Travellers from the US and businessowners in the local hospitality industry are querying the rationale behind Cayman making the five-day quarantine option available only to those vaccinated locally or in the UK, when vaccine certificates from other countries are accepted for the 10-day quarantine.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee has said that, currently, only those with Cayman Health Services Authority vaccination cards and people who can show their vaccination information on the UK’s National Health Services app can avail of the five-day quarantine. This is because these are the only certificates the Cayman authorities feel they can safely verify, amid concerns over fake documentation.

Incoming travellers with vaccination certificates from other countries are still required to quarantine for 10 days, while unvaccinated travellers must isolate for 14 days.

Several readers have contacted the Cayman Compass to complain about the policy of only accepting UK and Cayman certificates for the five-day quarantine, stating that certificates from the US are accepted in many countries and are also accepted in Cayman for the 10-day quarantine.

CITA questions basis for selective 5-day quarantine

Dr. Michael Tibbetts, vice president of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association and owner of three dive resorts in Cayman, wrote to Lee, Governor Martyn Roper and Deputy Governor Franz Manderson over the weekend to query the basis on which local health authorities were refusing to accept non-UK or non-Cayman certificates for the five-day quarantine. He made a copy of his letter available to the Compass.

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He said more than 22 countries worldwide, as well as several EU countries, have announced they will accept US vaccination certificates.

Tibbetts stated in his letter, “I simply can’t foresee that fraud should be a legitimate concern given the ease of obtaining a vaccine in the US right now (available at virtually any pharmacy with a same day appointment). This might be an issue in other countries without vaccine availability, but that can easily be addressed with restrictions on countries of origin.

“I have a US vaccination card and I must say it would take some effort to forge given the unique size, card stock and ink. This would be much harder than changing a PDF and printing it out. The truth is that any future digital vaccine passport will simply be converting a printed vaccination card into a digital one as there is no central registry of the 150M+ Americans that have been fully vaccinated.”

He said the Cayman Islands government’s policy to reject US vaccination cards for the five-day quarantine period “undermines confidence in a viable path to reopening for American travelers to Cayman”, and he asked the government to reconsider its position.

He told the Compass on Monday, “The CIG can verify US vaccination cards for the 10 day reduced quarantine but not the 5 day quarantine. How does that make sense?”

According to US News and World Report, as of 21 June, a total of 32 countries accept fully vaccinated US travellers, including Caribbean jurisdictions such as British Virgin Islands, Barbados, the Bahamas, Belize and Anguilla. Rules regarding quarantine and COVID testing for vaccinated arrivals vary from country to country, with some requiring quarantine until the results of COVID tests upon arrival are returned, while others do not require vaccinated travellers to undergo any isolation period.

Only securely verifiable certificates allowed

In an emailed response to questions from the Compass on Monday, including why the vaccination certificates were acceptable for 10-day quarantine but not for five-day quarantine, Lee sent the following statement: “There are significant global concerns around counterfeit COVID-19 documentation which every country is facing and we wish to protect ourselves from this potential threat.

“Securely verifiable documentation is something that all countries are urgently seeking to introduce, and we hope to achieve this with increasing numbers of travellers as soon as we have the technology in place to do so. This will be on a country- or system-wide basis.”

In an interview with government’s CIGTV last week, the chief medical officer elaborated on why Cayman was accepting only the local and UK certificates for the five-day quarantine option.

He said people entering Cayman who have completed the full course of the Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccines must quarantine for 10 days, unless they have received those vaccines in Cayman or the UK, as those are the only two places issuing vaccine certificates that the Cayman authorities can securely verify at this stage.

The UK’s NHS has an app that shows if a person is vaccinated, which can be presented to Customs and Border Control officers by incoming travellers, Lee said in the CIGTV segment.

“When you log in [to the NHS app]… CBC can ask you to do it in front of them so they can see you are logging in and you can demonstrate that you have been vaccinated,” he said.

He added that the NHS was producing certificates “with a lot of security features, like coloured thermochromic ink that changes with temperatures, things which would make it difficult to photocopy, backgrounds which are very difficult to reproduce. We’re also working to find out exactly what those features are and to have CBC officers trained so that they recognise that.”

