Deputy Premier Chris Saunders has said the reopening of local borders could be possible from November, as he reiterated government’s position is to revisit the amended end-of-year timeline, as it works to contain local COVID cases.
“For about 18 months now, people have been in a kind of lockdown state. We’ve been in a bubble for a good portion of it also and it’s time for Cayman to rejoin the global community,” Saunders said on the 29 Sept. episode of the Cayman Compass talk show ‘The Resh Hour’.
However, the caveat to November, he added, was government will be guided by the medical experts.
“I think it is not a far out date to consider, based on progress that we’re seeing,” he added.
One area that Saunders said has given him confidence that opening before the end of the year is possible is that, unlike last year, Cayman has vaccinated people.
“We’re now in a more resilient position, and I’ll be the first to say that I would very much love for us to… reopen as quickly as possible.”
Vaccinations trending upward
Saunders said with the uptick in vaccinations continuing since the George Town Primary School outbreak, achieving the goal of getting 80% of the eligible population vaccinated is moving closer.
“One of the good things that came out of the recent incident we had at George Town Primary… it gave us a chance to actually test those resources in terms of how they are able to respond,” he said.
This, he said, is one of the major things that government has to consider before reopening – the state of Cayman’s medical resources or medical facilities and their ability to respond if there is an issue.
Two other areas of consideration, as pointed out by Public Health England, he said, were the local vaccination rate and the vaccination rate of Cayman’s source markets like the US and Jamaica.
He said based on the trends, he thinks Cayman should be able to hit the 80% target by November.
“At least that will give us some level of comfort with regards to vaccination,” he said.
As of 30 Sept., 73% of the estimated population of 71,106 were fully vaccinated, while 55,174 people (78%) had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Getting over fear is key
Saunders said the government is cognisant of mental health issues affecting those within the tourism sector and parents whose children are abroad and may not be able to come home for Christmas.
“We also need to recognise that people need a sense of purpose, and many people found their purpose in their occupation, in their jobs, getting up and having a nine to five,” he said.
Cayman, he said, has to move away from the fear of COVID and he believes that is happening.
“We understand your fears, we understand your concern because we have seen what COVID has done in many other countries. But thus far, as you can see, since the local transmissions have started our ‘kung fu’ is actually much stronger than people give us credit for… So I think we’re in a much better place now,” Saunders said.
He said already he is seeing the public moving away from “freaking out” like they were when the first outbreak was reported, to being more accepting of the reality, and “we’re seeing people getting ready to rejoin the global community”.