplies.”
“So if you haven't yet come forward, I would really urge you to do so. I think the time for waiting is over,” he urged.
With the remaining batch of vaccines expiring by June 21st, statistics from the Health Services Authority show that by midweek, 78,173 Covid-19 vaccinations had been administered.
It reports that of these, 42,357 (or 65 per cent of 65,000 pop.) have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 55 per cent have completed the two-dose course.
With the uptake being a decisive factor in how and when the borders and the wider economy is opened up, Governor Roper again reminded of the urgency of the current situation.
“If we are going to safely reopen our economy, which we have to do as the status quo is not an option, we need more people to come forward and get the vaccine.”
He went on to state that, “I hope everybody comes forward and then I can get some more from the UK because for our opening-up policy we need to vaccinate as many people as possible.”
Mr Roper reinforced the point that “we need to be confident that we're not taking risks with the well-being and the welfare of our people. The more people that have the vaccine, the more confident we can be, so it's really crucial.”
The Governor said Cayman has done “incredibly well” managing pandemic and that the territory “deserves huge plaudits for where we've got to.”
However, he cautioned, “We're in a new phase now, you have to reopen the economy.”
Noting that ultimately that decision is for the elected government, Governor Roper, who also has a background in economics, said the longer it takes to attain the vaccination target, the greater the risk to the economy.
“Economic development is primarily a domestic issue so it is for the Premier and Deputy Premier and the government to really lead on the economy,” he said.
“But as Governor of a UK overseas territory, I obviously have to keep an eye from the UK perspective on how our economy is doing,” Mr Roper added.
He further explained that “ultimately, if the worst happened, and an Overseas Territory’s economy ran into massive difficulties, the UK as the ultimate guarantor would have to step in and even bailout an Overseas Territory and the UK absolutely does not want to do that.”
The Governor stressed that’s why Cayman needs to take the additional necessary steps to reach at least the 70 per cent vaccination target.
“I recognise there is ‘we've done so well, protecting the people from COVID’ and we do feel in this bubble that we feel very safe, because we've got no social distancing, no masks.”
But he pointed to the lurking pressures on personal and family finances, and the wider economy.
“A lot of people are hurting because there's no tourism and it's just damaging to businesses but there's another large group of people who find this very comfortable.”
Mr Roper suggested that this situation is not sustainable and pointed to other OTs that are already relaxing their protocols in tandem with stepping up their vaccination rates.
“I think the point is coming, where we need to take these decisions,” he stated.
“Now those decisions are for the government and I'm part of the discussion but ultimately it's for the Premier and ministers to take the decisions around us."
But Mr Roper noted that: "Countries are moving out of this situation. I think BVI, and Anguilla, even Barbados I saw are now moving away from 10 or 14-day quarantine. If you've been vaccinated, you come in and you don't have to go into quarantine to be tested, and then that allows some tourism to come back.”
According to the Governor, “I think those are the sorts of discussions we need to have. I think we're coming to that point now but obviously, it's a race with the vaccine.”