TOURISM MINISTER SAYS PROLONGED CLOSURE WORSENS ECONOMIC IMPACT
Ahead of Thursday’s reopening of Cayman's borders, Hon. Minister of Tourism, Moses Kirkconnell, has cautioned about the worsening economic impact if the closure is prolonged.
“Although we are in a relatively safe bubble, the economic impact of remaining closed to the rest of the world is increasingly translating into business closures and job losses, leaving Caymanian families facing significant hardship,” Min. Kirkconnell said in a statement on Tuesday evening.
While he assured that “government is doing as much as we can to provide relief programmes and financial support to those most affected”, he was mindful that “this will not be sustainable over the long term.”
Cayman reopens its borders to limited international traffic on October 1st after just over six months.
The government had taken the pre-emptive step of shutting the jurisdiction off from international travel on March 23rd following the first case - and only fatality - from the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was previously indicated that the borders would have re-opened by the beginning of September but that was deferred for a month following a noticeable spike in cases from Cayman’s main source countries and cities for tourism and trade, especially in the United States.
The emphasis has been on public health and preventing the virus from spreading here.
Ironically, the government's decision not to delay the reopening any further coincides with a resurgence in cases in parts of the United Kingdom and the United States.
“As a result of stringent policy decisions, Cayman has experienced minimal cases of Covid-19 through community spread in comparison to many other regions of the world,” Mr Kirkconnell said.
“In the meantime,” he added, “we are continuing to monitor and learn from the experiences of jurisdictions that have already opened and we are putting robust health and safety mechanisms in place so that when it becomes safe to do so, tourists can gradually be welcomed back to our shores, enabling people to return to work.”
Leading up to this week’s reopening, several new protocols have been trialled in what the government calls “a multi-layered strategy to protect the islands from COVID-19”.
These include a comprehensive pre-travel screening, on-arrival testing, a closely monitored 14-day quarantining system with severe penalties for violations, and a final test before being allowed to circulate in the community.
According to a government statement on Tuesday, all reports indicate that the testing phase is proceeding as anticipated and no breaches have been reported.
“Evaluations will continue on the technology, processes and procedures in readiness for 1st October, when an increased number of flights are expected and more returning travellers, including homeowners, will be quarantining at approved locations."
The 29 travellers who arrived on September 17th and consented to participate in the trial run of the new protocols have been testing the 'geo-fencing' monitoring technology while quarantining at home for 14 days. All of the participants will be tested again on day 15 and will require a negative PCR test result signed off by the Medical Officer of Health for their quarantine period to cease.
The government also says various groups within the public sector who have been assigned with specific responsibilities "are continuing to work collaboratively to further test, refine and enhance the government’s border opening processes."
It states that: “With the safety of the Cayman Islands community remaining a top priority, government has combined several distinct layers of protection to safeguard residents and minimise the risks from COVID-19. "
It emphasises that "these include an element of personal responsibility, supported by repeated PCR testing, monitoring through geofencing technology, random checks and strong penalties for non-compliance.”