The Cayman Islands government said Thursday it is working with a US biotech company called BioIntelliSense to use its health monitoring ‘BioButton’ device as part of Cayman’s phased border reopening plan.
When the first phase of Cayman’s border reopening begins on 1 Sept., travellers who have tested negative for COVID-19 three days prior to arriving on island can wear a BioButton and self-isolate at a residence of their choice for five days, or, if they choose not to wear the device, must quarantine at a government-managed facility for 14 days, officials said a press release.
Costs and quantities of the medical-grade sensors are yet to be determined.
Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell, in a media statement further outlining Cayman’s phased reopening plan, said the BioIntelliSense BioButton device monitors travellers’ heart rate at rest, respiratory rate and skin temperature to enable earlier detection of symptoms associated with COVID-19.
“This advanced health screening solution enhances our reopening protocols, providing further confidence that we can once again welcome visitors to our shores while minimising the risk of introducing new cases to the local community. This is especially important while the pandemic is still widespread in the United States and elsewhere,” Kirkconnell said.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee has been trialling the technology by wearing the coin-sized BioButton for the past month.
He said he has been able to experience first-hand how “unobtrusive” it is to wear, and the accuracy of the data it provides.
“The primary advantage is the BioButton’s ability to provide an alert to any changes in vital statistics that could indicate trending towards a respiratory infection, such as COVID-19, and provides Public Health the opportunity to intervene as soon as possible. BioButtons can also be used to facilitate isolation at home and will allow us to introduce enhanced contact tracing,” Lee said.
The statement said government’s Reopening Borders Committee is finalising details of the first phase of reopening protocols and will publish further information in the coming weeks.
“Details include how to secure PCR testing, arrangements for self-isolation, data privacy and management and programme fees,” the statement said.
Processes and protocols will be further evaluated and fine-tuned during phase one, while arrival numbers are still limited, to inform decisions on when and how the Cayman Islands moves to phase two of reopening.
“As we gear up for the controlled, phased reopening, hotels and other tourism partners have been putting in place new measures to increase sanitation and support social distancing requirements, as good hygiene practices remain our first defence against the virus,” Kirkconnell said.
He said government wants to ensure that the guest experience is at the same high standard that visitors have come to expect from the Cayman Islands.
“We are confident that we are worth the wait,” he said.
BioButton key part of strategy
The BioButton sensors are used for continuous health screening, and in Cayman’s case, will “passively monitor incoming travellers for early symptoms associated with COVID-19”.
Last Friday, Kirkconnell and Premier Alden McLaughlin announced government’s plan of unlocking borders which were closed in March following confirmation of Cayman’s first COVID-19 case.
Dr. James Mault, CEO of BioIntelliSense, said in the statement that the company is excited to work with the government “on creating a scalable technology-enabled response to monitoring for symptoms associated with COVID”.
“The BioButton health screening and contact tracing solution will augment safety measures for early detection of COVID symptoms to enable proactive intervention and automated care pathways for residents, workforce and visitors,” he added.
According to BioIntelliSense’s official website, the BioButton monitors respiratory rate, skin temperature, activity levels, coughing and sneezing frequency.
The BioButton health sensors communicate via Bluetooth with a BioMobile smartphone app or a BioHub device, which can be placed at the wearer’s accommodations to monitor the user’s whereabouts during a period of self-isolation. Proximity and duration to other BioButton devices can be reported to enhance contact tracing programmes, the statement added.
Phase One reopening
In the first phase of reopening, the statement said, visitors and returning residents must register with TravelTime for permission to travel on one of the government-arranged repatriation flights, or by private air.
Travellers over the age of 10 must provide proof of a negative PCR test within 72 hours of travelling. Eligible travellers can either opt-in to wear a BioButton and self-isolate in their choice of residence for five days, or quarantine in a government-managed facility for 14 days.
Those wearing a BioButton will have a second PCR test five days after arrival and, if negative, will continue their bio-monitoring for a further nine days without the requirement to self-isolate.
Further information on the Cayman’s COVID-19 response can be found at https://www.exploregov.ky/coronavirus.