Local leaders have said safely reopening Cayman’s borders on 1 Sept. remains a “great challenge”.
On Wednesday, both Premier Alden McLaughlin and Governor Martyn Roper hailed the strides made locally in the fight against COVID-19, which has led to the planned lifting of many restrictions this Sunday.
The premier reiterated that Cabinet has set 1 Sept. for the reopening of borders to international travellers, which was the date “we’re all working towards”. However, he cautioned that he was not “terribly optimistic” that it would remain the absolute date for allowing non-residents to travel to Cayman.
“At some point we must reopen our borders. We can’t stay locked down forever and so we’ve got to find a way, as we have found a way through this epidemic in Cayman so far. We will, we are confident, find a way to manage that,” McLaughlin said as he addressed government’s COVID-19 press briefing.
“Unless something comes around to cause us to change it, that’s the date we’re all working towards,” he added.
However, with coronavirus cases continuing to grow in the United States, which is Cayman’s largest tourist market, McLaughlin said he remains concerned.
Government, he said, is focussing “very deliberately on, although I have to say with not a great deal of success so far, trying to figure out how we reopen our borders without significantly increasing the risk of introducing possibly a more virulent version of the virus here and undermining the tremendous success”.
Globally, according to the World Health Organization’s situation report on 18 June, there were 8,242,999 cases of COVID-19 and 445,535 deaths.
Cayman, as of Wednesday, had recorded 193 positive cases. Of those, 60 are considered active, with 58 people asymptomatic. So far, 132 people have fully recovered.
The number of people tested in Cayman now stands at 18,605 – placing Cayman third in the world for testing per capita, Roper said on Wednesday.
Focus on reopening
McLaughlin said he does not expect cruise ships to return until next year, despite some companies advertising Cayman on their itineraries.
He said a great challenge for his administration is the consideration of “how do we reopen the borders and how do we manage to sustain this economy and our people in the meantime?”
For him, the lifting of restrictions does not leave a great deal of time for celebrating “because we are far from having won the victory”.
He said Cayman is learning what not to do based on reports from countries that have reopened their borders.
“There is little, in terms of encouragement, so far about any truly safe way to allow international travel to resume,” he said. “Everywhere in the world is dealing with these challenges. What’s happening in the US in particular now is hugely discouraging,” he added, pointing out that instead of the infections going down in that country, they’re climbing steadily.
“We’re looking at various ways to possibly reopen the borders,” he said, adding that it may come down to the discovery of “some medication which basically turns the virus into nothing much more than a bad flu”.
He pointed to countries where infection rates appeared to be falling, until borders were reopened and the numbers rose again.
“I’m not sure we are ready to run that sort of risk in this country. In this country, it’s not just black lives that matter and white lives that matter – every life matters, and that’s a principle that we’ve upheld and that’s one we are going to continue to,” McLaughlin added.