Passengers disembark from a British Airways flight, one of the first to arrive as the border closure was relaxed slightly last week.

Nearly 2,300 of you made your voices heard in our online poll asking, “Should Cayman proceed with the October border reopening?”

The results were extremely close. Forty-nine percent of respondents voted yes, while 45% voted no and another 5% said they were undecided.

Over the last month, the Compass’ Cayman 2.0 series has explored what tourism could look like (or should look like) in the future.

Of course, any tourism product starts with actually allowing visitors on island. After speaking with experts, hearing from the public and looking at the information for ourselves, the Compass editorial board created a point-counterpoint editorial examining the idea of opening Cayman’s borders from both sides

Point – The case for a bolder approach to reopening

The Cayman Islands has earned its reputation as the safest country in the Caribbean when it comes to COVID-19.

Gambling with that status is not something that should be taken lightly and Cayman’s leaders face a delicate balancing act.

Even so, it is past time for preserving livelihoods to be given some consideration alongside the more obvious imperative of saving lives.

We are approaching the point where many business owners are rightly concerned that the cure could be worse than the disease.

The ‘border opening’ in October is a nominal opening only. Aside from a few additional snowbirds there is likely to be almost no noticeable difference. As of today, there is no clarity over if, when or how tourists will be allowed to return.

After six months of significant financial losses and no sign of light at the end of the tunnel, the Dart group decided last week to pare down operations at its hotels and sever ties with employees who were on standby to return to work.

That decision has implications beyond the 500-or-so workers – the majority of them expatriates – who have lost jobs.

It suggests the company has effectively written off the 2020/21 high season. If that analysis is correct, the economic impact of the COVID crisis is likely to spread far beyond the approximately 3,000 unemployed Caymanians currently pulling a monthly stipend from government.

Expect to see restaurants closing down or moving to weekend-hours only. Expect to see more jobs lost in the water-sports industry. Expect to see a trickle-down effect on transportation, janitorial, food and beverage distributors and the coterie of other businesses that rely on the hospitality sector.

Calico Jacks was one of the first bars to close but it likely won’t be the last.

The islands are in a false economy right now with pension payouts helping pay rents and prop up businesses.

But that can’t last.

This problem will be exacerbated by the government’s promise not to reduce the civil service or the salaries of civil servants whilst running and increasing monthly deficit, currently at $25 million.

No one underestimates the threat still posed by the coronavirus. But other islands, from Singapore to Bermuda, have shown that it is possible to have a safe reopening.

The island distinguished itself internationally through its handling of the pandemic. It can do so again by pioneering the safest resumption of tourism of any destination in the world. That journey needs to start now.

Counterpoint – The case for keeping the borders closed

If Cayman saw increased community transmission of COVID-19 and had to once again lock down, the economic and societal consequences would be far more significant than those faced should the borders remain closed.

Nowhere is the virus more prevalent than the Americas region, according to the World Health Organization.

The United States has more total cases than anywhere else on earth and reported the second-most new cases over the last week, trailing only India.

Most of Cayman’s visitors come from or through North America. This is a major concern.
Just last month, a person was released from quarantine here only to find out they had tested positive for COVID-19.

Another person, who had not registered on Travel Time, was allowed to enter Cayman on a British Airways flight. If these protocols are not being strictly followed now while the borders are closed, imagine the risk when borders reopen.

Cayman can’t risk a return to total lockdown

Even if protocols are strictly followed, COVID-19’s incubation period is long and PCR tests don’t always weed out those carrying the virus.

Cayman’s economic situation is dire. People are hurting. But should COVID-19 begin to spread again in Cayman, that would signal the swan song for even more businesses. The little bit of local revenue seen over these last few months would vanish. A broader reopening would be pushed even further back.

So what does that do for the economy right now? Admittedly, not much. Government, however, continues to make funding available for those out of work and for businesses suffering major losses. With a new credit line in place, we hope the programmes providing that funding continue.

