By Staff Writer
With the government maintaining a vaccination target of 80 per of the adult population gradually restart tourism by mid-September, Hon. Minister for Health and Wellness, Sabrina Turner, is urging the remaining persons to get their COVID jab.
By earlier this week 98,117 COVID-19 vaccinations had been administered. Of these, 50,171 (71% of the revised population total of 71,106) have had at least one dose of the vaccine, while 47,946 (67%) have completed the two-dose course.
In an interview with Caymanian Times, Min. Turner acknowledged that there has been a slowdown in the rate of vaccination uptake, and disclosed that a renewed effort is being undertaken.
“What has happened is that we've now gotten a slowdown in the uptake and we are now finding ourselves hitting the pavement running again, making sure we don't have a repeat of July's expiry date happened the end of September. And that's what's going to happen if we don't get an uptake.”
Min. Turner said urging people to get vaccinated it not about fear-mongering but “the sensible thing to do” especially as the evidence is showing that generally, people who are vaccinated are not the ones that are ending up in their intensive care. She said those most at risk for serious COVID-19 illness are the unvaccinated or those whose countries are having difficulties accessing vaccines.
In the case of Cayman, the health and Wellness minister remarked: “We are blessed to have these vaccines.”
The Minister who also hosted a health fair in her Prospect constituency, as part of a national vaccination drive, said a special focus is being placed on getting more young people vaccinated, adding that she was encouraged with the response to date.
With the rapidly spreading and highly transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19 now a major worry for many countries, including those with close travel links to Cayman, Min. Turner pressed home the message that the benefits of the vaccines outweigh any known risks.
“In some of our neighbouring jurisdictions, it has proven right now there's been a huge uptake with a Delta variant in South Florida, where those younger people, who at the beginning of this based on the World Health guidelines CDC guidelines were not able to be vaccinated. Those are the ones that are now getting sick, and the older persons…even if they're breakthrough positives, there's not as sick and some of them are even asymptomatic.”
Cayman has so far been able to suppress the virus to the extent that close-to-normal activity is continuing in the community after the initial lockdown, and is now looking at moving to the next step of the phased reopening plan unveiled recently by the PACT government.
“Even though we have been blessed to have created a bubble, we have also in some instances been blinded by the realities and the true effects of what this horrible virus can do to people,” Min. Turner said in the interview while advising the public to get information about Covid-19 and the vaccines from reputable, reliable sources.
Speaking with Caymanian Times publisher Ralph Lewis, Min. Turner said that while mindful of the economic issues, the government is prioritising the health and safety of the community.
“My mandate, my responsibility, it comes from the public health standard, and that is clearly guided by the information of the professionals that we have guiding us as a government, hence we have a phased reopening approach, and with those projected dates.”
The next step in the phased reopening plan is scheduled for September 9th with a limited restart of international travel and land-based tourism conditional on reaching the 80 per cent vaccination target. Visitors will also need to prove that they have been fully vaccinated and will still need to undergo limited quarantine.
From mid-October, quarantine requirements will be removed for all verified, fully vaccinated travellers but unvaccinated visitors will have to apply for entry and quarantine for 14 days.
The next step is November 18th when unvaccinated children under-12 travelling with vaccinated adults will be allowed entry without having to quarantine. Unvaccinated visitors over 12 years old will be required to quarantine for 14 days.
What the government has described as a “thorough assessment” will be carried out leading up to a full reopening from January 27th, 2022 including welcoming cruise tourists again.
“There's a four to five week lag time before we move to the next phase of reopening because we do understand that at some point, there is an opening, but we want to do it carefully, because the safety of our Caymanian people, and especially our children who are not approved to be vaccinated right now," she said.
"We don't ever want to see anyone die under our watch are because they were misinformed or just being sold something that is obviously not factual,” Min. Turner stated.