The Cayman Islands government is considering reducing the quarantine period for vaccinated travellers from 10 days to five days, and making it mandatory for work-permit holders to be inoculated against COVID-19.
Premier Wayne Panton, speaking on Radio Cayman’s ‘For the Record’ talk show Monday morning, said, “We are definitely considering reducing [the quarantine period] to five days. We should be able to give an indication in relation to that in the coming couple of weeks.”
The premier pointed out that the main barrier to reducing the quarantine time was the verification of a traveller’s vaccination status.
Vaccinations for work-permit holders
On the same show, Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan indicated that the government was also considering making vaccinations compulsory for all expat workers who are renewing their work permits or getting new ones.
“I know other jurisdictions made it mandatory right away. We don’t feel the same way. We think once you are going up for renewal, we can make it a condition for your renewal or for a new work permit to make sure you are vaccinated,” he said.
He urged any work-permit holder on island who was not yet vaccinated to do so before the current supply expires next month.
While vaccination certificates issued locally by the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority could be verified, Panton said it was more difficult to deal with certificates issued overseas.
“The main issue in terms of reopening is trying to get clarification around how we accept or confirm and verify that somebody has been vaccinated. It’s a challenge the entire world has. It is surprising there has not been more movement in relation to that,” Panton said.
There is no single type of vaccination card that is being issued worldwide, or even within individual countries, like the United States, where the certificates vary from state to state.
Some airlines are developing apps or partnering with companies to create platforms that verify if a passenger has been vaccinated. Meanwhile, airline industry group International Air Transport Association has developed the IATA Travel Pass app, which is being tested by more than 30 airlines globally, including British Airways.
In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has begun allowing cruise lines to carry out test cruises as it considers lifting no-sail orders issued last year which prevent ships from sailing until they can prove that cruises can be done safely.
Panton said that his government had had discussions with one cruise line which indicated that it expected the CDC to lift its no-sail order by mid-to-late July.
“So, they were asking us about where we are [in terms of reopening the borders] and they wanted to indicate their position to us. They said they will have 100% of their staff vaccinated and projected that 98% of passengers would be vaccinated. How do you verify that?” Panton asked.
He said the same issue pertained to stayover tourism.
“That’s a challenge that needs to be addressed going forward,” he said.
Bryan said the cruise line in question was Carnival. “We’re trying to get more correspondence in terms of what their safety protocols will be, and how that lines up with our reopening talks and discussions.”
He said that while much of the focus on border reopening had been centred around stayover tourism, a large proportion of Cayman’s tourism industry involved the cruise lines, “and many Caymanian business owners depend on that”.
He acknowledged that the cruise lines posed a greater COVID-19 risk than stayover tourism, but said the government was in “constant communication with the industry and monitoring how they are going about their safety protocols”.
Panton also addressed Cayman’s vaccination stocks. The remaining supply of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines on island are set to expire at the end of June.
The premier said the UK would be sending additional vaccines to Cayman so the islands would have a continuous supply.
The government and tourism industry are currently in the middle of a vaccination drive in an effort to persuade those who have not yet been inoculated to get their first jab by 9 June, followed by the second shot three weeks later before the vaccines expire.