Premier Panton shares re-opening plan at Chamber Luncheon.
(RCN) Premier Hon. Wayne Panton announced today that vaccination against COVID-19 will become mandatory for work permit holders In the Cayman Islands.
The Premier was speaking to a sold-out crowd at the Kimpton Seafire Resort for the 2021 Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce Legislative Luncheon, which Is an annual opportunity for the business community to engage with Members of Parliament on policy, procedure and revenue measures.
He said, “The sooner we reach our vaccination target, the sooner we will be on our road to economic recovery from this pandemic. Toward this end, Government will require proof of vaccination for both renewal and new work permits as a part of our phased reopening process. Please impress upon your existing employees on work permits that if they refuse to get vaccinated, they may no longer be able to work in the Cayman Islands.”
Mr. Panton also shared details of the phased reopening plan being implemented by the PACT Government, noting that the Islands are currently In Phase One and are preparing for a gradual border reopening to begin in mid-September.
“I said previously at the last Government press briefing that we expected to begin a phased reopening in mid-September, and this goal remains on target,” Mr. Panton said.
The Premier addressed concerns expressed by the business community regarding the economic impact of Cayman’s ongoing border closure and asked for their cooperation and support.
He said, “The first step in achieving our recovery and larger long-term goals for these Islands must undoubtedly be the safe reopening of our borders and rebuilding our economy. Key to Cayman’s success is a strong, robust and diverse economy. We know and understand that we cannot continue without unlocking our full economy. We also understand that we will need your help to get there, and we are asking that you to work in partnership with us – for the benefit of your businesses and these Islands, which we all call home.”
Mr. Panton emphasised that the re-opening plan Is predicated on the Cayman Islands meeting Its vaccination goal of covering 80 per cent of the resident population.
He said, “I will reiterate, the key aspect of our phased reopening plan is the safety of our population. We want to avoid people becoming seriously ill, or even worse, dying. As a country, we have done everything possible to avoid this so far. And we must continue in this effort. It is for this reason – to keep our people safe – that we have decided on a phased approach.”
The Premier detailed the key aspects of each phase of the reopening plan, describing the approach as “our country’s best-case scenario” due to the assessments built In prior to moving to the next phase.
Mr. Panton said, “Assessments based on the medical science and data will be used to progress or change our plans. Transition between phases will be determined by the Chief Medical Officer’s assessment of Cayman Islands key travel markets and their vaccination prevalence rates, levels of hospitalisation and death rates, l and presence of variants of concern along with our local vaccination rate goal of 80 per cent.”
At all phases, Public Health will monitor the local prevalence rate and the spread of COVID with reduced restrictions. The trigger for introduction of Public Health intervention in all phases will be two non-related community clusters requiring hospital admission.
Explaining that the Islands are currently within Phase One of the reopening plan, Mr. Panton said the key features of this phase are continued local uptake of the COVID-19 vaccination and low COVID prevalence rates in key Cayman travel markets, which have allowed for the introduction of reduced quarantine periods and other travel restrictions.
Phase Two, featuring reduced repatriation restrictions, is scheduled to begin on 9 August, 2021.
During this phase, monitoring of vaccinated travellers will be eased by removal of GPS monitoring.
Mr. Panton explained, “This will allow the Government to assess local impacts and build capacity to manage increased traveller volumes anticipated with the opening of the borders in Phase Three.”
Phase Three, which is anticipated to begin on 9 September 2021, will allow for a limited introduction of tourism. A flight slot management system will limit the number of people arriving and borders will open to securely verified vaccinated travellers only. Medical Insurance coverage will be required of all Inbound travellers, and quarantine will be allowed at all hotels and other tourist accommodations. Cruise travel will not be permitted during this phase.
Phase Four, scheduled to begin on October 14th, will feature removal of the requirement to quarantine for all securely verified vaccinated travellers.
Mr. Panton said, “We anticipate that the rate of local vaccination will be substantially adequate by this time to allow for the safe increase in tourism and relaxation of restrictions.”
However, during Phase Four, unvaccinated travelers will continue to be required to apply for entry on the Travel Cayman Portal. Vaccinated travellers will be required to make a declaration of travel and vaccination status on the Travel Cayman Portal, with a declaration certificate issued and vaccination checked on arrival. There will be fines mandated for travellers failing to abide by this process, and school staff will be required to undergo surveillance PCR testing.
In Phase Five, further loosening of travel restrictions will come with unvaccinated children younger than the eligible vaccination age allowed to travel with vaccinated adult tourists. Phase Five is anticipated to begin on 18 November, 2021.
Also during Phase Five, unvaccinated children younger than 12 will not be required to quarantine; PCR testing will be required for local unvaccinated children older than 5 who travel prior to being allowed to return to school; and there will be surveillance of unvaccinated persons by periodic PCR testing.
A full reopening, according to the phased plan, is anticipated to be possible by late January 2022.
Mr. Panton explained, “We will first assess the COVID-19 situation on 27 January next year in a local and international context to determine when and how to proceed with further relaxation of restrictions and travel. If the assessment allows, we would begin to welcome all travelers and start the re-introduction of cruise tourism.”
The Premier noted that the plan Is not without risk, and that to date no other country had reopened without having to return to lockdown or prior restrictions.
He said, “Given our patient and careful approach to COVID we have the opportunity to be the first.”
In closing, the Premier once again appealed for the business community’s support and underscored his confidence in the way forward.
He said, “Nothing is of greater importance to me and my government than the well-being of our people. We have spent weeks deliberating and seeking to strike the right balance and we believe that in this plan we have a roadmap to the safe and successful reopening of our economy to tourism.”
In his address, the Premier outlined the PACT Government’s ethos and purpose of being people-driven, accountable, competent and transparent to build a better Cayman, also providing a progress update on the administration’s first three months in office prior to discussing the Cayman Islands’ border re-opening strategy.
He emphasised the importance of sustainability, a renewed focus on the environment, a reassessment of social development policies and programmes, a focus on Caymanian training and employment, as well as addressing Infrastructure needs and leading in innovation, including in the digital provision of more government services.
Premier Panton’s address was broadcast live on Radio Cayman, with a recap to be broadcast on CIGTV News on Thursday evening.