14-day quarantine to remain until 90% of over-60s vaccinated

From left, Finance Minister Roy McTaggart, Premier Alden McLaughlin, Governor Marytn Roper and Health Minister Dwayne Seymour at Thursday's press conference.

Cayman’s current quarantine and testing requirements will remain in place until 90% of the islands’ over-60 population has been vaccinated against COVID-19, Premier Alden McLaughlin announced on Thursday.

The premier, speaking at a live televised press conference, said incoming travellers will continue to need to spend 14 days in quarantine and return a negative PCR test before being released, until Cayman reaches its target of vaccinating 90% of everyone aged over 60.

As of Thursday, he said, about 55% of those older than 60 had already been vaccinated. Some 5,000 residents of Cayman are aged over 60.

“We have about another 2,300 or so persons over 60 to vaccinate to reach our 90% target,” McLaughlin said, as he urged people to come forward and receive their inoculations.

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Once that target has been reached, possibly by the end of this month, the premier said, the border controls can be changed to allow the quarantine period to be reduced to 10 days for incoming travellers. He added that those travellers will still be required to acquire a negative PCR test within 72 hours prior to their arrival, as well as a negative PCR test on arrival in Cayman. Each traveller must also have received a COVID-19 vaccination.

Those arriving in Cayman, under new measures once the 90% target has been reached, must stay in a household where all residents have received a full course of vaccinations, the premier added.

He said members of a household where a traveller is staying, who have not travelled themselves but who have been vaccinated, will not be required to quarantine.

Children travelling with vaccinated adults must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival on island, as currently no one under that age is being inoculated.

The premier acknowledged that people had concerns over the reopening plan for the borders, but he said, “I’m imploring you to go get vaccinated; we cannot stay closed forever.”

He added, “We’re not throwing open the borders by any means,” saying that the approach for reopening the borders would be similar to the steps taken to reopen the local economy last year, as Cayman eased its way out of lockdown. “It’s the first safe step,” he said. “We partially opened, bit by bit, as we gained confidence in our safety. We must do the same with our borders. We must not be careless and allow COVID back in our midst.”

Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee, giving an update on the vaccination rollout at the press briefing, said 11,856 jabs had been administered, which included 3,939 people who have received their second dose.

He said 65% of the islands’ over-70s have been inoculated, and added that 12.2% of the entire population had received at least one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which Cayman has received from the UK.

Vaccinations are being administered at local health clinics, as well as at the Owen Roberts International Airport. The check-in hall at the airport has been transformed into a vaccine clinic, a step the premier described as a “stroke of genius”, as it enabled more people to receive the vaccine at the same time.

“The successful rollout of the vaccination programme offers us the promise we can begin to think positively about returning to a more normal life,” McLaughlin said.

The premier also stressed that only those who are “normally and legally resident” in Cayman will be given the vaccinations. This appeared to be in response to reports of visitors on island receiving the shots.

Governor Martyn Roper said more vaccines are expected to arrive from the UK in coming weeks. The next batch is expected to arrive on 11 Feb. and bring 15,000 doses.

He said that 19,500 doses of the vaccine had arrived in two separate batches already, but said that even though each vial has five doses, “you can get six or seven doses out of each vial”, meaning those batches could include a total of 23,000 doses. The arrival of the next batch of vaccines will mean that nearly 20,000 people, or 40% of the adult population, will be able to be vaccinated.

He added that while Cayman so far has been receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, future deliveries may include the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Officials on Thursday also announced that a monthly stipend for unemployed tourism workers is being increased from $1,000 to $1,500.

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  1. If this is correctly reported, the proposed change and timetable makes no sense. We know that people who test negative 72 hours before travel can arrive in Cayman as positive. We also know that while the vaccination significantly reduces the chance of serious illness or death, it doesn’t necessarily prevent someone being positive and infecting other people. What is the logic in allowing returning travellers to “quarantine” in a house with non-travellers (even if the non-travellers have been vaccinated) and letting the non-travellers go out and about in the community? If the mere fact of vaccination means a vaccinated person is no risk to the community it would follow that since the traveller is required to be vaccinated under the new rule there would be no logic in the traveller having to be in quarantine even for one day. As it is, a vaccinated person is presumably still a risk to the community, hence the traveller must not be in the community for ten days. But the non-travelling household members are just as big a risk to the community if they become infected by the traveller. That would be fine if everyone in the community who wished to be vaccinated had been vaccinated, not just the over 60s. On the proposed timetable there will be thousands of people in their 40s and 50s who are at the back of the queue for the vaccine, and for whom the risk of serious illness or death from Covid is not zero, who will be put at risk by the likely community spread of Covid by non-travelling household members.

  2. It’s mandating a vaccine for ones who may not be ready for this. I’ve had past Covid and there’s discussion on whether or not it’s necessary to be vaccinated or only receive one dose How will the government make an allowance for this ??

  3. As a medical professional, I certainly appreciate Cayman’s cautious attitude towards COVID. I was on-island last March just as everything began to shut down and I returned to the US, where things have been managed relatively poorly.

    That being said, at some point, there must be a slow return to normalcy. Forcing vaccinated individuals who have negative tests to quarantine for 10 days makes little sense, and certainly does not constitute any sort of “re-opening”. Reducing the quarantine requirement by only 4 days implies that one does not actually trust the vaccination the government is mandating.

    There is never going to be a risk-free reopening of Cayman’s borders. But allowing fully vaccinated (2 weeks after 2nd dose), negative-tested individuals to return without quarantine is a start. This will allow a slow trickle, while the government continues to vaccinate its entire population. And it will also afford the government the opportunity to staunch that flow, if cases substantially rise.