Commercial vessels with wildlife interaction zone licences for Stingray City and the Sandbar can now access the popular sites under specified conditions, according to new regulations released Friday evening.
However, they remain closed to private vessels.
On Friday, Government Information Services announced the publication of the Prevention, Control and Suppression of COVID-19 (Partial Lifting of Restrictions) (Travel and Boating) Regulations, 2020, which also stipulates that air travel between Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands is being allowed from 10 July.
Under the new regulations, which run until 2 Aug., operators of commercial vessels who have a WIZ licence are now permitted access to Stingray City and the Sandbar, “provided they are not carrying more than ten people [and] do not station themselves alongside other vessels so more than ten people are gathered”.
They are prohibited from renting scuba/snorkelling equipment to customers. However, there is no restriction on the renting of dive tanks.
“Persons found in contravention of these rules could be subject to a fine of $1,000 and six months imprisonment,” the GIS statement said.
Earlier, government had announced that the restrictions on the two sites were to be lifted on 19 July. No reason was given for bringing the reopening of the sites forward, neither was any information provided on when private vessels will be allowed back into the areas.
Since access to both sites became restricted, the Department of Environment has been feeding the stingrays. Recently, the Guy Harvey Foundation has been assisting in that exercise, as well as conducting its research.
Access to Starfish Point and Rum Point remains restricted, according to the new regulations.
Travel to the Sister Islands
The regulations also clarify arrangements for travel to and from the Sister Islands.
As of 10 July, travel by air is permitted from Grand Cayman to Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, provided travellers notify TravelTime no less than 48 hours before travelling, GIS stated.
However, visitors to the Sister Islands must be tested for COVID-19 prior to travel and return a negative result to the satisfaction of the Medical Officer of Health.
“Persons wishing to travel by air from the Sister Islands to Grand Cayman, who intend to stay in a private residence, must notify TravelTime of their travel plans and the address of the residence,” the statement said.
Under the new rules, voluntary testing for the virus will be available to residents at the proposed address in Grand Cayman, which will be required in order for the residence to be approved as the travellers’ accommodation.
For visitors from the Sister Islands who wish to stay longer than three nights in Grand Cayman, the rules require that they must be tested for the virus no earlier than 48 hours before their departure from Grand Cayman and must return a negative result to the Medical Officer of Health.
Anyone staying on Grand Cayman fewer than three nights are not required to undergo testing.
Travel between Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands by boat remains prohibited unless passengers are designated essential services personnel, as listed in the regulations.
“These regulations remain the same as [those] currently in place and are now extended to the end of the new regulations period,” it added.
The regulations remain in place until 2 Aug. or as Cabinet specifies.
Read the regulations here.