Premier steadfast in holding off on border reopening

Even as Aruba, St. Lucia hint at June, July reopening

While some Caribbean countries like Aruba, Antigua and St. Lucia are considering reopening their borders to tourists as early as next month, Cayman will not be going that route.

“I don’t believe that many tourists are going to want to come to a place which is rampant with COVID-19 and where hordes of people are sick and dying, and that’s what opening our borders at this time is likely to bring us,” Premier Alden McLaughlin said Friday as he commented on the news of regional borders being reopened.

Both Aruba and St. Lucia have announced tentative reopening of their borders for inbound travel in June or July.

While Cayman is projected to reopen its borders on 1 Sept., the premier said earlier this week that even that date is “not looking good”.

Cayman’s borders have been closed since March. The closure followed the announcement of the country’s first COVID-19 case, an Italian cruise ship passenger who was brought on island suffering a cardiac emergency in late February.

He was treated at Health City Cayman Islands where he later tested positive for the virus. He was a passenger aboard the Costa Luminosa cruise ship.

As of Friday, Cayman’s COVID-19 cases stood at 129. Of those cases, 67 are active – of whom 12 are symptomatic and 55 are asymptomatic – 61 have recovered, and one, the Italian tourist, has died.

On Friday evening, the RCIPS announced that two of its uniformed officers had tested positive for the virus.

McLaughlin, addressing the planned reopening from regional partners at the daily COVID-19 press briefing, said “each country will have to make their own decisions based on their own particular circumstances and their assessment of the risks and the situation at the time”.

Border reopening plans for other Caribbean islands include various stipulations, such as COVID-19 clearance certificates for inbound passengers.

Some countries, like Hong Kong, have also installed temperature-testing equipment at its airport.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee has said testing of temperatures will not be an effective way of tracking potential COVID-19 cases, but it can be of some help later on in the pandemic.

“There are some diseases in which [temperature screening] is a lot more valuable. So, if, for example, we were going to put in temperature monitoring at the airport, I wouldn’t be at all resistant because it’ll have use in in the future certainly, even if I think that the relative use of it at the moment is limited,” he said.

McLaughlin, touching on the issue of temperature testing, agreed with Lee’s assessment on the ineffectiveness as he pointed to the statistics which show a majority of Cayman’s positive COVID-19 cases have been asymptomatic, meaning they did not have fevers.

He added, “The reality is that at this point, there is nothing out there that is sufficiently reliable to be able to say that you should allow someone into your country without any real risk.”

Cayman also is planning to implement antibody testing, which would determine if someone has already had COVID-19. The polymerase chain reaction testing that is under way at the moment shows if a person currently has the virus.

The premier said that, for the foreseeable future, anyone who comes to Cayman, whether they are Caymanian, permanent residents or work-permit holders, or they own a place here, they will have to be quarantined for a minimum of 14 days.

“We cannot risk introducing what may well be a much more virulent strain of the virus in Cayman; that would be absolutely disastrous,” he said.

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1 COMMENT

  1. As a vulnerable person I applaud our Premier.

    As a Caymanian who is deeply concerned about our economic health I’m not so sure.

    How can our tourism industry continue to maintain hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions like the Turtle Farm with no money coming in? What about the loss of tourist taxes and work permit fees?

    Readers may know that London theaters have been closed for weeks now. And it’s hard to see how they can reopen a crowded theater and maintain social distancing. It costs a typical theater some $30,000 KYD per WEEK to remain shut.

    Is there a similar number for our hotels?