In the long run, keeping visitors out will keep those of us living in Cayman safer. That will result in a healthier, more robust economy for the long term.

We should keep our borders closed until the rest of the world is able to contain the virus. If not, we face the prospect of another round of suppression measures that could cripple the economy and Cayman’s community.

In conclusion

If there is no reopening, government will ultimately exhaust its credit line and it will not be able to continue to support those who need it for very long.

If this continues, government will also not be able to support the large civil service. They will need to adjust expenditure to the new level of revenue, and business owners directly or indirectly relying on the tourism sector will need to shut down or try to reinvent themselves. A new plan for a significantly contracted economy will be needed.

Therefore, while the Compass understands the need to keep the virus from spreading in Cayman, we believe the time is now to start reopening the borders in a significant way, allowing our tourism sector – and economy as a whole – to heal.


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6 COMMENTS

  1. It is understandable that the island prides itself with the success of its efforts to keep Covid cases to a minimum. The population is to be congratulated for its patients and superhuman effort. This success may be hiding two very important realities.
    One, as stated, the cure may be worse than the disease. The word Covid strikes fear all around the world. But, this response to a viral infection is way beyond any ever seen on this planet and has disrupted life at levels that can only be sustained for a short time without creating an appalling disaster on economies.
    Two, what is completely left out of the discussion is the actual severity of the disease itself. The public has been convinced that a positive diagnosis is a death sentenced when actuality, the population most at risk for death is the same population at risk for every other communicable disease in human populations. The death rate for Covid does not exceed 0.1% of those infected before the age of 70 years. Even in the older population who is at risk for death statistically is 4.0%. This older group, especially those whose health has been compromised by other common health issues is in realty the group that will be at the highest statistic for death regardless of the cause.
    The welfare of the entire population is being forced to interrupt a normal life for something that no person or persons can prevent. Thus, as it is often said, you must think before you act or you will indeed suffer unintended consequences. If this admirable response is continued, the final death will be your island and your way of life.

  2. I am a property owner that stays in Cayman for 5 months a year. I applied on September 9 to come back on Oct 20. I am still waiting for an OK. There has to be a more efficient way to do this. My wife is looking forward to seeing all her friends after we quarantine. It would be nice to get an answer as we can make plans

    • We too have friends who are permanent residents stuck overseas in the UK.

      They have been very frustrated as the person at Travel time they had been dealing with left without warning and no one took over their file.

      It’s extremely sad to see the damage that has been done to these joyous islands by this virus. A worldwide scourge that could have been prevented if China had acted quickly to prevent its spread.

      Of course we should be eager to welcome tourists back. But since few people here have been exposed to it there is little local immunity. A handful of infected visitors could set off an explosion of local infections. Then what do we do?
      And even if there were no restrictions would people come if it means flying?

  3. Cayman needs to OPEN to all ASAP! The Covid 19, is not what it appears to be. Most people would test positive if they were tested and would never show any signs or symptoms. Those with pre existing conditions are the ones that show signs. Almost every business I know in the US does a temperature check. Airlines do a temperature check, if no fever, let us over. The H1N1 flu kills more people than this Covid has or will ever. Famine will hit soon if it hasn’t already. What are you waiting for?

  4. My husband and I are hoping to get into the Cayman Islands on December 16 for a 3 week visit with our son. We were suppose to visit in March and, of course, that was terminated because of Covid 19. Will we be able to visit from Calgary, Alberta, Canada on December 16, or will the Cayman Airport be closed at that time for visitors? We have our tickets booked – just not sure what is happening with the closure. We have been tested and are Covid 19 free.

  5. My family loves Cayman and the people of the Cayman Islands. We are visitors from 1 to 3 times per year for many years and have an arrival in Cayman planned for Dec. The slow reopening is very discouraging and has us wondering if there are other islands we should consider.
    Please protect your most vulnerable and reopen to the vast majority of us who are much less vulnerable to serious illness.
    With respect to our Cayman friends..

    Thank you

    Michael P