By Staff Writer
A robust debate is taking place on the back of a Caymanian Times editorial that raised the question: “Can Cayman afford another lockdown?”
The views are deeply held and varied with serious thought being given to the pros and cons of the reopening as scheduled with the risks and benefits being weighed.
Opinions are divided reflecting the feeling amongst those, residents and others concerned about what the implications could be for Cayman.
A critical stage of the government’s reopening schedule comes this week on September 9th with the start of Phase 3: Limited Introduction Of Tourism.
That is a key precursor to the main reopening of the borders on October 14th.
According to the government’s official; stance, this week’s start of Phase 3 of the reopening schedule, is “subject to the achievement of an 80 per cent vaccination rate.”
It says, “the limited introduction of tourism during slow season with some restrictions (including a flight slot management system) allows the CI Government to manage the number of persons arriving. This also allows CI Government and the tourism industry to develop capacity for dealing with larger volumes of travellers in preparation for high season.”
With that 80 per cent double-vaccinated rate still some way off target, the government says that in time for the October 14th main reopening and restart of land-based/stayover tourism, “it is anticipated that the local vaccination rate will be adequate, allowing for the safe increase in tourism and further relaxation of restrictions.”
That has led to a stream of reactions over the state of preparedness and the risk versus reward scenario.
These reflect the ongoing concerns in the community and the task of the government aiming to find the right balance among the competing concerns revolving around the lives versus livelihoods debate.
A sample of the feedback is food for thought and highlight the real concerns as Cayman seeks to safely manoeuvre out of its Covid bubble - which has already had several breaches - to a situation where there’s a high probability of increased cases.
An edited snapshot of some of the comments paints a picture of concerns in need of reassurance.
“Cayman can't afford another lockdown, but for sure we will be going back down that road because of lack of foresight and decision-making by the leaders that's being bullied by outsiders and investors and special interest groups,” one person wrote.
Another commented, “Time to start living with Covid variants and open up borders! Countries can’t stay closed down indefinitely!!”
The urgency and necessity of vaccination is also emphasised. “Get your shots. The people who are getting seriously ill are not vaccinated.”
Quarantine is questioned: “You can contract and spread Covid even with the vaccine. Without quarantine, community spread is inevitable. Procedures and regulations for managing that spread should be discussed and shared with hospitals, schools and other businesses that will be affected whether locked down or not, preparation is necessary, well in advance of opening. At this point, no plan exists. This is worrisome to many. Cart before the horse and dangerous on a small island with significant interaction between a wide variety of community members.”
And doubts persist, especially regarding the Delta variant.” We are going to get the Delta variant. No doubt about it.”
Social distancing and mask-mandates seem inevitable in this comment. “Wear your mask, wash your hands, keep away from crowded places. The only person caring about you is you. The want of money and tourism will cause these islands some serious times.”
But another person countered: “People talking about money-hungry but not thinking of the thousands of Caymanians who are without a job and hundreds more who are about to lose their businesses.”
There are equally strong views calling for the economy to be opened up. “We have to reopen so many people are out of jobs and the government does not have a money tree.”
And on the lockdown question, the views are also mixed: “Cayman has basically been locked down for the last 18 months,” was one comment, while another felt “If we open we will eventually need to lockdown,” another contributor felt that “the term “lockdown” is being used very loosely.”
Another comment stated: “I have heard many persons who have big business here talking about closing their doors if there is another lockdown. If a proper protocol is in place to protect the population we will be fine.”
This ‘strategy’ was also suggested: “To please everyone, we should have a virtual reopening. Stop wasting time, and invest in building a website for potential tours, that can log on for a fee, to view our beautiful Islands, in the safety of their living room.”
These are just a reflection of the concerns as Cayman takes the next significant steps.
(Read the full reactions, follow the debate and add your own considered thoughts on https://www.facebook.com/CaymanianTimes)
Premier, Hon Wayne Panton, emphasises that the reopening plan, which is slowly rolling back requirements for inward travel over the remainder of 2021, is essential to safely restarting the economy, the GIS recently reported.
As restrictions are reduced, Mr Panton says the likelihood of the COVID-19 disease re-entering the Cayman Islands community will increase. He comments that the COVID-19 vaccine offers the best protection against the risk that the deadly disease poses to Caymanians and residents of all ages.
Practising COVID-19 prevention protocols, including handwashing, mask-wearing and social distancing, if vulnerable, are among the ways that members of the public can protect themselves, their loved ones and the wider community, the Premier says.
Mr Panton adds: “The Government, with the support of Public Health Officials and the Civil Service, has put a tremendous amount of planning and preparation into ensuring that we can successfully move through each phase of the plan, which is so important to the economic health of our country.”
“Our goal, led by the science, is to guarantee minimal risk to the community and we are continuously reviewing and upgrading our processes with this in mind. My sincerest thanks to the board for everything that they have done to date,” Mr Panton states.