A consortium of private sector interests lobbying under the banner of Reopen Cayman has set November 22nd as a target date for reopening the borders.
Making their case that Cayman is ready to reopen, the group which includes many high-profile business representatives is inviting the public to support their call for a November 22nd reopening by ‘pledging’ their support - seen as a form of petitioning.
“While we recognise that “ready” will look and feel different to everyone, we’re asking you to take this action today and have your voice heard. Pledge that you feel ready for the Cayman Islands to safely reopen,” the Reopen Cayman states on its website.
By midday Monday over 1,300 people had signed on to support the November 22nd reopening call.
The surprise announcement with its suggested date comes just days after Hon. Premier Wayne Panton said he would give the business community and the public a month’s notice ahead of a new reopening target date set by the government.
According to a government release then, Mr Panton had said it is impossible for Government to randomly pick a date for full reopening of the border because the decision needs to be based on science.
“It means we rely on the advice and recommendations in an updated plan, which has had the input of experts in the Public Service and the Public Health so that we can evaluate the country’s readiness to not only open but very importantly to remain open safely without having lockdown scenarios; without having to contemplate shutting down,” he said.
In the past few weeks, Cayman has been grappling with an outbreak of community spread COVID-19 cases with over 100 cases mainly affecting students at several schools forcing officials to close all schools by bringing forward the autumn half-term break.
But in making its case for a November 22nd reopening, Reopen Cayman argues that several key objectives have been met.
Among them, it lists: “We’ve kept Cayman healthy, but the time has come to safely reopen our Islands. Caymanian businesses need a plan to reopen for their survival. Vaccination is strongly recommended for the safety of our community.”
In a previous statement, Reopen Cayman had said that “to support the government and help the community prepare for this next phase of the pandemic, the group plans to launch a public education campaign which highlights how “getting ready” can vary from person to person, and for different organisations, depending on the situation.”
On its website urging people to pledge their support for a November 22nd reopening, the group which is endorsed by the Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA) and the Chamber of Commerce, says: “The Cayman Islands border has now been closed for over 18 months. It is important that we use this time to prepare ourselves as we look to follow in the footsteps of other countries around the world and learn to co-exist with COVID-19 in the community.”
It also says: “To support the government in readying the Cayman Islands community for a safe reopening, we have launched The Pledge to demonstrate the number of Cayman’s residents that are Ready to Reopen.”
Central to the Government’s reopening strategy has been the ongoing vaccination programme.
Cayman has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, but a new debate has erupted around specific vaccine mandates passed into law by the PACT coalition during last week’s meeting of Parliament but voted against by the Progressives-led opposition.
The controversial move has divided opinions not only between Government and Opposition but in the wider community.
Reopen Cayman says with border reopening currently on pause, public and private sectors have additional time to work together and ensure appropriate policies and procedures are in place for international travel to resume safely.
It also states that once borders reopen, the community’s readiness to safely coexist with the virus will be vital to protect lives and livelihoods.
“We understand that “ready” will look and feel different for everyone, but we’re asking you to make the pledge and have your voice heard...We believe we are ready to fully reopen our borders; for local businesses to thrive again, to welcome back visitors and to reconnect with loved ones overseas.”
Meanwhile, in his statement last week, Premier Panton had indicated that a comprehensive plan was being developed for managing the COVID-19 pandemic going forward in Cayman and had also called on employers to do their part in helping the Government safely reopen borders.
“Government will shortly roll out a Cabinet-approved plan that provides predictability, accountability and transparency that can be shared with everyone," he said.
According to Mr Panton some of the areas to be addressed include "the Public Health system, social practices, testing and reporting, isolation regimes, vaccination levels, immigration and entry requirements, employment and labour matters, travel, data and analytics, law enforcement, emergency response, and information sharing and communications."
It's expected that that plan will be rolled out shortly although it could not be determined if it will be published before or after the Government sets the official date for the deferred reopening, or whether it would be before, after on the same date that Reopen Cayman is lobbying for.