With Re-opening Imminent, Government Urges: “Get Vaccinated”
At a press conference this afternoon (Wednesday, 25 August 2021), Government leaders continued to urge people in the Cayman Islands who are hesitant and not yet taken the COVID-19 vaccination to do so.
The reluctance to get vaccinated will put everyone in the Islands at greater risk as our borders reopen, notably frontline and medical workers and vulnerable segments of the community, they emphasised.
The third phase of Cayman Islands border reopening – at which commercial flights can return – begins on 9 September. Phase 4, which brings the removal of quarantine, is scheduled to begin on 14 October.
At the latter date, without full vaccination of 80% of the population, Government said it fears the potential for more deaths in the Cayman Islands, similar to those seen in the British Virgin Islands, the US and Jamaica.
Also, Minister O’Connor-Connolly, who was previously reluctant, urged those still unwilling to take the vaccine.
Another touching story was presented by Dr. Colin Charles, a young doctor, who survived after contracting a severe bout of COVID-19 but had to witness several patients around him die.
His Excellency the Governor, Mr. Martyn Roper discussing vaccine supply in the Cayman Islands, emphasised the need to use up existing supplies of the COVID-19 vaccines before asking the UK for any more supplies. He said:
- There is sufficient vaccine left to vaccinate some 3,000 people with both shots. “Let us not waste this incredibly precious resource.”
- Cayman can get more shots in from September if needed when weekly British Airways flights start in September.
- COVID-19 is likely to return to the Islands after reopening of the borders. But the Islands cannot remain locked up forever.
- The UK will get a report on the Pfizer booster shot roll out, after which decisions will be made about the third shot. If available, they will be likely extended to the Overseas Territories including the Cayman Islands.
Premier, Hon. Wayne Panton issued a heartfelt appeal to the people to get vaccinated, saying he is concerned about the potential loss of life since there are still persons reluctant to get the vaccine which is safe to take and the best possible defence currently available. He went on to say the issue of vaccines should not be a divisive one but one to rally together as a country that needs to work together to protect one other. He said:
- 14 October is the border reopening day, ready to accept visitors and the risk of getting in the vaccine starts. This is more so if there are still unvaccinated persons. “We cannot keep our borders closed indefinitely.”
- The situation is still hopeful if all those not yet vaccinated, get the vaccine.
- To be ready for reopening, those unvaccinated can take the first shot from today up to 9 September when the 3rd phase opens. And the second shot up to 14 October when quarantine ends for vaccinated persons.
- Premier’s prepared remarks are attached.
Noting the approval given by the US FDA to the Pfizer booster third vaccine shot, Health Minister, Hon. Sabrina Turner said she hoped it would reinforce the public’s confidence in the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. She also said:
- Taking the vaccine continues to provide protection against serious illness and death. Take advantage of this protection.
- There do not appear to be any local cases of serious illness or death as a result of taking the vaccine. “Go and get vaccinated as this is the best defence you have.”
- Mobile flu shots provided via a Vaccine Bus will become possible from the week of 6 September.
- Flu shots provided in constituency offices will soon start, with the first at the Savannah-Newlands area on Thursday, 26 August from 4-7 pm. The next one on 2 September will be at 33, Marina Drive in Prospect from 4- 7 pm.
Tourism and Transport Minister, Hon. Kenneth Bryan, highlighted the alarming rise in COVID-19 cases once again in the US, notably in Florida, from where the majority of flights to the Cayman Islands travel through and many residents travel to, as well as in Jamaica.
“As hard as it has been to keep our borders closed for the last 18 months, it has given us an opportunity to observe the experiences of others; and put that knowledge into practice so that we avoid the situations that Florida and Jamaica are going through.”
He also said:
- There is no need for lives to be at risk.
- He is deeply concerned by the reluctance of some in the community to protect themselves from the virus and its variants.
- If the tourism workers do not get vaccinated, they risk their own and their loved ones’ lives, but also present a real danger to the essential and frontline workers, as well as vulnerable segments of the community, once the borders fully reopen.
- Phase 3 of the border reopening begins in just 15 days, on 9 September 2021, and paves the way for the limited re-introduction of tourism.
- A total of 442 new applications were received under reopened registration for tourism stipends for. The vetting process is to be completed by mid-September. The payment to all newly approved applicants will be backdated to cover the July to September 2021 period and will be paid on a monthly basis going forward.
- All displaced tourism workers in the above categories who have not yet registered with WORC should do so before the Tuesday, 31 August deadline. For those who need help with the registration process, representatives from WORC will be at the Westin Hotel, Galleon Ballroom tomorrow Thursday, 26 August, from 1-5pm and Friday, 27 August from 9-1pm.Bring government issued ID, resumé and proof of immigration status.
- To date, aside from Cayman Airways, five major international airlines have confirmed they will resume air service to Cayman, with more to come. Further update will be provided when the schedule is finalised.
Education Minister Hon. Juliana O’Connor-Connolly shared her personal experience regarding taking the vaccine. Stating that she was initially reluctant to take the vaccine for many months, she eventually saw the merit of being fully vaccinated to protect her personal safety and that of the Cayman Islands community. “We all have to do our part, if we love our Islands. This is everybody’s business.” Also, each individual must make the choice.
Why now? “Because we have to reopen the country.” Now all of Elected Government is vaccinated.
HSA medical practitioner Dr. Colin Charles powerfully outlined his own near-death experience with COVID-19, underscoring the need for yet-to-be vaccinated persons to get the shots. “I am grateful to breathe,” he said simply, “as it was almost stolen by the virus in Kingston, Jamaica” where he was working as a frontline worker. “It was horrific, it was traumatic.” He saw several young men who were inpatients like him die.
Submitted by: Government Information Services (GIS, CIG)