Premier Wayne Panton has confirmed that mandatory vaccinations will be introduced for expatriates renewing their work permits and for those getting new ones, although no date has been fixed for when this will begin.
Speaking at Thursday’s Chamber of Commerce Legislative Luncheon at which he announced Cayman’s border reopening plan, Panton said, “The sooner we reach our vaccination target, the sooner we will be on our road to economic recovery from this pandemic. Toward this end, government will require proof of vaccination for both renewal [of] and new work permits as a part of our phased reopening process.”
He urged members of the Chamber of Commerce to “impress upon your existing employees on work permits that if they refuse to get vaccinated, they may no longer be able to work in the Cayman Islands”.
In response to a query from the Cayman Compass on when the requirement for mandatory vaccinations for work permit holders would begin, a statement from the Office of the Premier said, “No date has been set. However, it would be a benefit to the country and businesses for those who have not yet been vaccinated to take advantage of the free vaccines provided by the United Kingdom at their earliest convenience.”
At the question-and-answer session following his speech at the luncheon, when he was asked about mandatory vaccinations, Panton responded that, in much the same way as work-permit holders are already required to undergo tests to prove they are free of tuberculosis and other transmissible diseases, the government can require them to be vaccinated.
He said the government was not considering making vaccinations mandatory for everyone in Cayman who is eligible to get the vaccine. “That’s not an approach that we think is necessary,” he said.
The premier acknowledged concerns among the business community about the processing of significant volumes of work permits as companies will require more staff in preparation for the reopening of the borders and the resultant upswing in tourism. He said resources would be put in place within the Workforce Opportunities and Residency Cayman (WORC) to deal with the expected increase in work permit applications, though he urged employers to help mitigate this by hiring Caymanians.
He also said he was aware of the potential issues surrounding the logistics of newly hired workers arriving on island who have not yet been vaccinated, but who have agreed to be inoculated upon entry; as well as employers’ concerns over bringing staff from overseas here in time to meet the demands of the reopening tourism industry when few flights are available.
“We are prepared to work with you on all these issues,” he told the audience at the Chamber luncheon.
The premier on Thursday announced a six-step phased plan for reopening of the borders, which, if there are no setbacks such as several cases of community transmission or if less than 80% of the population is vaccinated, Cayman will assess on 27 Jan. next year if it can welcome all travellers, including cruise tourists, without the need for PCR testing or quarantining.