Although being vaccinated against COVID-19 will form part of Cayman’s new border-entry protocols in the new year, the inoculation will not be mandatory.
Premier Alden McLaughlin, in a statement in Parliament Thursday, revealed government’s national vaccination plan, which will be rolled out when supplies of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine arrive on island, expected in early January. The aim is to vaccinate at least 65% of the population.
Coupled with that announcement were new travel protocols which include an exemption from quarantine.
McLaughlin, in his statement which was further clarified Friday, said that all travellers entering the Islands will be exempted from quarantine as stipulated in Section 5 of Control of COVID-19 (No. 3) Regulations, 2020 once they produce evidence of having received an approved vaccine course against SARS-CoV-2, which should have been completed before arrival. They must also receive a negative PCR test upon arrival.
These protocols depend on if the traveller will be living in accommodations where the other residents eligible for vaccinations have also received the inoculation, he added.
Travellers who do not satisfy these new protocols “will need to go into mandatory quarantine and be tested according to the requirements at the time”.
The current vaccine requires two doses to be fully effective. The two injections should be 21 days apart.
“All people who are exempted from quarantine in this manner, including their households, will undergo repeat testing on day five, day 10 and day 15 following the arrival date. Regular PCR screening will continue with safety restrictions for healthcare workers, healthcare establishments, nursing homes and prisons,” the premier said in his statement.
These protocols, he said, will be based on the local vaccination programme as he projected a border reopening in March.
As it stands, incoming travellers to Cayman, which is only limited to specified categories, are required to be tested on arrival, isolate for 14 days and return a negative test on the 15th day of quarantine before being released.
Those isolating at home must wear iMSafe electronic monitoring wristbands as well as complete the 14-day quarantine.
The new reopening protocols will require routine testing.
“Those involved in hosting travellers, including all port workers, hotel workers, restauranteurs, bar workers, leisure companies, taxi drivers and anyone else working in tourism, will be required to be screened for COVID-19 disease at regular intervals,” he said.
The premier said government will monitor the process closely, as well as be vigilant when the reopening rolls around.
“Should there be an indication of substantial and worrisome community transmission of COVID-19 cases in the Cayman Islands, or if we were to move up a suppression level, preventive measures will be promptly tightened through Public Health regulations, as they have been in the past. If this happens we will see a return to the wearing of masks in public places, physical distancing and the use of protective barriers to minimise further spread of the COVID-19 disease,” he added.
Cayman’s national vaccine plan
Who gets vaccine first?
1. Healthcare workers and institutional residents
2. Frontline customer-facing staff working at ports
3. People over age 60, and those suffering from conditions putting them at increased risk
4. Essential government workers
Who gets vaccine second?
1. Essential service workers, teachers and school staff
2. Those living in the households of anyone from the stage one vaccination programme
1 The remainder of the population
The successful development and imminent arrival of the vaccine seems like “the Christmas gift we have all been waiting for”, McLaughlin said, but he cautioned, “at the same time the vaccine is not yet here”.
He urged the community to continue to practise all the recommended health protocols.
“When [the vaccine] arrives, it will greatly reduce our chances of getting COVID-19, and the potential severity of the illness if we should contract it, but nothing is guaranteed. We must continue to practise the preventive measures that we have followed thus far, including: washing hands, practising respiratory hygiene, and following social-distancing recommendations. Doing so will ensure that we in the Cayman Islands stay safe through the holidays and into 2021,” he said.