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‘The Panel’ calls for reopening information blitz

The Panel 23 Nov, 2021 Follow News

Information blitz required as visitors once again arrive at Owen Roberts International Airport

By staff writer


The Panel discussion programme on Caymanian Times has called on the government to embark on a comprehensive communications campaign to inform the public, and especially businesses, of the Covid-19 regulations linked to the reopening of the borders.

That’s one of the key suggestions coming out of this week’s programme which came just a few hours after a government press conference about the reopening of Cayman to international travel this Saturday, 20 November.

On Thursday, just two days before the full reopening of the borders under the delayed Phase Four reopening plan, Premier Wayne Panton announced that a number of additional measures were being enacted to suppress the risk of further community spread.

With the announcement of new community regulations, which now include on-the-spot ticketing, The Panel worried that there could be confusion about the new restrictions - which are comparatively mild compared to other countries with less severe outbreaks.

Host of The Panel, Ralph Lewis (publisher of Caymanian Times) and panel analysts Roy Bodden and Mario E Ebanks all supported the reopening but agreed that adequate information was lacking in several key areas.

Mr Ebanks said: “I think we've said this last several weeks on The Panel, is getting information out in bite-sized pieces so that people can understand it…Information is the key and I think you were saying earlier Ralph that some people are even more confused after today's press briefing than they were before. Again, because the packaging leaves a lot to be desired.”

Mr Lewis concurred: “What I would suggest going forward is on a weekly basis, they have reports on what is happening, but instead of having all of the players in the government on the same platform, break it up.”

Mr Bodden agreed with Mr Ebanks: “Minister Sabrina was very, very clear in her instructions, some other people not nearly so. I want to make a point as a former school teacher; repetition is the first law of learning. So, we should be hearing these things on GIS, we should be hearing them on The Panel, we should be hearing them on radio. People have a right not to be confused. They should be given this information in bite-sized pieces, and it should be it should almost be uniform.”

Phase Four was postponed from 14 October after cases started spiralling, first among schools and then into the wider community.

It has since got worse. Since then, Cayman has seen a recent surge of cases going from 68 active cases at the end of September to 3,673 last week.

Total cases in that period have gone from 840 to 5,362.

The government has been focusing much of its efforts for the reopening on an ongoing vaccination and testing programme - now augmented by the introduction of lateral flow tests - alongside a series of travel and quarantine protocols.


Other areas of concern

Other concerns aired on The Panel included uncertainty about the exact future of the stipend for furloughed tourism industry workers, including the question as to what happens if a workplace has to further delay its reopening possibly into next year as business activity in some sectors is expected to be very slow in picking up.

The matter of continuing support for persons forced into isolation as the government had set aside an initial fund of CI$1 million to cover that.

There was also discussion on ensuring that Caymanians are first in line for jobs now opening up and the system in place to ensure and support that.

For those Caymanians who would have travelled overseas and might have contracted the virus while away, how best to support them was also an issue.

There's also strong encouragement for residents to spend their money at home and keep it circulating within the local economy rather than spending it abroad even by travelling or online external shopping.

On that point, The Panel lauded Hon. Minister for Health and Wellness Sabrina Turner for her views along with her plea to residents to be extremely cautious when travelling or even remaining at home to avoid contracting and spreading the virus to loved ones.

During the government’s press conference, she had lamented that there was a bigger risk of residents rather than visitors spreading the virus.

Another issue raised was a fallback plan (Plan B) in the event that the current surge worsens.

The government has spoken of an elaborate plan devised by the Programme Board comprised mainly of government departments and agencies which have carried out a comprehensive overview of various scenarios.

This weekend’s reopening comes some 608 days since the borders were first closed on 22 March last year.

(Listen back to the full edition of this week’s The Panel on Caymanian Times Facebook page and website)

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