(CMR) 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.
Essential travel is defined as travel for medical reasons (with approved doctor’s referral letter), or travel for approved government business, or travel to represent Cayman at sporting events as a member of a national team or students.
Persons who can prove that they are traveling for these purposes will qualify for an exception to payment at Government-run/designated quarantine facilities. Parents, guardians, or caregivers accompanying a child who traveled for any of these purposes is also exempt from payment once they provide requisite proof. This also applies to individuals accompanying adults traveling for medical treatment.
Meantime, new COVID-19 regulations, which were announced last week, came into effect yesterday, June 23. This includes a five-day quarantine period for fully-vaccinated incoming travelers who meet specific criteria.
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 travelers 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. 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. For the vaccination course to be considered verified, the incoming traveler must have been fully vaccinated by the Cayman Islands Health Services Authority at least two weeks before returning to the Cayman Islands.
The incoming traveler 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 a 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 travelers with a vaccination certificate that cannot be securely verified.
The quarantine period for incoming travelers 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 program 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 fulfill 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.”
Under the new Regulations, pre-arrival PCR tests are being reintroduced for all travelers 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 remain 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.
Dr. Lee said, “We are continuing our vaccination program 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 recognize 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 recognize 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.