New COVID-19 Regulations Relax Quarantine Requirements for Verifiably Vaccinated Travellers
(RCN) A five-day quarantine period for fully vaccinated incoming travellers who meet specific criteria is a key change in the new COVID-19 Regulations which came into effect on Wednesday.
This and other new Regulations were announced by the Cayman Islands Government at a press briefing on Wednesday, 16 June.
Premier Hon Wayne Panton said, “We made this change on the basis of scientific data demonstrating that a five-day quarantine period for fully-vaccinated travellers poses a relatively limited risk of COVID-19 transmission to the community. There are several stipulations and conditions attached to this to ensure that we are introducing safe changes to our quarantine procedures. I want to assure the public that continued protection of our Islands remains paramount.”
Chief Medical Officer Dr John Lee explained, “There are two parts to a safe reopening plan: the first is to have a high vaccination rate within our community, and we are doing well on this front. The second is to make sure that we are protected from risks coming into the country – so a reduction in quarantine is only permitted for vaccinated people. Please continue to encourage widespread vaccination as this will make us all even safer as we move forward.”
While the new Regulations provide for a shorter quarantine period for some fully vaccinated incoming travelers, it is important to note the stringent conditions under which this is to be allowed. These stipulations are:
- Vaccination courses must have been completed at least two weeks prior to arriving in the Cayman Islands and must be from the list of vaccines approved by the Chief Medical Officer (currently AstraZeneca, Janssen, Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech)
- Vaccinations must be securely verifiable according to international standards approved by the Medical Officer of Health. At present, the following conditions must be met in order for the vaccination course to be considered verified:
- The incoming traveller must have been fully vaccinated by the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority at least two weeks before return arrival to the Cayman Islands.
- The incoming traveller must demonstrate completion of their vaccination course at least two weeks before arrival by real-time logging into the U.K. National Health Service application and showing this to the Customs & Border Control (CBC) officer processing their entry. The NHS application is considered trusted and secure technology.
- Paper documentation from the NHS might be accepted as verifiable evidence if determined valid by the CBC officer processing entry.
The quarantine period will be ten days for incoming travellers with a vaccination certificate that cannot be securely verified.
The quarantine period for incoming travellers who are unvaccinated remains at 14 days. Where there are unvaccinated people in the quarantine group, the quarantine period will be 14 days for everyone in that group.
“The phased programme under the new Regulations shortens the quarantine time for those people who we can be securely assured have been fully vaccinated two weeks before arrival. Currently this is only people who provide secure evidence of vaccination from the HSA and the NHS. This is a small first step, and I hope it will become a lot easier as international demand for secure technologies increase,” Dr Lee explained.
Minister for Health & Wellness Hon Sabrina Turner said, ““We are thankful that we are now able to move to a five-day quarantine period for fully inoculated people whose vaccinations we are able to authenticate.”
She continued, “It is important to note that while our borders remain closed, travel is for repatriation and essential purposes only. Many people have been forgoing urgent travel, due to being unable to get enough time off work to fulfil the mandatory quarantine when they return. Additionally, some people have been unable to travel for elective medical procedures and this has undoubtedly had a negative mental health impact on many people.”
Minister Turner also referred to further changes to COVID-19 testing procedures prior to and on arrival in the Cayman Islands.
Under the new Regulations, pre-arrival PCR tests are being reintroduced for all travellers who must provide a negative result within 72 hours of travel to the Cayman Islands.
On-arrival swabbing for PCR tests is no longer required, but a negative PCR test result will still be required in order to be released from quarantine.
“This will continue to provide the community with assurance that the health and safety of our people remains our top priority as we ensure that only persons with a negative test result are released from quarantine, at the end of their required period,” Minister Turner said.
Further changes announced at the 16 June press briefing will come into effect in a phased process.
Mandatory nasopharyngeal swabbing for PCR testing is being introduced for unvaccinated frontline workers (such as port employees and others dealing with travellers) in a few weeks’ time. The Health Services Authority will announce the effective date and explain how employers and unvaccinated front-line workers can get access to testing.
Additionally, as of 1 July, Government will no longer cover the cost of quarantine in Government-sponsored quarantine facilities following non-essential travel for returning Caymanians and residents. Proof that travel was for essential purposes will be required in order to have costs waived. The details of what is considered to be essential travel will be listed on the Travel Cayman website, exploregov.ky/travel
Dr Lee, said, “We are continuing our vaccination programme in tandem with this staged relaxation of our border safety protocols. We are reminding everyone that is vulnerable, including elderly or unvaccinated individuals, that they should wear masks in indoor places, and adhere to good hand hygiene practices.”
Minister Turner said, “The Cayman Islands Public Health Department and Government has proved to be world-class indeed. However, I must say that none of this success would be possible without the cooperation and support of the community bringing us One Step Closer to our vaccination and phased reopening goals.”
She added, “We at the Ministry recognise that pandemic fatigue is a very real phenomenon, proving the interconnectivity of health and wellness. I encourage everyone to be mindful of their mental, spiritual and physical health, as well as to keep coming forward to take up the vaccine. We are still on this journey together.”
Premier Panton joined Minister Turner in congratulating his team for their hard work throughout the pandemic.
He said, “There are many moving parts and we recognise it is a lot for the community to take in. I want to support and reiterate Minister Turner’s sentiment that we could not have arrived safely to this point without the efforts of the community as well.”