Before it opens the borders, the Cayman Islands government will give a month’s notice of its plans, Premier Wayne Panton said Tuesday.

Panton, speaking during a debate on bills that would introduce mandatory vaccinations for non-Caymanians Tuesday, outlined some of the measures that would need to be in place before the government considered dropping quarantine for incoming vaccinated travellers – effectively reopening the borders.

These measures include the use of rapid lateral flow COVID tests, tried and tested protocols for dealing with local outbreaks in schools and in the community and an increased vaccination rate.

Under the government’s earlier phased reopening plan, 14 Oct. was the date set for the beginning of Phase 4, which involved discontinuing the five-day quarantine for verifiably vaccinated arrivals. That plan was put on hold when COVID re-emerged in the local community last month for the first time in over a year.

The recent local outbreaks, in which more than 100 people, mostly schoolchildren, have been infected, provided “a very useful test of our systems, giving us a gauge of our preparedness … for reopening”, Panton said.

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He admitted, “Right now, reopening is going to present a bigger challenge if we continue to do certain things the same way.”

Following the first school outbreak last month, at George Town Primary, the entire school was shut down and all students, parents and staff, along with their households were placed in mandatory quarantine for 14 days. When the next school outbreak occurred, at Prospect Primary, only the class the infected student attended, along with their teachers – and their households – were isolated.

On Friday, 1 Oct., the Ministry of Education published new protocols for handling reports of COVID-positive students or staff at schools.

Stating that Cayman needs to learn to live with COVID, Panton told legislators Tuesday, “We cannot continue to close all schools, we cannot continue to ban all indoor activities and exercise. We cannot continue to have the borders closed for much longer. We cannot expect to lockdown for months to get rid of COVID, to get [numbers] down to zero.”

Rapid testing

Rapid lateral flow antigen tests can give results within 20-25 minutes.

He said the plan for dealing with individuals who test positive is to “quickly and efficiently identify or remove people from situations or scenarios in which they are COVID-positive into isolation for themselves… but we can’t do that on a scale that is necessary with current PCR testing”.

Instead, rapid lateral flow antigen tests, which can be self-administered and produce results within 20-25 minutes, would be used on people who are contacts of positive cases. Those who test positive would be isolated and have the antigen test results confirmed with a PCR test, the premier said.

He added that approval for bringing lateral flow tests on island is expected to be given on Wednesday, 6 Oct. “That will give us clarity around what tests can be brought in and the procedures around the use of them,” he said.

Panton said Public Health was also re-examining isolation periods for vaccinated individuals who are potentially exposed to the virus, so that the quarantine time would be reduced from 14 days to 10 days if the entire household is inoculated. “As time goes along, we may have to reduce this further still,” he said.

He said, with lateral flow testing, in cases where a child tests positive, his or her classmates, who may be unvaccinated, could continue to attend school by doing the rapid tests daily.

The premier said, despite being repeatedly asked when the borders would reopen, he was unable to give a precise date, because of the constantly changing situation. “I don’t want to just pick a date and run with it and cross our fingers and hope for the best,” he said.

In closing his comments, Panton said that the country would be given at least a month’s notice before the government moves on to Phase 4 of its reopening plan “and drop the quarantine requirement”.

Under Phase 4, quarantine for verifiably vaccinated travellers would be abolished, but other vaccinated individuals would continue to need to isolate for 10 days and unvaccinated travellers for 14 days.

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  1. You don’t need more rapid tests, you need more mental health workers. They can help the employees and business owners devastated by the punitive closure to tourism, as well as the Paranoid minority pointing to every case as a reason to stay closed, as they are sick in the head.

    The rest of the world is living a new normal. Cases do not matter. All that matters is hospitalizations and deaths. Tell me how many kids we have in the hospitals now from Covid? Yup.

    Get on with it Cayman!

  2. Under Phase 4, quarantine for verifiably vaccinated travellers would be abolished, but other vaccinated individuals would continue to need to isolate for 10 days and unvaccinated travellers for 14 days. = FAIL. Drop the nonsense about “verifiably” or you lose almost the entire US – the biggest tourism source.

  3. What a joke. More nebulous pronouncements. Nobody believes the CIG anymore after moving the goalposts so many times. I, like so many others, will just vacation elsewhere. There are nice beaches and good weather in lots of places.