He said Cayman was “working hard on apps to be able to read the secure verification, and when that comes in, it’s likely we will be able to extend, for example, that to all the European Union certificates for vaccination evidence or PCR testing”.

Lee said Cayman was working with Cerner, the healthcare information technology system that the HSA uses, to ensure that when people who have been vaccinated on island travel overseas their vaccination certifications can be verified securely, using an app or a QR code.

Noting that Cerner is a US company, he said, “We are expecting in the States, they will have a similar system for everyone that’s been vaccinated there. It might take a few weeks, we think it’ll take a short period of time rather than a longer period of time, before they can also demonstrate secure evidence of vaccination.”

Family asks why US vaccination is not verifiable

One local family got in touch with the Cayman Compass over the weekend to say they felt they had adequately provided verifiable online documentation from the US to health authorities here regarding their daughter’s vaccination status, after she was told she needed to quarantine for 10 days.

The teenager flew into Cayman from school in the US on Wednesday, 23 June, the day regulations were updated to include a five-day quarantine for people whose vaccination certificates could be securely verified. What the family did not realise at the time of booking her flight was that the Cayman Islands authorities could only verify the HSA and NHS certificates.

The family, who did not want their name published, said they had contacted Health Minister Sabrina Turner on Thursday. They said she told them if they could provide verifiable online evidence that the teen had been vaccinated, the matter would be looked into.

“That was late Thursday,” the father said. “By Friday morning, I had three items showing  verification of the US vaccine.”

These included a copy of the prescription from Walgreen’s pharmacy showing the dates the daughter received her Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, as well as an email from the Board of Health in the state in which she was vaccinated, and a link to the website of Color, a healthcare technology company that has partnered with the state, which showed the girl’s inoculation information.

The teenager’s family members returned to Cayman from the US on 16 June and, because they had been vaccinated earlier in Cayman, they had a 10-day quarantine, which was due to end on Sunday, 27 June. Now, they say, they will have to remain in quarantine with her until she completes her 10-day isolation period next week.

The girl’s father said he and his wife “will have served 18 days of quarantine as fully vaxed and negative testing on arrival individuals if we don’t get the five days approved”.

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23 COMMENTS

  1. So the thought is a portion of US citizens are making fake vaccine cards for a free shot simply to go to the Cayman Islands versus other Caribbean islands that cost less with no hassle. And the answer is to spend more money on tamper resistant cards or e-cards than the actual vaccine itself cost…..and the real risk is on the person lying about be vaccinated in the first place. Is the Department of Vehicles & Drivers’ Licensing running this program?

  2. What a narrow point of view coming from the Govt. I suspect that if those in charge of making these decisions suffered the same economic impact of those in the Tourism and Hospitality Industries then we wouldn’t be having this conversation. The fact is that the vaccine is and has been easily available in the Cayman Islands for several months. How long will the Govt. continue to punish thousands of people because a portion of the population is too stubborn or selfish to do the right thing and get the vaccine?

  3. I no longer believe this is about Covid safety because the current position has zero logic or scientific merit. No, it appears the people in charge have made a conscious decision to wean Cayman off the American tourist dollar and are hiding behind Covid to do it.

    There is no other logical explanation.

    They can’t even believe the things they are saying: “we accept the American card for 10 day but not 5 day”!

    5 day is arbitrary anyway – politically Chosen, not scientific, to appear as though they are doing something but long enough to discourage 95% of American tourists

    Just be upfront about it and tell us we are not wanted!

  4. In addition to vaccination record cards, would a record of an antibody test showing active antibodies be acceptable for entry. In the U.S. when you donate blood through the Red Cross, you get a free antibody test. The results are available on a person’s Red Cross App and show “Positive” for those that have antibodies as a result of having contracted Covid in the past, “Active” for those that have been vaccinated and “Negative” if no antibodies are found.

  5. Two contradictory, but noteworthy observations:

    1. An UNVACCINATED Cayman Resident can visit the UK with NO Quarantine; but a VACCINATED arriving Caymanian or Briton must Quarantine for a minimum of 5-10 days upon arrival in Grand Cayman…although BOTH the UK AND Grand Cayman have almost 70% of their “estimated populations” with at least one Pfizer (88% effective against Delta) dose, approaching the ill-defined herd immunity.

