OCTOBER 14th REOPENING NOW CONDITIONAL
By Staff Writer
The Cayman Islands Government (CIG) on Wednesday gave itself some wiggle room by indicating that the much-vaunted October 14th re-opening date could be delayed.
Hon. Premier Wayne Panton made the announcement while moving ahead with the Phase 3 soft reopening from September 9th.
Mr Panton said a final decision will depend on increasing the vaccination uptake among the remaining numbers of people yet to be inoculated against the COVID-19 virus and trends in the disease globally.
“My government has been clear. We must reopen the borders. We will only do so safely, and in a way that protects most vulnerable ensures our children are educated and allows our people to work. We all will have to work together to continue our success story,” Premier Panton stated.
With an increase in COVID cases likely with the full reopening of the borders, the Premier’s announcement also came as Cayman recorded a one-day total of 24 positive cases in the past few days.
“As we go into phase three, we enter another important evaluation and assessment period,” the Premier stated.
“Whether or not we move to Phase 4 on the 14th of October will depend heavily on what we've observed over the next few weeks,” he emphasised by repeating for effect, “Let me repeat that, whether or not we move to Phase four on the 14th of October, depends heavily on what we observe over the next few weeks.”
Mr Panton also announced that that the government will consider reinstating control measures on public gatherings should that be deemed necessary.
“But coming to the higher phases will bring important changes, and a gradual shift away from the status quo along with the additional safeguards for the community remains. There are many public health measures that we can utilise as protective layers,” he said.
According to the Premier, “In addition to vaccinations to keep each other safe and to keep economic activity going in this country, which has a 70% vaccination rate, now, we may encourage you to do things like spending less time indoors more time outdoors…If you plan to travel, we may ask you to carefully consider if that is indeed necessary. We may or may not recommend wearing a mask.”
He also stated that the government was “not going to be stuck exclusively to the 80 per cent target,” stating that they had become “somewhat fuzzy and meaningless particularly when it comes to issues around the Delta variant.”
Premier Panton also stated that the government will assess the situation going into the planned Phase 4 with the likelihood of additional support for struggling businesses and workers which he estimated could run into “tens of millions” over months.
HE Governor Martyn Roper, endorsed the government’s stance on the important of stepping up the vaccination rate, noting that Cayman has been fortunate to date due largely to measures in place, in not having a community spread of the disease for over a year which he said was “truly remarkable”.
However, he also raised the prospect of a vaccine mandate becoming necessary in specific circumstances.
“A part of the answer may have to be in mandating vaccines for those who are educating our children and for those on the front line.”
Noting that in some countries there is a vaccine requirement for entering some establishments such as bars and restaurants, the Governor said he did not envisage such a requirement in Cayman.
“That may be a step too far for some here, but we simply cannot stand still as a jurisdiction,” Mr Roper said but added that, “I believe that these measures do need to be considered to ensure that we could protect the community and make sure as many as possible get the protection offered by the vaccine.”
Hon. Minister for Health and Wellness Sabrina Turner assured that adequate preparations are being put in place to cope in the eventuality of an increase in cases and listed a series of systems and supplies being activated.
“While the Cayman Islands has been preparing to open our borders, our medical community has not been idle, not have they been stagnant or have become complacent,” he said.
She was however concerned about the number of breaches of quarantine and self-isolation protocols.
Reporting that for August Travel Cayman reported 52 such breaches, Min. Turner, said “the report warranted a close review of the system, and some changes were made.”
She also said that the government was also considering the reintroduction of GPS tracking as part of the quarantine and isolation monitoring.
The Hon. Min of Tourism and Transport, Kenneth Bryan, detailed the systems and protocols in place for the Phase 3 reopening as of the 9th of September.
“While Phase 3 signals that the country is open for business, it will not be business as usual overnight,” he declared referring to limitations on the number of flights allowed and “stringent protocols” in place by the government.
He also admitted that the tough requirements and emphasis on safety was likely though to see smaller passenger numbers as potential tourists choose other destinations with less demanding protocols.
“Although the Ministry of Tourism continues to prepare for the return of tourism in the safest, most balanced and practical way possible, we are also continually evaluating the experiences of other countries that are farther along this path and seeing what we can learn from their examples,” Mr Bryan stated.