Passengers who arrived on today’s British Airways flight are the first test subjects in Cayman to trial geofencing technology and quarantine procedures in preparation for the phased border reopening on 1 Oct.
The arrivals, all wearing masks, disembarked just after 2pm at Owen Roberts International Airport, on board the first fortnightly-scheduled BA flight.
They will be the first in Cayman to use the wristband and phone app technology that government announced last week that it was introducing. Premier Alden McLaughlin said at a press briefing on 8 Sept. that members of 20-25 households on the flight would be chosen to take part in the trial programme before the ‘soft reopening’ of the borders.
Cayman’s borders have been closed since March. Only approved repatriation flights have been allowed into and out of Cayman since then.
Cayman currently has three active cases of COVID-19, all from passengers who arrived on island in recent weeks. All three are asymptomatic and remain in quarantine.
McLaughlin has explained that the purpose of the first tranche of people using the geofencing devices “is to gather information on various aspects of the process – how well they work, or not. This includes the time required to process arrivals under the new procedures in effect from 1 October, assessing airport capabilities to conduct COVID-19 tests… and evaluate the electronic device technology, including its ability to meet our needs and user experience.”
Private buses lined up outside the airport today to take the passengers to either a government quarantine facility, if they opted not to wear the electronic monitoring device, or a venue of their choice if they agreed to wear the device.
The passengers were separated into two different groups. Those wearing the devices boarded the buses parked near the departures hall, while passengers heading for government quarantine facilities at local hotels were put on buses outside the arrivals hall.
Customs and Border Control and airport staff, dressed in personal protective equipment, escorted passengers to the buses.
The newly-arrived BA passengers, according to the government plan, are required to undergo a COVID test at the airport, wear the monitoring devices, quarantine at a residence or other accommodation approved by Cayman’s medical officer of health for a minimum of 14 days, and then undergo another COVID test prior to being released from isolation.
Only those who return a negative test will be allowed to leave quarantine.
Excited relatives gathered along Owen Roberts Drive by the runway to catch a glimpse of the passengers on the flight. As their family members emerged, they cheered loudly and waved.
For mom Benedicta Conolly, getting her daughter Lynne back on island was a huge relief.
“We’re looking forward to seeing her,” he said. “We have been looking forward for the last six months … to her coming home. This is the first chance she’s got really. She works in London and she’s arranged with her bosses to do her work from here because she does it on the laptop. So, once she’s come home, after the quarantine, she can stay for a while and work at the same time,” he said.
Wilson said it was a harrowing experience for the family having Brianna in the UK.
“We were scared to death. Her mother and I wanted to get on a plane and get over there to see her, you know, or for her to come over here, but, of course, with there being no flights, you don’t have a choice. You just have to Skype and call regularly and so on, keep in touch that way,” he said.
Wilson said plans are already in the works for a party when Brianna gets out of quarantine.
“I’m sure we’ll have a party, but I’m not sure where. She loves turtle meat and she loves oxtail, so those are going to be involved somewhere. … We’re looking forward to seeing her, that’s for sure,” the excited dad said.
Government, on its FAQ page on the border reopening, said the new fortnightly BA schedule between London and Grand Cayman will be kept under review until normal service can be resumed.
Upcoming flights are set for 1 Oct., 15 Oct., 29 Oct., 12 Nov. and 26 Nov.
Bookings are being done directly with British Airways at www.ba.com.
All inbound passengers will require pre-approval from Travel Time to enter the Cayman Islands and BA will be checking permissions at Heathrow prior to boarding. To contact Travel Time, visit www.exploregov.ky/traveltime and complete the online form.