If the Cayman Islands is to hit its 80% vaccination target for the border reopening, government will have to move to mandatory vaccinations and not just for work permit-holders, Cayman Islands Tourism Association President Marc Langevin has said.
Langevin, speaking on the 21 July episode of the Cayman Compass weekly Facebook talkshow ‘The Resh Hour’, said the tourism industry has welcomed the announcement of a border reopening plan, but lamented that it still hinges on hitting a vaccination target of 80% of the entire population.
The CITA president said he believes Cayman cannot realistically achieve that without mandating people get the jab, and he is suggesting government seriously consider this approach.
“If the government is really keen about achieving that 80%, which would be 95% or 99% of the [eligible] population, it is going to have to come with some additional regulations, to potentially be mandatory or compulsory for people working in the industry, not just a work permit, but if you’re working at the airport, in immigration, at the hospital, and so on,” Langevin said.
Government is yet to formally announce a policy on mandatory vaccinations for work permit renewals, which was previously alluded to by Premier Wayne Panton.
Other initiatives needed
While Langevin said cash prize incentives had seemed to move the vaccination needle in the right direction, he suggested that government should also consider implementing steps undertaken in Europe to move it further.
As an added push, some European governments are only permitting access to certain activities or venues to vaccinated individuals. This, he said, in part, prompted his own parents to get vaccinated.
Already, Cayman has an example of this with both Cayman Pride and CayMAS, which were granted approval to hold their respective parades with only vaccinated participants allowed.
As of 20 July, there have been 96,331 COVID-19 vaccinations given in total in the Cayman Islands. Of these, 49,403 or 69% of an estimated 71,106 population, had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 46,928 or 66% have completed the two-dose course.
We cannot just hope that we are going to trust people, or they are going to do the right thing. I think we are way beyond that. – CITA president Marc Langevin
Langevin said he is on board with the 80% target, if it comes with some other component, because that is the caveat for entry into the next part of the reopening plan, “and if you do not have that, we do not have the rest of it”.
“There is a point where, until it impacts people’s lives, they are not feeling concerned by that. I think, if the government is not budging on that 80%, it is going to have to come with some additional, maybe not popular [decisions],” he said, adding that it is difficult to find something that everybody can agree on.
People, he said, are going to have to make a choice to be vaccinated or be tested “every two hours, or every two days, or whatever the case may be”, as an alternative.
“We cannot just hope that we are going to trust people, or they are going to do the right thing. I think we are way beyond that. We can see the level of vaccination [and] the way it is happening right now… the slowdown, and it is despite all those marketing efforts, communication efforts. I think everybody in the government has done their best to clearly call on their constituents. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Opposition or the government in place,” he said.
Everyone is trying, he added, but at some point, it has to become a personal decision that will not be made unless “there is a carrot [and] a stick to make that happen”.
Langevin said most of the tourism industry is almost fully vaccinated and government has to look to the other industries.
“Because not everybody has the same incentive. A lot of our employees know that it’s a condition of potentially working in the future, but we know that the other industries are not impacted by the shutdown of the tourism. Therefore [there’s a] ‘what’s in it for me? [mentality]’,” he said.