    2. Behind all of this; in the last 4 weeks…the Delta Variant has spiked the # of daily new cases of COVID-19 in the UK from 23 per million to 215 per million= over 800% increase; while in the same time period the USA # of daily new cases has dropped from 81 per million to 35 per million; a drop of almost 70% in 4 weeks. Much of the USA has been open for over 8 weeks now without strict mask mandates.

    Can Dr. Lee to explain why the Cayman Islands is so eager to allow higher-risk Britons (only 5% of annual air arrivals) into the island with a shorter Quarantine period than permitted for lower-risk USA visitors (80% of annual air arrivals)?

  6. It will eventually dawn on this new government to simply pass a law requiring imprisonment if someone falsifies a declaration of COVID vaccine certification from any country. Didn’t they just put someone in jail for breaking Quarantine ?
    I am not sure doing further damage to tourism from the US market is the fix. Grand Cayman will now have to spend millions later this year to announce they “welcome” visitors again.

    • Agree, And if government wait too long to announce concrete plans to open (not opening dependent on some number) the winter season will be lost. Those that want to ensure they can get to their destination will go elsewhere. You don’t book a Christmas holiday in December you do so by July or August.

  7. Sure seems like they keep trying to move the goal posts at every turn. I am sure the government will use the excuse of new variants to say “its not safe to open, lets wait until later”. I find it ironic they need weeks to build their reopening plan….Shouldn’t that have been the VERY FIRST THING they did when elected? After all the borders closed is the number one issue in Cayman right now. And governments wonder why people don’t trust them.

  8. If vaccinated, you should test positive for antigens. Why not do both an antigen test and a PCR test upon arrival. If you have a vaccination card, a positive antigen test and a negative PCR test, that should be the verification you need no matter where you were vaccinated.

  9. This is a solvable problem, but the clear answer is CI government doesn’t feel American tourist money is a priority. What additional policy they are making is following this unspoken rule. I feel bad for all the business owners and expat property owners. It feels like my longtime loyalty to Cayman will terminate and my tourist spend will shift elsewhere in the Caribbean where my family and I will feel more welcome. Sad.

  10. I have been coming to Grand Cayman since 1984. My husband is a physician and I am a teacher. We are both vaccinated. We have tried to visit 3 times in the last few months but have had to cancel since we are not allowed in. After so many years diving and enjoying your beautiful islands, we had made many friends and miss seeing them. We subscribe to the Cayman Compass and so enjoy the looking back in time pieces. Yes, I remember dining at the Almond Tree and dancing to Barefoot Man at the Holiday Inn. When we land, we see so many familiar faces, and I feel that we are really home. Why would you ever mistrust us after we have been visiting for so many years? Why would a physician violate his oath and fake a vaccination record? We have been to Turks and Caicos and the diving was great, but it isn’t the Cayman Islands. Please let us come back.

  11. The death rate of Covid is .03% of the population, and if you are not 70 yrs old + have one of the big 4 (cancer, diabetes, resp or heart disease) you have a higher chance of dying in a car, house fire or on a bicycle. And that is all without vaccinations. With a vax you can probably move the risk rate out another two decimal points. Even with the odd vax card fraud. The whole thing is absurd.

    And of that very slim representation of the pop who do perish, the vast majority do so within 1 yr of their average life span and they already had serious medical conditions. Sorry for being blunt but its called life and you will never cheat the inevitable.

    Straight off the CDC website you can resume your pre-Covid lifestyle if vaccinated. The new variant will be much much less than .03%. Another nothing burger.

    What you are seeing here is a great abuse of power and responsibility. The remedy is much more damaging than these solutions and much of America already gets that and has moved on.

    There is little scientific support to show that lockdowns or quarantines even work, much evidenced from States like Florida and Texas, or Sweden who did very little in that regard. Yet these jurisdictions have no better or worse statistics than jurisdictions who went into serious fear factor by burying their heads in the sand.

    If you need to Q anyone, it should be those that are at risk, not the general population. How is this not so obvious???

    This will go down as the most financially damaging blunder in an attempt to prevent what happens naturally to so few. Also why the Govt is precisely the wrong group of people who should be making these types of decisions, and never will do what is best for the majority of the population.

  12. I agree with the other comments above. The USA is our biggest tourist market. Without them we might as well close down all the hotels.

