Opposition Leader Roy McTaggart has reversed his opinion on reopening Cayman’s borders, claiming conditions had changed.
Speaking in a video statement on Thursday before a government press briefing about a suspected case of COVID community transmission, McTaggart called for an extension of the five-day quarantine for vaccinated travellers and the reinstatement of GPS monitoring systems for those isolating at home.
He also suggested “careful thought” should be given on “whether it would not be prudent to hold back on reopening, for now”.
McTaggart, who only three months ago called for a border reopening on 1 Sept. without the need for quarantine for fully vaccinated visitors, said the five-day quarantine period “does not give us sufficient protection, given that the virus has an incubation period of about 14 days”.
The Delta and Mu variants were making the situation worse, he added.
McTaggart claimed there was an increased concern in the community regarding the opening of Cayman’s borders on 14 Oct., the date when the existing five-day quarantine for vaccinated travellers is set to be eliminated.
He said existing plans must be re-examined because the environment had changed compared to three months ago, when the US was seeing increasing vaccinations and greatly decreased infection rates.
“The scientists [at the time] were saying that a Pfizer vaccine was very effective against the then new Delta variant. All of that has now changed,” McTaggart said, “as the US is seeing hugely increased infection rates with slow vaccination rates.”
The opposition leader added, “In addition, we now know that whilst the Pfizer vaccine is effective against the Delta and new variants, its protection drops away over time and the efficacy rate may be lower. Add to this the likelihood that many in our community, especially the elderly who were vaccinated early on, will need to have a booster shot before we open the border.”
The rising number of infections in the US have been attributed to the Delta variant being twice as contagious as previous COVID variants.
Although some studies have suggested a waning effectiveness of COVID vaccines over time, the same studies confirmed that vaccines remained highly effective at preventing severe disease and death.
The greatest risk of transmission continues to exist among unvaccinated people, because fully vaccinated people get COVID-19 in so-called breakthrough transmissions much less frequently.
“Infections happen in only a small proportion of people who are fully vaccinated, even with the Delta variant,” the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said two weeks ago. “Some breakthrough infections are expected but remain rare.”
Preliminary evidence indicates that fully vaccinated people, who do become infected with the Delta variant, can spread the virus to others but for a shorter time than unvaccinated people, who are infected, the CDC said.
McTaggart said he was not alarmed by the government abandoning its 80% vaccination target for Cayman’s total population, because based on the latest population estimates by the Economics and Statistics Office, 76% were fully vaccinated.
But he said, “The environment has changed since June and there is a strong argument that we should look again at the appropriate time [for reopening] to give ourselves the best chance of succeeding.”
“We now await word from the UK about access to the booster shots, as well as whether it is safe to vaccinate children under 12 years of age,” he added.