The Cayman Islands government has set 20 Nov. as the date when quarantine requirements will be relaxed for vaccinated travellers.
The date is seen as the watershed moment when tourists can begin to return to the islands.
But who can actually come and under what conditions?
While some of the rules and guidelines around the reopening remain to be revealed, some of the key questions have been answered. Here we try to outline what we know and what we don’t about the new rules of travel.
Cayman plans to move to level 4 of its border-reopening plan on Saturday, 20 Nov. The most significant change will be the removal of the quarantine requirement for the majority of vaccinated travellers.
Travellers with securely verifiable vaccines – that carry a unique QR code from a health service provider – will not have to quarantine. Those with vaccine credentials that are not securely verified will also be accepted – provided they are travelling from a country where the first-dose vaccination rate is 60% or higher. That includes countries like Canada and the US but not Jamaica or Barbados, which fall below that threshold. Cards from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be accepted.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine administered in Cayman is not the only vaccine accepted. The Moderna, Johnson and Johnson, and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines are all accepted, as well as the Chinese Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines used across Asia, and India’s Covishield.
The current requirement for a PCR test within 72 hours of travel remains in place. There will also be lateral flow screening tests on day two, five and 10 after travel. For a tourist on a two-week trip, that would mean four tests (one pre-depature PCR and three lateral flows on island) in total. Some may be required to take a test within 72 hours of departure, to return to their home country. For more details on the lateral flow testing policy, see here.
The protocols for a positive case have not been spelled out but it is certain that any tourist testing positive will be required to quarantine and, if necessary, to extend their stay until they clear a negative test.
Many hotels plan to set aside rooms for this purpose and government’s isolation facilities will remain open.
The implications for family members of positive COVID cases is not yet clear. It is also not clear what level of contact tracing would take place among other guests and staff at a hotel, for example.
Again this remains to be explained, but the cost is almost certain to be carried by the visitors themselves or, possibly, their insurer.
Other jurisdictions, like Turks and Caicos, that have opened to tourism, mandate that all visitors carry COVID insurance that covers medical costs and full hospitalisation, doctors’ visits, prescriptions, air ambulance and quarantine.
There is no exemption to the quarantine requirement for children at this stage, though Premier Wayne Panton has indicated that Cayman could review the decision before the end of the year. The FDA did recently give emergency approval for a lower dose vaccine for children over the age of 5 which could make some family travel possible in the near future.
Regular tourists, with no connection to Cayman, still cannot travel without being vaccinated.
Returning residents, permit holders and visitors with connections to Cayman can travel but must quarantine for 14 days if they have not had the jab. Travel parties with unvaccinated children must also quarantine for the full two weeks. Travellers whose vaccine is not securely verifiable and come from a country that has lower than 60% first-dose vaccination rate must quarantine for 10 days.
There has been no talk of any direct limit but the lack of airlift is likely to restrict the amount of visitors that can fly in at any one time. Only a handful of airlines – Cayman Airways, British Airways, JetBlue, Air Canada and WestJet – have scheduled flights into the islands which will inhibit numbers in the initial months. It is also possible that Cayman’s current high COVID case load and the CDC warning against travel to the territory will limit demand.
Right now, Cayman is in the position of trying to attract airlines to come back to the islands. As things return to normalcy, there is potential for the opposite problem to emerge, with too many planes needing to land at one time and social distancing becoming unmanageable at the airport.
In 2018, the Compass reported that 53 planes arrived on a single Saturday – many of them within a three-hour ‘peak’ period – leading to a packed airport with long lines that spilled out onto the tarmac. That is obviously not feasible in a COVID-sensitive environment. The Cayman Islands Airports Authority has recently announced a partnership with international firm Airport Coordination Limited (ACL) to help manage slot allocation for arriving aircraft.
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