At the COVID-19 press conference today, Wednesday 5 May 2021, Premier Hon. Wayne Panton and members of Cabinet urged Cayman Islands residents who have not yet been vaccinated to get their first vaccination before 9 June, as existing vaccine stocks expire on 30 June.
Premier Panton announced the new PACT government would take a conservative approach to the potential reopening of borders, which is heavily dependent on the rate of uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine by local residents.
Mr Panton said adequate vaccine protection for the population is essential to our future potential to reopen our borders and restart tourism. He said a target of 70% of the total population is “do-able” and that the country is “within striking distance of this now”.
Hon. Minister for Health & Wellness Sabrina Turner reiterated the Premier’s call for those residents who have not yet been vaccinated to do so before 9 June. She acknowledged that the local public health workers have done an incredible job throughout the crisis, and now it is up to the community to ensure the population is protected moving into the future.
Minister Turner explained that Cabinet will be considering removing the requirement for returning residents to have a PCR test 72 hours prior to travel, once they can show they have been vaccinated within the prior two weeks (this applies to those vaccinated locally only). The final decision on this is dependent on the ongoing uptake of the vaccine.
Four Cabinet Ministers, including Hon. Minister of Tourism & Transport Kenneth Bryan will receive their first vaccinations on Saturday, 8 May at 10am at the vaccination clinic at the Owen Roberts International Airport. The public is invited to attend and urged to join the Ministers in receiving their vaccinations.
Minister Bryan announced a prize raffle for all residents getting their vaccine shots between 8 May and 8 June, offering prizes from tourism industry partners including Cayman Airways tickets, staycations, dinner gift certificates, and free entry at local attractions as incentives to further encourage more people to get vaccinated before 9 June.
Minister Bryan announced the continuation of the tourism worker stipend of CI$1,500 per month beyond the current expiration date of 30 June. No new end date for the stipend programme was announced, but Minister Bryan confirmed that the payment would be re-evaluated once the timeframe for safe border reopening was established.
Hon. Minister of Finance Christopher Saunders revealed that Government is doing better in 2021 than in 2020 with respect to Surplus results for the Entire Public Sector. Combining the Central Government’s Surplus of $196.2 million with a $6.4 million net Surplus from Statutory Authorities & Government-owned Companies (SAGCs), the Entire Public Sector (EPS), had a Surplus of $202.6 million to 31 March 2021 which was $43.1m better than budget and $25.4m better than 2020.
Minister Saunders explained that the Government’s Debt-to-GDP ratio is a very favourable 5.1% – amongst the lowest in the world and affirmed that the Government will refrain from borrowing for as long as possible but, this may become necessary if the border remains closed and the economy is not operating at its full potential.
Minister Saunders said there will be no cuts in domestic spending and the government will be looking at ways to encourage funds to remain in the domestic economy. He said motivating more people to support local farmers and being more energy efficient would help to reduce the amount of monies sent overseas to buy agricultural and fuel products.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee reported that 235 COVID-19 tests have been carried out since this was last reported on Tuesday, 4 April 2021. All were negative.
The total number of COVID-19 vaccines administered to date is 69,299. So far, 37,062 (57% of the estimated population of 65,000) have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with 50% having completed the two-dose course.
Public Health continues to encourage the community who have not yet been vaccinated to come forward before 9 June 2021 to meet the expiration date of the last scheduled delivery of vaccines.
Premier Hon. Wayne Panton said:
- The stock of COVID-19 vaccine provided to the Cayman Islands by the United Kingdom Government earlier this year is set to expire at the end of June with some 14,000 doses still remaining.
- I will not let the Cayman Islands waste a precious resource like this with our neighbours and others around the world desperate to have an increased supply.
- In terms of the reopening plan based on the vaccine uptake our position for the moment is the same plan established by the previous Government.
- We will remain on the conservative side and any changes depend very much on our people who have not yet been vaccinated, deciding to be a part of the solution by joining the rest of us who have.
- The last Government had set the target vaccination rate at which borders would reopen at around 70– 80 percent of the total population. We believe that while 80% may be difficult to achieve, 70% is do-able, if we have persons committed to acting in a manner that is reflective of the greater public good.
- If we take the step to get vaccinated it will not only keep our community safe, it will move us that much closer towards prosperity for all in the Cayman Islands.
His Excellency the Governor, Mr Martyn Roper said:
- On any international comparison, our vaccine rollout so far has been a success – over 70% of over 16 year olds have had one dose and we’re near the top of many global league tables.
- We are fortunate that since 5 January, the UK has sent us six deliveries of the Pfizer vaccine, at no cost to Cayman. That is enough to vaccinate two-thirds of our total population – which is 82% of over 16s who are currently eligible. This vaccine gives over 95% protection against COVID and significantly reduces the chances of a vaccinated person spreading the disease.
- The latest vaccine delivery will expire at the end of June. That means that anyone not yet vaccinated will need to receive their first vaccinations before 9 June to give them the necessary 21 days between vaccinations before it expires.
- We have all seen the desperate situation in other parts of the world caused by lack of vaccine. I can imagine there would be significant outrage and even distress in some quarters if we weren’t able to use the vaccines that we have been sent.
