We’ve heard the phrase “guided by the science” over and over during the past 18 months, which is why government’s decision to “pause” Cayman’s border reopening plan makes little sense. It’s a decision we believe was based on fear rather than logic; one that will have dire consequences for all of Cayman.

Premier Wayne Panton on 14 Sept. announced government’s decision to keep Cayman’s borders tightly restricted, following a spate of locally transmitted COVID-19 cases. In one breath, the public heard that “this is the new normal” and that locally transmitted cases will be a daily occurrence that we must come to grips with when visitors return to our islands, en masse. But then – in the next breath – we heard that the country would be tightening its current restrictions and not opening borders to commercial air traffic through at least the end of the year.

While we respect government’s aim to protect Cayman’s people – and we certainly wish everyone impacted by these recent cases a speedy recovery – government’s leaders appear to be contradicting themselves.

While the fear in the community is understandable, it is not necessarily rational or proportionate to the threat now posed by the coronavirus.

No doubt, the inboxes and WhatsApp feeds of the islands’ leaders are filled with emotional pleas for extreme action. 

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And that, more than anything, is what has driven the damaging decision to delay the border reopening.

The reality is that these incidences of community transmission were an entirely expected eventuality that we, as a community, have been preparing for, for the best part of a year. 

14 Oct. was penciled in as the substantive reopening date and nothing that has happened in the past week really altered the case for sticking to that timeline.

The tourism industry and those that rely on it for their livelihoods have waited long enough. 

COVID, unfortunately, is here to stay and the risk in January will be no different than it is today.

We are as ready as we will ever be.

Government, with the help of the UK, has provided a means to reduce the risk of death from COVID-19 for Cayman Islands residents to almost zero.

Those who have resisted encouragement to get vaccinated have put great store in the principle of personal freedom of choice.

The data and the relative risks have been well articulated. At this point, anyone who chooses to remain unvaccinated is choosing a higher level of risk.

Perhaps that is their prerogative.

It would be sad and tragic if Cayman were to open its borders and we were hit with a dozen or so deaths from COVID among the unvaccinated – something other small island territories have experienced.

But the elevated risk is something that many of those who insist they will not get the jab, say they are prepared to take. 

In the same way that we don’t ban cars because some people drive without seatbelts, we can’t continue to close the island off to the world because of COVID-19.

The vast majority of people in the Cayman Islands have willingly accepted and respected enormous limitations on their own freedoms during the pandemic. 

The right to travel, the right to a family life, the right to make a living are all fundamental entitlements that continue to be impacted. It is time for those rights to be restored.

Government has done all it can. It has kept the virus from Cayman’s shores for over a year, it has provided gold-standard vaccines free of charge and it has given ample time and opportunity for every adult to take them.

The purpose of that effort was to prepare for the reopening of the island and the return of COVID-19.

As both the premier and governor pointed out last week, a rise in infections and the return of masks and social distancing were inevitable at some point. 

COVID-19 is not going away any time soon. While we have been cloistered behind closed borders, the world has been learning to live with it.

Now that our bubble has been punctured, we must accept the new reality. 

Getting vaccinated (potentially on an annual basis), wearing masks in crowded environments and self-isolating when we are sick are among a long list of sensible precautions everyone can take to keep themselves and their families safe.

No-one is trying to diminish the seriousness of the coronavirus. Cayman’s healthcare system had ample time to prepare and has the capacity to deal even with an unlikely large-scale outbreak. The availability of vaccines ensures that the threat from COVID-19 is now comparable to a variety of other health risks that we accept every day. And we have the ability to control and reduce that risk further through mask-wearing and social distancing, as and when needed.

Delaying the reopening date won’t change that and is unlikely to move the needle much on the island’s vaccination rate, which is already among the highest in the world.

Cayman has done an exemplary job at every stage of this pandemic, but the days of prevention are now gone. COVID-19 is in our community, even with the borders closed. Handling the reopening is the final hurdle. We must have the courage to take that leap.

