“Government is not prioritising new work permit holders over Caymanians or permanent residents on the air bridge arrangements.”
That assertion by Hon. Premier Alden was aimed at quashing rumours of preferential treatment for non-nationals arriving on the special repatriation flights being organised by the government.
Responding to what he described as “an unfortunate exchange on social media which has led to a lot of angst, frustration and anger,” he said, “as so often is the case with these things there’s a certain amount of truth and an awful lot of speculation.
Mr McLaughlin explained Caymanians and permanent residents comprised the vast majority of the passengers on Thursday's incoming British Airways flight, which appears to have been the trigger for the rumours.
Of over 100 persons on the flight, only 19 were work permit holders, he stated.
The Premier also reminded that employers of work permit holders are required to pay for the time spent for mandatory isolation at a government facility.
He acknowledged that there was an issue with the number of available rooms procured by the government for mandatory isolation of persons returning to the territory under the specific travel arrangements.
Noting that “there are many people who believe that they ought not to be placed in mandatory isolation and would prefer to self isolate,” The Premier advised that, “government’s view is still that given the volume of infections especially in the United States and the United Kingdom “we cannot run the risk of allowing people to self-isolate.”
He said the government does not have the means to effectively monitor that they are staying at home and the risk was too great.
“While things are still generally going well, no one knows what the impact of the introduction of another strain of that virus will have or indeed how sick it may make persons who do become infected.”
Mr McLaughlin stated that for the time being the government will continue to insist that persons who return isolate in a government facility for 14 days.
With 226 rooms currently available at three hotels for this purpose, he disclosed that additional rooms were being sought and discussions have already started with a major hotel.
“The challenge in finding accommodation is in part because some properties and now gearing up for refurbishment ahead of what they are hoping will be a decent vacation period, and then the reopening of tourism later this year.”
Further addressing the matter of Caymanians overseas who are trying to get home, Mr McLaughlin said there were 110 nationals and 55 permanent residency holders in the US registered for repatriation with an additional 158 in other countries.
Customs and Border Control has taken over the coordination of the repatriation flights in a move aimed at streamlining the process.
The COVID 19 vaccines have arrived. Will you take the Vaccine?