(CMR) The Cayman Islands Tourism Association has expressed disappointment at the Premier's announcement that plans to reopen the country to visitors have been pushed back to next year. The association said it was an ill-informed, emotionally-driven decision.
“This ill-informed, emotionally-driven decision clearly demonstrates a complete disregard for the livelihoods of thousands of Caymanians. The Government’s panicked reversal of policy steals hope and prolongs the agony of so many in our community. There will undoubtedly be significant long-lasting implications for our Islands. We can only hope that the Government takes a deep breath, reviews the scientific data, and immediately reconsiders,” a release issued by CITA stated.
CITA said that in the coming weeks and months, many tourism-dependent businesses will be forced to close and livelihoods will be lost as the Cayman Islands approaches two years without tourists.
The quality of life for all Caymanians will ultimately be impacted with fewer restaurants, fewer retail stores, fewer recreational activities, decreased investment in community infrastructure, and thousands of tourism employees dependent on Government stipends for survival, the release continued.
“It is incredibly disappointing that the Government has suddenly reversed course, after all we have done collectively to achieve one of the highest rates of vaccination in the world and build an excellent public health and medical infrastructure,” CITA added.
CITA said it is in agreement with Governor Martyn Roper that “waiting out the pandemic is a forlorn hope”.
The association stated that “at some point, we must understand that we cannot escape COVID and closing the borders to visitors indefinitely will have disastrous long-term repercussions for the Cayman economy and the Caymanian people.”
The group also pointed out Dr. Lee’s statement based on his time in the UK that “we can live normal lives with COVID in the community” as many other countries with high rates of vaccination are now doing.
“We must have a national policy that protects both lives and livelihoods. We should be measured, calm, and proactive rather than anxious, emotional, and reactionary. We must have collective courage to chart a positive course forward for our islands in place of the fear stoked by continual uncertainty,” the release from CITA continued.
CITA said the government should not be shocked that COVID has been detected in the community as Cayman has been diligently preparing and is ready to combat COVID.
According to CITA, CAyman has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world and world-class health professionals and first responders.
“Our Public Health Department has done a remarkable job and will continue to enhance their protocols. The Government has now clearly demonstrated a lack of confidence in their own planning and advisors,” CITA stated.
CITA pointed out some inconsistencies in the Government’s policy reversal. The association said with borders are now closed indefinitely, and the quarantine period increased, yet the Government has not issued vaccination mandates for frontline workers, educators, and others at risk as many other countries have done.
The Government has also not heeded our recommendations to consider rapid testing on arrival, smartphone-based contact tracing, and vaccination requirements for large group gatherings, the association added.
“The lack of courage at the expense of sacrificing the livelihoods of thousands of Caymanians is appalling. We must also highlight that returning residents inherently pose a much greater risk for community spread within their homes, workplaces, and churches than vaccinated visitors,” CITA added.
CITA stated that it agrees with the Premier that a high vaccination rate is “key to us being able to manage COVID in our community and provide safety for our children.” However, it says the country has achieved a high level of vaccination, with over 93 % of the population, excluding children, already receiving at least one jab of the COVID vaccine.
The association said data have shown that children have less than a 1 in 50,000 chance for serious illness and less than 1 in 500,000 risk of death. It also pointed out that with the high level of vaccination, the risk of hospitalization is very low. CITA said the Government should be reiterating these numbers to calm residents’ fears.
CITA further stated that “it does not matter when the borders reopen, community transmission of the virus has already occurred. The Government must develop plans and strategies to deal with the new normal now and not procrastinate further. “
Adding that the association's comments had nothing to do with the bottom line of a financial statement or the more than a billion dollars that will be lost from the economy, CITA said its statement is more about common sense.
“Delaying the border opening will not help anyone and will ultimately hurt everyone in Cayman,” the association continued.
Meantime, CITA has called on others to express their views and to oppose the Government’s abandonment of the reopening plan.
The association while expressing prayers for the speedy recovery of persons now infected also urged unvaccinated residents to get vaccinated.