 

Voting is open through Wednesday, 22 Sept. 

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24 COMMENTS

  1. Spot on. Unfortunately, your words will fall on deaf ears. CIG will not listen and the restrictions on visitors will continue. This action continues to put multiple businesses at risk of losing everything. Many are already on the edge of the cliff, barely hanging on; I expect this is the push that will send them falling head over heels to ultimate destruction.

    As stated in the article, Cayman has spent the better part of a year getting prepared to reopen. Moving the mark to January (or even later in 2022) will not change anything. Covid will not be gone by then, it will never be gone, living with it will become part of life. The alternative is to allow this wave of Covid to burn through the island, keep the border closed indefinitely and someday reopen. At that point, Cayman will be the land the world forgot.

    Visitors are angry at Cayman, they have planned to return, made reservations, and cancelled reservations multiple times. It is my opinion that many, in fact most of these people will not return. They have or will move on to other destinations where they are welcome. The message is clear that visitors are not welcome in Cayman and why would anyone wish to travel to and spend money in a place where they have been turned away time after time?

    From this point forward believing anything the government says will be difficult.

  2. Would someone in government please answer this question that many of us want to know the answer to: Rather than trying to do somersaults to figure out ways to accommodate the unvaccinated, why not just require ALL incoming travellers to show proof of vaccination (or proof of having had the virus and recovered, thereby having natural immunity)? The endless catering to the unvaccinated is a so-so strategy at best, seeing as time after time, people test negative before flying in — and then positive upon landing. It’s just not plausible that SO many people could have gotten infected during the 3-day-before-flight testing window. Clearly, the testing is inconsistent or something. So, why not switch to mandatory vaccination for all those flying in? Yes, I know: Vaccination doesn’t stop 100% of the virus — but according to the science that’s been endlessly trumpeted, vaccination stops the VAST majority of the illness and leads to only minor problems for the comparatively few breakthrough cases. We MUST learn to live with the virus, and this seems the most practical way.

  3. This is why I stopped supporting the compass.

    I commented on a previous article and it was conveniently omitted along I am sure with this submission.

    It is brutally obvious the compass a media who’s job is to not take sides HAS IN FACT TAKEN A SIDE. I guess its about who lines your pockets.

    We the more silent majority opinion is that the government and the people of the Cayman Islands are not ready for Delta. It’s not just Cayman, it’s every place that has tried this experiment of opening up and all are failing at one level or another. Look at Bermuda right now.

    Some of our issues are self inflicted and the same CITA could help fix this. In my opinion we need to devise a proper strategy for handling inbound traffic. Currently the “trust” system is not working. So the first thing I would do is get rid of self isolation’s and next quarantine at non government facilities. None of this can be properly trusted.

    The Oct 14th system that was planned was an abject failure from the get go. It would have created a catastrophe the likes the Cayman Islands had never seen. We need something different. People cannot simply come in a walk directly into the Cayman Islands like they did before. We are living now in a different environment.

    Here is the #1 issue we need to realize. Vaccines will only work truly if we have a much higher level. I hear people saying 80% but I believe it needs to be closer to 90%. I think if people like CITA want to scream they need scream at the unvaxxed and beg CIG to mandate vaccines. If foreign workers are unvaxxed and won’t take vax then you have 30 days. Please leave the Cayman Islands. All Caymanians unless given a medical permit blessed by the CIG MUST get vaccinated. Period and full stop.

    The next thing is boosters. We need them for the elderly and immuno-compromised and others. Vaccines have a useful life of 6 to 8 months.

    After that we need to see how we do with kids. Can we vax down any lower than 12?

    What the problem is honestly with the Oct 14th situation is that a PCR test 2 days before is basically useless. You can contract covid in the airport on a flight on the way to the airport where you could appear clean and be a virus petrie dish. I do not even know if a PCR could detect the virus that early in its development.

    Our aim should not be to eliminate 100% of virus coming in but 75% to 90% so that detection after and elimination is attainable. If we are at only 20% to 30% we are so screwed it ain’t funny. We will be quickly overwhelmed and what you fear the most, a next lockdown, will be a necessity.

