NEW ARRIVALS SYSTEM WILL BE TESTED ON THURSDAY
A British Airways flight arriving this Thursday September 17th will be used to test the passenger arrivals screening system due to come into force when the borders are gradually reopened starting October 1st.
The trial programme will involve a pre-selected group of 20-25 households arriving on the BA flight.
Upon arrival they will be required to take a COVID test, quarantine for a minimum of 14 days, wear a location monitoring device, and undergo a further PCR test on day 15 before given clearance to circulate in the community.
The test results take 24-72 hours.
A government statement says while the 14 days quarantine will be in a government-managed isolation centre, those persons who choose to wear a tracking device, and meet other criteria, will be permitted to complete their mandatory quarantine in residential accommodations.
The electronic tracking device, called a geo-fence, is said to have been used successfully in Hong Kong. It's programmed to ensure that persons in isolation remain within a designated zone.
Random physical checks will also be carried for the persons quarantining at home as was done previously in the local testing, tracing and isolating process.
Health authorities have also explained that because the quarantine time will be a full 14 days instead of a shorter period, the planned used of a bio-button to monitor temperature and other vitals signs has been abandoned.
TEST CRUCIAL TO OCTOBER BORDER REOPENING
The data collected on how the system functions will be reviewed with adjustments made in time for the October 1st target date for the phased border reopening.
The September 17th trial will include how long it takes to process arrivals under the new procedure and will assess the airport’s capability to conduct COVID-19 tests, should that be included as part of the arrivals process at a later date.
It will also evaluate the electronic tracking technology including the user-experience of the participating persons.
Officials say “with a pilot programme including new arrangements and safeguards, these changes will enable the Cayman Islands to welcome additional categories and greater volumes of airline travellers, and to do so safely.”
It was also stated that in addition to the lessons learned from the September testing “will further enable the government to consider any changes that are required as a result of local or international developments relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
At the same time, the number of travellers coming into the Cayman Islands will be controlled with a target of 800 travellers for October.
“This is a soft opening,” officials have stressed. “We are not opening our borders to commercial flights. As before, we will focus on repatriation flights and private charters, and the continuation of the fortnightly BA flights from London, which will have started in September.”
The online flight tracker service of the Owen Roberts International Airport has the BA flight BA 253 scheduled to arrive at 3:15pm on Thursday.
BA UNDER PRESSURE
Meanwhile, British Airways itself is facing challenging times due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The airline’s chief executive, Alex Cruz told British MPs on Wednesday that BA was fighting for its survival.
The airline flew only 187,000 passengers last week compared with 1 million during the same period in 2019, and was operating only 25-30% of its schedule.
“People are afraid of travelling … and we are taking every measure possible to make sure we can actually make it through this winter. We don’t see a short-term coming-back of our passengers,” Mr Cruz said.
According to the BA boss, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “the airline industry is fundamentally different.”
The airline is cutting up to 12,000 jobs.