People who have been vaccinated in Europe and at Walmart or CVS outlets in the United States are among those who now can avail of the Cayman Islands’ five-day quarantine option, as the islands expand the list of countries from which to accept securely verifiable vaccination records.
As of Friday, 23 July, travellers who have been vaccinated in certain American states or at specific US and Canadian health providers or pharmacies, as well as in European Union countries, have been included on the expanded list.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness announced the new list late Monday afternoon, stating that Cayman authorities now had the technological capability to scan QR codes to securely verify vaccination records from some issuers in North America, the EU, and others. QR codes are electronic data, similar to a barcode, which can be displayed on a smart phone or by presenting a physical paper copy.
The expanded list of systems and countries from which vaccination records can be securely verified now includes:
- Issuers who use SMART Health Cards and are a part of the CommonTrust Network. This includes North American issuers, such as:
- Walmart Pharmacy
- Sam’s Club Pharmacy
- State of California
- State of Louisiana
- UC San Diego Health
- CVS Health
- UC Health
- Vaccination records from EU member states and other countries that meet the EU Digital COVID Certificate standard.
In a statement, the Cayman government said it “anticipates that the approved list will continue to grow as other vaccination issuers develop ways to produce securely verifiable vaccination records”.
Up to 23 July, only incoming travellers who had been vaccinated in Cayman or in the United Kingdom were eligible for the five-day quarantine, while people vaccinated elsewhere were required to quarantine for 10 days.
Unvaccinated arrivals are still required to isolate for 14 days.
Premier Wayne Panton had stated earlier Monday, on Radio Cayman’s For the Record talk show, that Cayman now had the capability to read the SMART Health Cards.
The US-based non-profit Commons Project Foundation released the SMART Health Card verifier app earlier this month, which enables users to scan a code to verify a person’s COVID-19 vaccination status. The app can determine if the issuer of the vaccination certificate is a verified health data source found in the CommonTrust Network – a registry of testing providers, vaccination providers and public health registries set up by the Commons Project Foundation – which is supported by the Rockefeller Foundation.
The app displays the issuer name, vaccine type, dates of vaccine doses, and name and date of birth of vaccine recipient, according to a press release from the Commons Project Foundation. The release noted that additional states and pharmacy chains and healthcare providers are expected to begin issuing the cards to their patients in the coming weeks.
Explaining why Cayman was being cautious about its acceptance of vaccination documentation, Panton said EU and UK governments were issuing digital or paper vaccinations certificates that are difficult to counterfeit, but “not so in the US”.
He acknowledged that Cayman’s own vaccination documentation was “not that great either”, but said it can be verified locally and that the government was in the process of developing an app that could demonstrate the validity of the certificates to international agencies.
“The versions issued in the US are easily faked,” he said. “They have had a significant number of people faking these things and being prosecuted for having done so because the consequences are significant.”
He added that there was an incentive for people in the US to fake the certificates because it would mean shorter quarantine periods when travelling, and would allow them access to certain areas and venues if they can show they have been vaccinated.
In May, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised that vaccinated people could move around more freely and without masks.
A number of venues in the US are allowing only vaccinated individuals to enter. For example, Bruce Springsteen’s Broadway show will only sell tickets to vaccinated patrons and some baseball stadiums are selling tickets to ‘vaccinated only’ sections. Ahead of this weekend’s Lollapalooza concert in Chicago, the FBI reminded residents that using a fraudulent COVID vaccine card to get into the music festival is illegal.
Offers of fraudulent vaccine cards have appeared on major online retailers such as Amazon, Ebay and Shopify, as well as on Craigslist, according to several US media reports.
Regarding the SMART Health Cards, Panton said, “We are in a position where we are now able to significantly improve our ability to read and verify American-done vaccinations. That is going to be critical for us.”
He added that Cayman wanted incoming tourists to be vaccinated, and those who are not will continue to be required to quarantine for 14 days. He said the recent news that two incoming vaccinated travellers had been infected with the Delta variant of COVID-19 was a reminder of how important it is to ensure that fake certificates do not get through.
Those two travellers had received both their doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in Cayman, so after they flew back to Grand Cayman from Miami, they had undergone a five-day quarantine. They were found positive for the virus when they underwent a PCR test on their last scheduled day in isolation.
Panton said, hypothetically, if those individuals had arrived on island with fake vaccination certificates, and if the virus was still incubating and had not shown up on an exit PCR test, that would have meant that Cayman would have been greatly at risk of community transmission of the Delta variant.