- Whilst the UK is committed to continue supplying us with all the vaccines we need, including adapted doses to tackle any new strains of COVID, and possibly boosters if they are needed, I am sure you can also appreciate how difficult it would be for me to ask for more vaccine if we have failed to use what we have already been given.
- The evidence is overwhelming that vaccines are safe, and stop serious illness and death.
- The new Government rightly remains cautious on re-opening the border until more people are vaccinated.
Hon. Minister of Health & Wellness Sabrina Turner said:
- As you will have understood from the Honourable Premier’s remarks, we are currently putting a strong focus on the Cayman Islands’ COVID-19 vaccination programme.
- To be fully vaccinated, individuals must receive two doses with the second dose being 21 days after the first. Since the existing stock of vaccines will expire on June 30th, this means that the final date to receive a first dose is June 9th – just over one month from today.
- I would like to thank the UK government and His Excellency the Governor for ensuring that the Cayman Islands received a sufficient stock of vaccines to protect our population. From receipt of such, we rapidly mobilized our Public Health and wider team to deploy the Pfizer – Bio N Tech vaccine across our islands.
- But there is still work to be done. And we in the community must do our part. Dr. Lee has given us our current vaccination numbers and we have seen that we must vaccinate more people in order to give our population the best possible protection from this virus.
- I understand that some people may still have some hesitancy about receiving the vaccine. However, research has clearly shown that the COVID-19 vaccine is both safe and effective.
- I would like to personally urge all residents who have not yet been vaccinated to do so as soon as possible. We cannot waste this opportunity to both protect ourselves and our more vulnerable community members.
Hon. Minister of Tourism & Transport Kenneth Bryan said:
- When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of our borders in March 2020, our tourism and hospitality sectors were immediately impacted, and they remain the areas that are most affected, over a year later.
- Prior to the pandemic, tourism accounted for 25-30% of this country’s GDP and played a significant role in driving our economy forward. But without tourists arriving to our shores, the millions of dollars that would normally have been received from this sector, are having to be supplemented by revenue from core Government.
- The PACT Administration is cognizant of the tremendous strain that this health crisis is placing on our tourism workers who have lost their jobs. We currently have 3,371 people receiving the stipend and we know that for many of them it is their only means of income while our borders remain closed.
- I can confirm that the PACT Administration is extending the programme and will be continuing the payments. The length of time, in terms of the number of months that the stipends will continue, is still being considered, and further announcements will be made in that regard once the decision has been taken.
- Being vaccinated is the most effective way for you to protect yourself and your loved ones from COVID-19 and your protection is vital to our economic recovery.
- To demonstrate how much we want to encourage you to get vaccinated, the Ministry of Tourism will be hosting an island wide draw and everyone who gets vaccinated from the 8th May to the 8th June will be entered to win a variety of fantastic prizes. These include six tickets on Cayman Airways (two to the Brac, two to Miami and two to any Cayman Airways destination) as well as staycations, dinner packages, free entry to our top attractions, and so much more.
- Anyone who wants to donate a prize can email the Ministry at MOTT VAX at Cayman Islands.ky (MOTTVAX@caymanislands.ky) to let us know what you would like to contribute.
Hon. Minister of Finance Christopher Saunders said:
- Government earned a Surplus of $196.2 million for the first three months of the year. As in previous years, this is driven by fees earned from the financial services industry where many companies are required to pay their annual fees within the first 3 months of the year.
- The original budget for the 2021 Financial Year – which was compiled in late 2019 – more than a year ago, forecasted a surplus of $168.8 million for the first three months of 2021;
- In short, the results at the end of March 2021 were $27.4m better than budget.
- When compared to the same period last year, the results at the end of March was an improvement of $23.9m over the first 3 months of 2020 when the Government had a surplus of $172.3 million;
- Individual Statutory Authorities and Government Companies had an overall net Surplus $6.4 million against a budget that forecasted a deficit of $9.2m. In short, the results at the end of March was $15.6m better than budgeted.
- When we combine Central Government’s Surplus of $196.2 million with a $6.4 million net Surplus from SAGCs, the Entire Public Sector (EPS), had a Surplus of $202.6 million to 31 March 2021 which was $43.1m better than budget and $25.4m better than 2020.
- Debt owed by Government at 31st March 2021 was $243.8 million. This balance continues to decrease as Government makes its repayment of loan principal, on-schedule.
- The Government’s Debt-to-GDP ratio is a very favorable 5.1% – amongst the lowest in the world.
- In terms of bank account balances, at the end of March 2021, the Government had total of $611.2 million. This is made up of $172.1 million that is described as “Reserve and Restricted Deposits”. Of this $172.1 million, $104.4 million represents the Government’s General Reserves and, by tradition, cannot be used without the consent of Parliament.
- The next most significant element of the $172.1 million is Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) which has a balance of $58.0 million at 31st March 2021. The use of monies in the EPF requires approval of Finance Committee. So, none of the $172.1 million can be used freely by Government without the approval of Parliament and/or the Finance Committee;
- So, the part of the $611.2 million that can be used freely by Government is $439.1 million – which can be described as “Operating Cash and Deposits”.