Governor Martyn Roper has said while the recent uptick in vaccinations will take Cayman closer to the goal of reopening borders, it will still take more public support to make it happen.

Roper, speaking on the Cayman Compass weekly talk show The Resh Hour on 3 June, acknowledged that people are anxious to know what Cayman’s border-reopening plan will look like, but he said the vaccination rate is the key factor in the direction that scheme will take.

He urged patience as discussions continue on the issue.

“I think we have to give the government the time it wants to work out that plan,” Roper said.

Discussions continue

He explained that while he is involved in the border-reopening discussions, any announcement on the plan or initiatives will come from the government.

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Already, he said, some possible direction on that plan has been shared with the public by Premier Wayne Panton, but nothing has been finalised.

“The premier has said publicly, a first step could well be to reduce that quarantine time for those vaccinated travellers, perhaps to five days as he said, and that’s still under discussions. So that will be the first step. But once you’ve shown that works and that hasn’t led to any sort of COVID cases or increasing COVID cases, then you can consider moving to the next step, which will be to remove the quarantine regulation completely for vaccinated travellers,” the governor said.

Governor Martyn Roper on The Resh Hour with Cayman Compass journalist Reshma Ragoonath.

Cayman, he said, will get there, “it’s just not clear when and at what point and that’s still under discussion.”

Roper said this will be another step on the way to reopening fully and going back to the sort of commercial flights that residents were very familiar with pre-pandemic.

Herd immunity

While there had been discussion about requiring a target of 70% of the population to be fully vaccinated for the reopening, Roper said that may not be the magic number for herd immunity.

“The scientists say that actually you can’t really establish a specific target for herd immunity. We don’t know whether it’s 70, 75, 80. I think the key thing is just to vaccinate as many people as possible. So, we should aim to vaccinate everybody if we can. I mean, obviously that will be difficult because there are some people who really don’t want to take it. I wouldn’t get hooked up just now on a specific target. It’s really just about trying to vaccinate as many people as possible,” he said.

The governor added that Cayman’s Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine supplies will be replenished when the next BA flight arrives around 16 June.

The total number of doses, he said, is yet to be confirmed.

“I think it is about 5,800 in a box. Whether we get one box or two boxes, that’s still under discussion. We’ll obviously be seeking advice from Dr. [John] Lee on what he needs, but given the way the vaccine rollout is going”, he said, he believes government will be looking to get from 11,000 to 12,000 doses.

No approval yet for vaccinating kids

Although Canadian and US regulators have approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine for 12-15 year olds, Roper said Cayman is still awaiting the green light from Public Health England to be able to use it for children here.

“We’re just waiting for the UK regulator to confirm it. I’ve been told we can expect that very soon and that’s really important because if we want to get the maximum number of people vaccinated… being able to vaccinate 12-15 year olds will be hugely beneficial to our overall vaccine take-up, but I also think it’s really important in public health terms,” he said.

He said COVID affects older people in a much more serious way than younger people and “thankfully, particularly children don’t seem to be affected”.

However, he pointed out that if someone contracts COVID there is the possibility of getting what is known as ‘long COVID’, which a lot of people in the UK have had.

“This is where the COVID symptoms last for many months and can be really debilitating and keep people off work. We don’t want to take that risk with our children that any of them get COVID in case they get long COVID. I think there’s a strong public health reason for us being able to vaccinate our 12-15 year olds at the moment,” Roper said.

BA flights

Roper said he understood the frustration of travellers who have been impacted by ‘ghost’ BA flights; however, he said discussions are still ongoing to add more flights to Cayman.

He said Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan and his team are negotiating with BA, but right now government is waiting for confirmation before making any announcement.

“I do recognise this as really difficult, but obviously we’re negotiating with BA and we don’t have open skies. We don’t have a commercial arrangement. This is a cost-sharing arrangement with BA who are also looking at their own bottom line in terms of where they’re flying to and watching whether the US market is going to come back online for them,” Roper said.

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  1. So now they are moving the goal posts and essentially want everyone to live in fear for the rest of their lives based on “what if’s”? Based on their own words it sounds like they should just stay closed forever. Then they can live in a bubble with no fear I guess. Just my two cents.

  2. Me and my wife (yes we’re vaccinated) have been going to Cayman for more than 32 years (With the exception of Ivan). We even bought a home in West Bay 5 years ago hoping to spend the winters there. My wife retires in 4 years and for now we can not spend more than 2 weeks at a time away. To quarantine for 10 days makes no sense for us. 5 days – we’ll pass. Going from 10 days to 5 days will not change anyone’s travel plans in any real way. The last time we were there was Jan. 2020. We understand island time but judging from this article I hope that in the next four years they understand that Covid will NEVER get to zero.

  3. Reducing the quarantine to 5 days is a lie because it really is 7, the quarantine is 10 now but what they don’t tell you it is really 12. The day you land does not count and the last day of the quarantine which is really 11 you get tested and don’t get your results until the next day. We have friends that own a restaurant on the island who is really struggling to keep their head above water. Open the island up before more good people lose their business.

  4. Time. They need…time. May I ask what they were doing for the last 6 months, then? Because certainly there has been time to formulate a coherent strategy for reopening. No. They don’t need time, they need to dig deep and find the fortitude to just make some decisions already. This is about as feckless leadership as I have ever seen.

    The vaccines are at 70%. That was the target. Stop moving the goal post because you are scared. More is lost from indecision than wrong decision. I am not saying just lift it all and go, I am saying solidify a plan and move forward already.

  5. My wife and I have been traveling to Cayman for 20 years. It appears the Cayman government is most interested in being the poster child for covid free. They are more worried about bragging rights than the welfare of their own people that are struggling financially. The world has proven the vaccine works. Require fully vaccinated travelers and open the border. Your great caring citizens have suffered enough.

  6. Agree with these comments. We have a home in Cayman we haven’t visited in 18 months. We can’t stay long enough to quarantine but would visit often and and have been fully vaccinated. We love our home there and felt welcome. Cayman is really hurting it’s people, businesses and ultimately it’s reputation. We now need to look for a vacation home we can actually use and reliably. Very sad indeed.

  7. Agree with everyone above. We are homeowners in Cayman who cannot reasonably return, despite being vaccinated. It is time to follow the science the rest of the world is following and realize that quarantines are unnecessary for vaccinated individuals. Setting arbitrary vaccination percentages is meaningless – most of the adults who have not gotten vaccinated are unlikely to change their mind soon. It is their right to make their own decisions, but they must not hold hostage the rest of the population and Cayman’s visitors, who are acting responsibly as directed by their physicians and governments.