Leaving Cayman last month was a bit of gamble for resident Chris Bailey, given the uncertainty surrounding the reopening of local borders and the quarantine process he would face upon his return.
“My father is very unwell, and we’d moved him into a new nursing home, and so I needed to go over there and make sure that he was OK,” Bailey said during an interview with the Cayman Compass via Zoom.
He departed Grand Cayman on the 18 Sept. British Airways flight, and was able to book a return on the first BA flight from London Heathrow Airport under the Cayman Islands government’s phased-reopening plan that commenced on 1 Oct.
“This was the first time I travelled off island since we shut down and the anxiety was pretty high,” he said, adding that even though he was “sort of guaranteed” a return flight, he was concerned that the date might be changed or that he would encounter difficulties going through borders in the UK or the US.
However, Bailey did indeed get a seat, along with 109 others, on the returning BA flight and, upon his arrival, he was allowed to quarantine at a friend’s vacant home, becoming one of the first people to take part in the government’s pilot geofencing scheme.
High marks for border-reopening process
Bailey, who went through all the steps of government’s phased border-reopening procedure, said he was not only pleased, but also impressed.
“I’m 100% confident that this could work. Obviously, to visit us, visitors are going to have to quarantine for two weeks and it’s going to be a certain type of visitor that’s going to come. That is going to be long-stay visitors, but, absolutely, if they come and they are willing to quarantine for two weeks, I can’t see any failings in this process at all,” he said.
The procedure involved in returning to Cayman, from applying for and receiving his TravelTime approval to return and going through the various steps at the airport, was well managed, Bailey added.
To enable him to isolate at his friend’s home, he had to submit the address of the residence, which was checked by an inspector about four days prior to Bailey’s arrival.
“I was given the all-clear to that, and then they sent through what would happen upon my arrival back to Cayman… the disembarkation process from the aircraft, [arrangements at] the airport, and how they would get me to my place of isolation,” he said.
Bailey is currently in the middle of his mandatory 14-day quarantine.
When he arrived in Cayman, he said, there was a package with his name on it waiting for him at the airport. He was given an electronic monitoring wristband and a government-issued cellphone and was advised on how to use the device.
“[They] told me when I entered the property what button on the app to press. It is all pre-loaded. You can’t change anything on the phone and that basically just starts the geofencing as to the location that you’re in, as far as I’m aware,” he said.
Once he activated the app, a message popped up saying the geofence had been set up, Bailey said.
“It will alert if I’m too far away from the phone or if the phone moves from the location I was supposed to be in,” he said.
Bailey was transported to his isolation residence and since he began quarantining, he has been receiving phone check-ins from officials, he said.
Bailey said he also received strict instructions about what can and cannot be done during his quarantine, as well as where food must be delivered to, and how it’s delivered.
“It’s very clear. It’s very concise,” he said.
If visitors are willing to abide by the rules of the quarantine system, then “we should welcome them in”, he added.
“From what I’ve been through for this process, there’s no way you can get through if you’re sick without them knowing, and they can lock it down very quickly. From my point of view, this works,” he said.
Bailey said he believes the greatest challenge to the process may be related to the personnel needed at the airport to facilitate additional incoming flights, and ensuring there are enough places for people to self-isolate.
“At the moment, I think the balance is right,” he said.
For new arrival Clare Miller, the process and the safety protocols were reassuring, especially as a health professional coming from the National Health Service in the UK.
“I’ve been really impressed, and one of the things that I found was our COVID test results were back really, really quickly, whereas in London we’ve had a bit more difficulty getting the turnaround times as quick as that,” she said an interview via Zoom from her quarantine room.
Miller and her husband Paul have moved to the Cayman Islands, and she said this is her first time here.
She said she was impressed seeing Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee and other health officials at the airport when she arrived on 1 Oct., and the level of efficiency demonstrated, from the disembarkation to their drop-off at the quarantine facility.
Describing the scene at the airport arrivals area, she said, “It was really efficient, really good. Everyone seemed to know that what they were doing, checking out details. Then, at some stage, [we were able] to retrieve our baggage and then we were put in a queue according to which facility we were going to. It was staggered. People weren’t together all at the same time… it felt like a good, safe process.”
Miller said she is keen to explore her new island home with her husband once they are released from quarantine, while Bailey said he is looking forward to hugging his wife at the end of his isolation.