In his annual New Year message, Premier Alden McLaughlin was optimistic that Cayman could reopen its borders in March.
As the final hours of 2020 ticked away, the premier expressed confidence that the Cayman Islands will bounce back stronger, but warned that rebuilding tourism and the economy will take time.
“It will take resolute effort, but I have every confidence that our Islands and our people will emerge stronger from the challenges we have faced,” he said.
Pointing to the availability of vaccines early in the New Year, the premier said this offers the safest way for Cayman to open up the country and economy more broadly.
“Our first shipment of vaccines will arrive in early January and we will then roll out our national vaccination plan,” he said. “By March we hope to have successfully vaccinated and protected a sufficiently large number of our population, including all of those at most risk. If we can achieve that target, we should be able to open our borders once again.”
Next Tuesday, the first batch of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines will arrive aboard a British Airways flight. Governor Martyn Roper has said there will be enough doses to inoculate 5,000 people.
McLaughlin, Roper and Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee will be among those taking the jab to initiate the roll-out of the vaccination campaign.
The premier stressed that having “struggled so hard” to get through the worst of the COVID-19 crisis, his administration remains determined to keep Cayman safe.
“Therefore, we will require that arriving travellers have also been vaccinated and received both a negative COVID-19 test before arriving, and a second negative test on arrival, along with any other public health requirements. Travellers not meeting these requirements will have to quarantine,” he said in his message.
While he lamented that all the hurdles have not been cleared, he expressed pride in the resilience of the Cayman Islands community in overcoming the challenges of 2020.
“This year has been a tougher time than any of us can remember. Yet as a country we have come through the worst of this crisis and while there is still a long road to travel, as I have said, we are on the right path,” he said.
McLaughlin said while government has worked to meet some of those challenges through its financial support given to businesses and workers impacted by the health crisis, he knows there is still more to deal with, concerning the pandemic and its consequences.
“We will not waver in our commitment to deliver on the ambitions we share for our people. We came together as a government of national unity and, in this time of crisis, that unity has been more important than ever. We need to remain united and resolute as we see through what we have started and enable Cayman to grow and recover, ensuring that all Caymanians have the opportunity to share in the success we believe our country can enjoy,” he said.
The premier, in his New Year message, said the measures that government took at the start of the pandemic were hard on everyone, but he remained “convinced that the swift and decisive action we took helped to contain the community spread”.
He acknowledged that, regardless of how well many in Cayman are doing, there are those who have lost jobs or are working reduced hours.
“As in most countries, it is those working in tourism and hospitality who have been hardest hit,” he said.
However, he believes better days are ahead.
“Let us face 2021 with a proud self-confidence that we will come back stronger. Most importantly, let us face 2021 together. It is our unity of purpose that has brought us to this position and it is our unity of purpose that will deliver us the rest of the way,” McLaughlin said.