  4. We should give that notice T O D A Y.

    Even New Zealand is open:

    “New Zealand’s planned shift underscores the mounting futility of the elimination strategy. In mid-August, the country went into the highest level of restrictions when a single person was diagnosed with Covid-19 in Auckland. Seven weeks later, it’s still reporting more than two dozen infections daily, prompting Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to acknowledge on Monday that “long periods of heavy restrictions have not gotten us to zero cases.””

    And in Hong Kong: “European companies may relocate staff from Hong Kong due to its Covid Zero strategy”. The quarantine burden on staff and their families finally has financial services firms shrinking their footprint and throwing in the towel on the territory to head to Singapore.”

    We are too small a Country to walk with our chest out, acting proud about potentially get sick and projecting false strength. By remaining closed to the free movement of people, Cayman is undoing all the years of hard work of Tony Travers, and others who helped promote financial services. As I type these keystrokes, our Tourism is going to the Turks and Caicos and our money to Dubai, London and Italy (which now has a flat tax deal to attract high net worth folks). We need to project strength and message leadership to our customers – who are off island, watching, and wondering what the heck we are doing.

  5. As much as we would like to again visit Grand Cayman. Covid-19 i snot a virus to be ignored. Here in Canada we have of 86% of 12 and older vaccinated but are suffering the effects of relaxing restrictions over the summer. and are again experiencing restrictions and lockdowns. I agree that the tourist industry is suffering but it will suffer even more if you open the boarders too early. I look forward to the day when we can safely return.

    • Hilarious….Canada was super strict with their lockdowns and procedures too and where did that get you? Youre just as bad as cayman by thinking locking down and restrictions are helping in ANY capacity. You have missed the point…..just be open because your lockdowns and restrictions are doing NOTHING to prevent the spread of the virus, because its a VIRUS….what people should be concerned about is the therapeutics way more than the vaccine. That is how COVID will be defeated, by treatment. Look up the drugs being approved in the US this week and the impact they have on COVID. They will put the death nell in the vaccine argument….how long have we had a flu vaccine and it has never been eradicated?

  6. Absolutely this is no plan, all this time and this is what we get more nonsense, they keep postponing until next month, and next month, it’s been eighteen months, incredible!

    There giving us all this talk and promises but nothings going to happen, we’re going to keep staying in this rabbit hole.

    Open up!

  7. I am so proud of the amazing way the CIG has protected the people living here.

    However the vast majority of the adult population have been vaccinated. Those who have refused will have to take their chances.

    “Under Phase 4, quarantine for verifiably vaccinated travellers would be abolished, but other vaccinated individuals would continue to need to isolate for 10 days and unvaccinated travellers for 14 days.”
    So anyone traveling with small children, who CANNOT be vaccinated, will have to spend their entire 2 week vacation in a rather pricey hotel room looking out the window.

    This isn’t practical.

  8. As an outsider (American) and a property owner in the Cayman’s, I find the plan being one that doesn’t exist any longer. We have not been to our property since March of 2020 because of all the restrictions. We have been vaccinated and now have our booster shot. according to CDC rules. But, that does not count under the Cayman rules that have been published so far. We would still be quarantined, if we arrived. While we have learned how to ‘swim in the rain’ in the US, it does not seem possible in the Cayman’s. We have waited for 18 months to come back to our place in the Cayman’s. But, that no longer seems possible anytime soon. My wife and I are both past age 75. As such, Time is not on our side, so we will start looking elsewhere.

  9. How can Mr Panton talk as if he’s only just become aware of rapid lateral flow tests. They’ve been available for months in the UK for the entire population, free via the NHS. If this is the level of leadership in Cayman, well………

  10. So sad. Planned for two years now. Purchased and refunded plane fares. Still kept reservation at condo and every day disappointed by news of goby doing nothing, delaying, holding, amending the border opening. Restrictions on acceptable forms of vaccination proof, days to weeks of isolation requirements. Don’t you want anyone to come back? Do you want all your own people to go broke and starve and have no jobs or life? Do you want the tourism industry to dry up
    And blow away to any other numerous open countries and beaches? We don’t really want to go anywhere else. Been 4 times and crave the peaceful quiet slowed down pace of life just for a couple weeks. Love the local arts and wonderful hard working local Island people. Come on govt! Open up! Please!

  11. It’s pretty obvious that this government has no clue what they are doing. Covid is not going away. Live with it or go bankrupt. They had 2 years to figure it out, and they still can’t get it together. Get the vaccine, masks indoors, (including kids in schools) hand sanitizer, and distancing. Seems to work everywhere else in the world but not in Cayman? Perhaps the government wants everyone to go bankrupt? Educate the people, and yourselves. RESIGN!