    It’s highly doubtful someone would forge a vaccination card just to come here but there are two simple solutions:

    1. Make forgery of a vaccination card a criminal offense.

    2. Require an antibody test on entry. If someone has been vaccinated they should show antibodies. Caveat: There are a small number of people who don’t have antibodies even after two doses of vaccine.

    On a side issue: It has now been reported that greater immunity is given by having both the Pfizer and the AstraZeneca vaccine.
    https://www.bbc.com/news/health-57636356

  13. As a fully-vaccinated U.S. owner of a Caymanian home I finally returned to Cayman for three weeks in May – almost half of which was spent in quarantine. I did my best to support the struggling businesses of North Side and East End. But I fear they will not survive if the government continues down its current senseless path of isolation. The quarantine hassle was immense and lacks scientific and statistical justification. I will not be returning as long as any quarantine is in place. Hawaii beckons. Aloha, Cayman…..

  14. I read this article and intentionally waited a few hours to respond in a less emotional way. As a fully vaccinated US citizen and homeowner for over 20 years I finally was able to return in late January 2021 for 4 months. I of course tested negative 72 hours prior to arrival, upon arrival and after 14 days of quarantine. The hassle involved with Cayman Travel, obtaining flights both both inbound and outbound, the reception process and combined with the 10 days of quarantine made my decision not to schedule a return this summer.

    The policy of requiring me 10 days quarantine while allowing other citizens from the UK 5 days defies logic and any scientific basis. As others have already stated, it appears the Cayman Islands does not want me to spend my money to support the Cayman Islands businesses and would rather remain in isolation. Either you are vaccinated or not and science has established guidelines for both groups. As others have pointed out, the government is saying they are following science but are constantly shifting the goal posts and not using the available scientific literature or guidelines to make decisions, but rather fear. I feel for the tourist sector in the Cayman Islands. This pathway of fear will take years to recover from and return to the welcoming population of the Cayman Islands.

  15. I agree with everything in the replies. One thing that hasn’t been addressed…if Custom and Border patrol will require each arriving passenger to log in to a vaccination record system from states or other countries to verify that their cards aren’t forgeries(again how many people are going to try that?) I can’t imagination how many HOURS it will take to go thru immigration. It was not unusual in precovid days for 3 or 4 large planes to land at the same time and the line extended out the door for immigration. The wait for individual verification will be incredible. Can the airport wifi support hundreds logging on? What about passengers with no devices to log on with? What if a state or government system is down? It won’t take long for the word to spread that getting into Cayman is a pain and like what is occurring now tourists will go some where else.

  16. As a US condo owner for 35 years, I too am disgusted with the quarantine period of 10 days. Having had the Pfizer vaccine and willing to undergo testing, I feel I should be able to check on my Cayman investment. I am concerned with the internal condition of my condo not having been open for over a year. The mold factor and the appliances not being used whereby they can freeze up is a genuine worry of mine. Periodic condo check ups are not as reliable as actual owner use. Cayman property owners should be given consideration by the government.

  17. All the comments make great sense from different perspectives. Unfortunately those in government just don’t get it. While many Caymanians have been out of work for 16 months, the government payrolls have increased. Adding insult to injury, MPs just voted themselves a raise last week. Based on a pole in the Compass, over 80 of respondents don’t approve of the raises.
    I have a solution, as long as the borders remain closed to tourists, those In government should have their pay reduced 50, and MPs should take no salary at all. When they feel the economic impact most in the business and tourism industry are feeling, the push for vaccines and border opening will occur much faster.
    Also government believes that while they have told folks from the US that we don’t trust you and don’t want you here by way of a 10 day quarantine, that these folks will just come back when government decides to open up the borders. Guess again there are many options for travelers and over the next several years it will be apparent on the permanent damage government actions have done to the island.

  18. My family & I have been fully vaccinated at Walgreens & just read your article excluding Walgreens for your 5 day quarantine. We own 2 properties in the Caymans & want to visit. We love the people & your island. It seems that this new administration wants to kill tourism in the Caymans. If people are caught w/ counterfeit vaccinated cards, they should be punished to the highest penalty given. Why let a few ruin it for the majority of vaccinated people. Please open the borders & let the island thrive again ! Free the Caymans !