The mandatory quarantine period will be reduced to 10 days from 22 March, Premier Alden McLaughlin announced Wednesday, as Cayman reached its target of vaccinating 90% of the over-60 population.
There are approximately 5,000 people living in the Cayman Islands who are aged 60 or over. Speaking at a press briefing Wednesday morning, the premier said Cayman had reached the “much-anticipated milestone” and more than 91% of that population had been vaccinated.
“This gives us confidence that the most vulnerable have been protected for the worst of COVID-19 disease,” he said.
From 22 March, people arriving on island who have been vaccinated at least two weeks beforehand will only need to be in isolation for 10 days, rather than the current 14 days. Travellers will continue to be required to provide a negative PCR result from a test taken within 72 hours of travel, as well as a negative result from a test taken at the airport upon arrival.
The premier confirmed at the briefing that children will still need to undergo a 14-day quarantine, as currently anyone under the age of 16 cannot get vaccinated. Family members quarantining with the children would also need to remain in isolation for 14 days.
Cayman’s borders remain closed to general tourism. McLaughlin said between 70% and 80% of the entire population would need to be vaccinated before the borders could be fully opened, while keeping other protection protocols in place. He stated Cayman had “a ways to go still, but we’re certainly well on the way”.
As of Tuesday, more than 30% – or 28,997 – of Cayman’s estimated population of 65,000 had received at least one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, according to health officials. Of those, 9,447 had completed the two-dose course.
There are currently 30 active cases of COVID in Cayman, including two people who are symptomatic. None of these cases have required hospitalisation.
Since March last year, 460 cases of coronavirus have been reported in Cayman.
The premier outlined the reasoning behind why vaccinated travellers require quarantine, stating that the vaccine is not 100% effective and a number of people may not have an immunity response. He said there was “still a small chance a fully vaccinated person with a good immunity response could carry and transmit the virus to someone else”.
McLaughlin added that there were different variants of the virus with higher degrees of transmission that needed “to be followed carefully”.
He said Cayman would continue to monitor the prevalence of COVID-19 worldwide, pointing out that the number of cases was falling in the UK and US.
“If the falls in infection prevalence continue and our vaccination numbers continue to rise, we should be able to further reduce the quarantine period while watching the variants of concern,” the premier said.
He added, “When we reach the threshold that a substantial percentage of the population will be vaccinated, then we should be able to remove the need for quarantine altogether. But to reach a rate of, for example, 80%, it is likely we will need to have vaccinations available for children too, which should be coming by the summer.”
McLaughlin also stated that new regulations, which will come into effect on 22 March, make it an offence for people to present to authorities false vaccination documentation. Such an offence would carry a maximum penalty of a $10,000 fine and two years in prison.
Medical vaccination certificates can be submitted in an electronic form, he added.
More vaccines on the way
Governor Martyn Roper said that by early May, it will be possible that all those in Cayman over the age of 16 could be vaccinated, as by then, more than 100,000 doses will have been delivered from the United Kingdom.
So far, Cayman has received 38,000 doses of the vaccine. Another 20,000 are scheduled to arrive tomorrow (11 March) on the British Airways flight. Then, on 25 March, a further 20,000 doses are expected to arrive, with the final delivery of 23,000 doses scheduled to be flown in on 7 April, the governor said.
He urged anyone who remained hesitant about taking the vaccine, “not to listen to irresponsible, false conspiracy theories” and to come forward to be inoculated.
Medical Officer of Health Dr. Samuel Williams-Rodriguez, when asked if any serious side effects from the vaccine had been reported, said the most common ones were pain at the injection site and low-grade fever that lasts a day or two, which he said could be treated with common painkillers.
Everyone getting their second vaccination currently fills out a form detailing any side effects they had suffered following the first shot. Anyone who suffers unusual side effects, like swollen or enlarged lymph nodes or feeling ill, following the second dose are advised to call 947-3077 or email [email protected].
The premier said recent reports had confirmed that the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines protected not only against serious symptoms of COVID-19, but also offered a good degree of protection from transmission of the virus.
Speaking at the press conference, Health Minister Dwayne Seymour gave additional details of the government’s health insurance premium payment assistance programme, which he said would have helped 984 people by 21 March.
Those payments are available to unemployed workers in the hospitality and tourism industries. Anyone who has not yet applied and requires assistance with their health insurance premiums, should submit an application by 19 March, the minister said. Applications can be made through the Health Insurance Commission on [email protected], or for more information, call 946-2084.
The minister also announced another one-off $1,000 stipend for local musicians. He said the deadline for new applications is 19 March. All those who previously applied would automatically receive the payment, he said. Those who have not previously applied can do so by emailing [email protected] or by calling 244-2369.