    So I feel that WE, that’s CITA, CIG and others all need sit around a table and spitball this to death. How do we all work together to make this seamless.

    And CayCompass stop picking sides. Start presenting news. You can even offer solutions. We are all supposed to be on the same team, the Cayman Islands. The virus is our enemy and we MUST protect our people at all cost. We don’t fling doors open as some suggest and just DEAL WITH IT.

  4. Thank you Cayman Compass for putting this out there in a clear and concise manner. We should absolutely stick to the opening plan, as we are ready as a country to do so. The CITA letter was also excellent!

    Hoping that more companies and institutions in Cayman put pressure on the government, so that they reverse the decision to stay closed, and open in October as planned.

  5. Thank you Cayman Compass for your common sense Editorial.
    We have been home owners in Cayman since 1996. We always felt welcome to our island home but NOT now.
    We are presently in Italy for 3 weeks. Italy welcomes us! NO quarantine! They accept our US CDC vaccination card, along with the new EU locator form and a negative Rapid Covid test prior to our travel. We must show our CDC card to enter museums and indoor restaurants.
    Masks are required in all stores.
    Is there any reason Cayman can’t do the same? It is totally ridiculous that they question our US CDC card. Most of the world accepts the CDC card!
    Open the border with NO quarantine for vaccination people.

  6. I speak about/for the hard core Cayman visitors and there’s a lot of them. When Ivan ran through Cayman I know we felt sorry for Cayman. We patiently waited for the island to rebuild and the airport open. It was not Cayman’s fault. I and many more came back and supported the CI’s.

    All I hear now is don’t come here we really do not want you to come here.

    Almost everywhere else has figured out how to live with Covid which is not going away. Those who have failed have failed because of exceedingly low vaccination rates. Cayman has one of the planets highest vaccination rate. The CIG’s obsessing over the unvaccinated rather then have a science driven opening plan is beyond baffling.

  7. Great editorial! As a physician in the US, I have seen my share of patients who disbelieve in vaccines and won’t EVER get them. It seems there are many in Cayman who are taking this same attitude and, in essence, holding the rest of the island hostage and sabotaging the economy. I am all in favor of safety and wholeheartedly agree that only fully vaccinated travelers should be able to return, but there is a law of diminishing returns and Cayman has reached that by now.

    There have been many wise decisions made by the authorities in Cayman that were excellent at the time, but this decision to keep from opening up for holiday 2021 is absolutely devastating to the local population and will have far-reaching and long-lasting consequences for everyone in Cayman.

    Sadly, there will be more negativity from the incalculable human loss of dignity and long-term earning capacity as tourism dwindles to nothing and restaurants, bars and dive companies (along with many other institutions) close forever.

    There is only so much that the economy (and the people) can bear.

  8. Thank you for a well written, concise editorial that was spot on. As a home owner for 20 years, I no longer feel welcome by the Cayman Islands, to the point where I am seriously considering selling and forgetting Cayman. A local dive shop with two completely booked trips has cancelled both in reaction to the CIG latest decision and will not rebook, simply go to places that are dealing with Covid. As with Karen 2748 S, I’ve made plans to spend my tourism dollars in a country that welcomes me.
    I have a friend whose tourism business is hanging on by a thread and I’ve contributed significant amounts to keep him afloat. Hopefully he can hang on, but not only will he loose Christmas season, but most of the winter season at this pace. Who in their right mind would book a trip in January or February to Cayman in 2022 with the CIGs decisions being driven by fear?

    • There is a huge negative ripple effect associated with welcoming the unvaccinated. A key point you’re all missing is that the unvaccinated could potentially end up in the ICU ward or on ventilators therefore maxing out hospital occupancy so that those in need of non covid medical care may not be able to receive it (car accident, joint replacement etc).

