The majority of inbound travellers who have tested positive for COVID-19 had the virus when they landed at Owen Roberts International Airport, according to Public Health Department data.
Between 1 Oct., when the phased reopening of Cayman’s borders began, and 2 Dec., 73 travellers, or 2.4% of the total 3,012 incoming passengers, tested positive for COVID-19. During that period, one locally transmitted case was also reported.
Public Health provided the Cayman Compass with statistics for the months of October and November. These showed that, in October, 21 travellers tested positive for COVID during entrance-screening, while nine were found to be positive when they were tested following their 14-day mandatory quarantine. In November, 34 people were found to be positive when tested at the airport, and seven were positive when screened after two weeks in isolation.
The department also supplied entry and exit test results for September, when a pilot version of the quarantine-in-residence programme was initiated, involving passengers on a British Airways flight. These show that three passengers tested positive at the airport, and two were positive at their exit screening.
All individuals who have tested positive have remained in mandatory quarantine until they tested negative, public health officials have said.
Since 1 Oct., people in the quarantine-in-residence programme have been required to wear wristbands with geofencing technology so that they can be monitored while in isolation.
Questions about the effectiveness of the quarantine-in-residence programme have been raised recently following a number of alleged breaches that are being investigated, and one case in which a couple pleaded guilty to breaking quarantine.
At a Cayman Islands Tourism Association forum last month, tourism industry representatives called for the government to implement pre-arrival COVID screening, arguing that by allowing people carrying the virus to land in Cayman, passengers on the planes on which they travelled, as well as the drivers who transport them to their places of quarantine, were being put at risk. The tourism industry also contends that pre-arrival testing could lead to shorter quarantine periods.
At the forum, Commerce Minister Joey Hew said that the second wave of coronavirus hitting many countries meant local plans to implement pre-arrival testing had been shelved for now. “We were ready to roll that out, based on the risk of the country,” he said, “but now just about everyone, except perhaps Canada, that is a gateway country of ours is a high-risk country and we want them to have an extended time in quarantine.”
In an earlier interview with the Compass, Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee, speaking about pre-arrival testing, said, “That’s easy. But people need to understand, the problem is the incubation period of this disease. So even if you return a negative result within 48 hours or 24 hours before you bought that plane ticket, you could be harbouring something.”
According to the World Health Organization, it generally takes around five to six days – sometimes up to two weeks – for an infection to show up after coming into contact with a person carrying coronavirus.