Cayman has been getting prepared for the phased and limited reopening of its borders planned for this Thursday.
The October 1st target date was preceded by a trial run on September 17th testing an elaborate new arrivals processing system, adapted for extensive pre-travel clearance screening, along with a 14-day quarantine with a ‘geo-fencing’ monitoring and tracking system.
The data collected from those who’d agreed to participate in the pilot scheme was being analysed with adjustments made for this week’s planned phased border reopening.
Main areas of review from this month’s trial included how long it takes to process arrivals following the new procedures, and the capacity at the Owen Roberts International Airport to streamline the processing of passengers under the new health protocols.
The experience of the persons selected to use the wearable geo-fencing electronic tracking device was also factored into the review.
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This Thursday’s scheduled reopening was postponed from the previously planned September 1st start date due in part to a spike of coronavirus cases in the main market, the United States.
Since then, while there was an initial dip in the rate of global cases, recently there has been another spike especially in the US, and also now in the UK and some Latin American countries confirming concerns of a second wave of the outbreak.
On Tuesday, the UK recorded the highest daily increase in the number of new cases since the outbreak with over 7,000 cases recorded this past Tuesday alone with a series of targeted lockdowns and other restrictions being put in place.
At the same time, the global death toll from the disease surpassed one million on Tuesday. A few days earlier the United States passed a milestone of 200,000 deaths while cases there are also on the rise again in several states.
The Cayman Islands government had set a cautious target of 800 travellers for October on the premise of a “soft opening”.
“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,” officials had earlier stated.
A government statement had outlined that the phased opening is only for Cayman Airways repatriation flights, fortnightly BA flights and approved private charter flights; not for commercial flights.
“Categories of people will extend beyond Caymanians, permanent residents, work permit holders and their families to also include persons who own property in the Cayman Islands as well as persons looking to live and work from here for an extended period of time, and other approved visitors.”
It has been further explained that: “In addition to the lessons learned from the September testing, the Pilot in October will allow the Government to trial the new arrangements and safeguards, and to use the information from the September Pilot to decide if any improvements are needed going forward.
"This approach 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.”
From 1st October, the requirement for all inbound travellers to receive pre-travel authorization from TravelTime, which has taken over the coordination of the repatriation and other flights, will remain in place.
Other changes planned to come into effect from October include expanding the locations where persons may quarantine to include residential accommodations approved by the Medical Officer of Health, in addition to government-operated isolation facilities.
However, self-isolation at a residence must be combined with the use of monitoring device technology. Persons who choose not to participate in the monitoring programme will be required to quarantine in a government facility for a minimum period of 14 days, and will be tested on day 15.
A negative test result will be required to leave the facility.
All persons entering the Cayman Islands will be tested on arrival at the airport and will be taken by approved transport from the airport to begin their quarantine period either at residential accommodations or in a government facility.
The test result is anticipated to take 24-72 hours. In both instances, the quarantine period will be 14 days with a PCR test on day 15.
All persons who are not ordinarily resident in the Cayman Islands will be required to have health insurance that includes COVID-19 coverage.
During the month of October, Cayman Airways and British Airways will continue to be the only two airline carriers operating repatriation flights to and from the Cayman Islands. Seat capacity remains limited and therefore non-essential travel is strongly discouraged until there is a measurable change in the global situation and normal commercial airlift resumes.
The government had advised that “although other airline websites are offering flights to the Cayman Islands, the reality is only Cayman Airways and British Airways have permission to operate flights to and from these Islands.”
It had further stated that: “Any person who makes reservations directly with other airlines are doing so at their own risk and should be aware that airline vouchers issued by other airlines are not transferrable for British Airways or Cayman Airways repatriation flights.”
There are no restrictions on outbound travel from the Cayman Islands and constraints on movement between Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands were lifted some time ago.
The ports are closed to cruise ships until 31st December 2020.
While to date, there has been no indication of any change of plans for the first phase of the formal reopening this Thursday, on the government’s website it states that “due to the fluid nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, border decisions will continue to be evaluated and processes are subject to change.”