Chamber of Commerce president Woody Foster has called for more transparency surrounding government’s phased-reopening plan for Cayman’s borders.
Foster, speaking on Cayman Compass’s weekly Facebook talk show, ‘The Resh Hour’ on Wednesday, 4 Nov., commended government’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Cayman can only remain closed off from the rest of the world for so long.
“We’re being extremely cautious, and we could be a little less cautious to get more numbers. I believe we could. However, you can’t really take away how safe we really are,” Foster said.
Cayman is currently under phase one of government’s reopening plan, which allows approved travellers to enter the country and quarantine for 14 days.
COVID-19 tests are administered upon arrival and at the end of the quarantine period. Once they test negative, individuals are released from isolation.
There has been no indication from government when the second phase will begin nor what that phase will entail.
“I would like to just see more transparency in… how we start to make decisions as a country in letting more people in or turning them down,” Foster said.
Premier Alden McLaughlin has said government will continue to be guided by public health advice and will shape its plans accordingly.
However, while that planning is ongoing, Chamber CEO Wil Pineau said businesses are hurting, with Foster adding that Cayman must look forward.
“In terms of planning, it’s not easy to just start back up a business. It’s not a light switch. You just can’t turn it on. Planning needs to take place. Employees need to be hired. So, as the country starts to [pick] back up, you need to be prepared for that,” Foster said.
Using his supermarket business as an example, Foster said he has hired more Caymanians, which he was happy to do.
However, he said, he knew once Cayman reopens to tourism, those employees will return to that industry and he needs to plan for that eventuality.
More job losses Pineau said a recent survey conducted internally by the Chamber found 50% of the 82 businesses that responded said that they will consider some downsizing or expense reduction.
“And it’s across all types of industry sectors. It’s not a scientific survey. It just gives you a sense of how things are going and unfortunately, there are some job losses that are forecast by them in this survey and they will affect Caymanians,” Pineau pointed out.
He said that, in March, based on 111 responses in the survey, businesses were employing 2,531 people, “but now, that number has fallen to 1,578”.
Based on responses to the survey from members across various sectors, Pineau said among Caymanians and permanent residents, between 225 and 435 employees are at risk of being laid off in the next three months.
“So, you can begin to see that the impact of the pandemic is really coming to fruition,” he added.