      This trend is being evidenced EVERYWHERE in the US… even in small rural communities. Nurses have become exhausted and overwhelmed, resulting in massive burnout cases/ resignations and now a serious shortage of nurses in hospitals nationwide.

      So it’s not quite as simple as a few unvaccinated contracting it. It is far more reaching and can be far more devastating than you realize!!!

      It is selfish and immature to put your entertainment/travel desires before peoples well being. While you wait for Cayman to reopen, please do try to learn patience and respect for your fellow man!

      • With all due respect Susie R. I am fully vaccinated and agree with you. However your CIG does not recognize my state provided vaccine as verifiable subjecting me to the same quarantine period as the unvaccinated. It is important for you to understand that the vast majority of people in the US received their vaccination through these means rather than a pharmacy such as Walmart in an effort to get as many shots in the arm as possible quickly.

      • My comments (and I would assume the comments of others here) are not meant to encourage visitation by unvaccinated individuals, yet rather to allow fully vaccinated individuals (such as myself and my family) in without a quarantine period. The quarantine, which is excessive and odious, is the issue, especially since it is being administered with serious consequences if it is violated.

  9. I agree boarders need to open. Cayman has spent the last 18 months preparing their hospitals. If government keeps delaying opening then those unvaccinated will never get vaccinated! With more vaccines arriving government should announce boarders opening Nov.1 and stick to it . I bet you would see a lot of people lining up for the vaccine! Right now they don’t see the need for the vaccine as long as Cayman remains in its bubble.

  10. The statistics given to us on returning Traveler’s only foster unnecessary conjecture. Are these travelers who suddenly test positive coming from, Jamaica, the UK or Miami. Where is the flaw in the system. Were they vaccinated or not ? While that information would be helpful it nonetheless leads to the most logical conclusion which is the most safe standard would be only vaccinated travelers permitted. We have this concept of freedom ignoring that an unvaccinated individual is a lethal weapon who can create death as easily as a terrorist. If the standard was vaccination for entry and the CI upheld that standard many owners and tourists would pay a premium to come to a secure vacation spot. In all the hyperbole I have read, no one is commenting on the fact the CI medical infrastructure can not handle a Covid outbreak . See the lessons in other countries where people who have true medical emergencies are turned away because the hospitals are full and as the lay drying from heart attacks in the ambulance. If the tourism board would convert their tales of woes to creative solutions and the big cats take some money out of the mattress and work collaboratively with other industry and government we might get solutions. E.g. vaccines and lots of mandatory testing. Follow along these lines and the CI will have safety and prosperity. Very simple if caymanians want jobs back take the jab, if we want tourists they must be vaccinated.

    • …not being vaccinated means your Infection could be much worse. That means a high likelihood of winding up in the Hospital. I’m in Canada, we have a good healthcare system and it was touch-and-go for us for so long on Hospital Capacity. Look at the States as well, where Hospitals are again at the breaking point, with over 90% of cases in Hospital being unvaccinated.

  11. The entire debate should be based on the opening sentence:
    “ It’s a decision we believe was based on fear rather than logic; one that will have dire consequences for all of Cayman.”
    A perfect summation. Inward-looking, parochial, cowardly politicians from both parties afraid to take bold, yet obvious actions: PCR tests before travel, proof of vaccinations/natural immunity, enter. The pathetic excuses to date such as the absence of a US national vaccination database are just that, both “pathetic” and “excuses” (not rational reasons).

  12. As a Canadian Visitor for 4-8 weeks a year, we know how important Tourism is to Cayman.
    A great friend of ours owns 2 properties and has swayed us so greatly to consider purchasing our own and retiring to the Island part-time at least.
    We love our time at our local favourite spots, Macabuca being top of our list. Knowing local restaurant owners here in Canada, I know their struggles going through Lockdown after lockdown. For Cayman it must be so much more difficult as you have a much smaller population to draw from when the usual Tourism dollar isn’t there.
    Hoping to get back early 2022 when Travel resumes. Yes we are fully vaccinated and support all measures when it comes to safety!!!!!