Tourism industry welcomes vaccinations, pre-arrival testing

A sign directs arriving passengers to where they can undergo COVID-19 testing at the Owen Roberts International Airport in Grand Cayman. From 14 Jan., arriving passengers will be required to have a negative COVID-19 test result before being allowed to enter.

The Cayman Islands Tourism Association is urging all its members, particularly their frontline workers, to be vaccinated as the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is rolled out locally.

CITA welcomed the nationwide vaccination plan, and also applauded the government’s announcement on Thursday that, from 14 Jan., all arriving passengers will require COVID-19 PCR testing before they board incoming flights.

In a statement to the Cayman Compass, CITA vice president Michael Tibbetts said, “The Cayman Islands Tourism Association is grateful for the Government’s leadership of the vaccination plan. We agree with the Premier that widespread vaccination is the best long-term solution to return to normalcy for our Islands. We are encouraging all our members and particularly their frontline staff to be vaccinated.”

Members of the organisation’s board will “lead by the example and roll up our sleeves for vaccination when we are eligible”, he added.

The association, for some time, has been calling for the implementation of pre-arrival testing, among other measures, as a means to further enable Cayman’s borders to be opened, saying other island markets in the region had done so, and as a result had lowered the number of arriving passengers with COVID-19.

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Statistics have shown that the majority of people entering Cayman who have tested positive for COVID-19 were carrying the virus when they arrived. For instance, in October and November, 71 travellers tested positive for COVID-19. Of those, 55 were found to be positive when they landed, while 16 tested positive following their 14-day mandatory quarantine.

While CITA welcomed the news of the pre-arrival testing, it also called on the government to consider “additional layers of protocols advocated by the CITA that would allow the reopening to tourism to be less dependent on the many variables in the CIG’s announced plan and ensure the target reopening in March can be achieved”.

It added, “With this path, tourism businesses can begin to make definitive plans for reopening to include marketing campaigns, advanced communication to visitors, coordination with airlines, rehiring and training in the required protocols for a safe reopening.”

CITA president Marc Langevin, in an earlier interview with the Compass, said a multi-layered approach to reopening could include vaccinations for tourism workers, a tracking app for visitors, and changes to local COVID-19 protocols to require pre-testing and reducing quarantine times.

Currently, under COVID-19 suppression regulations, all arriving travellers are required to be tested at the airport upon arrival and are then transported directly to their homes or to accommodation that has been deemed suitable for isolation purposes by public health officials. They are legally required to remain in quarantine for 14 days before undergoing a PCR test on the 15th day, and must remain in isolation until they have been informed that their test result is negative.

Tibbetts, who in November launched the Reopen Cayman website to help promote the reopening of the islands, argues that the 14-day quarantine requirement makes it difficult to attract tourists to the island, and says that more regular testing, stronger sanitation protocols, a contact-tracing app, and limitations on visitors’ movements to approved accommodations, restaurants and attractions should be considered.

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  1. Pre-Arrival testing will do nothing to keep the islands safe due to the possible 14 day incubation period of this virus. I can get a negative COVID test 72 hours before travelling to Cayman, and I can then contract the virus 48 hours before travelling….how does this protect our community?