The objective of the PACTE remains to reopen without hindsight

Prime Minister Wayne Panton addresses Parliament this week

(CNS): The objective of the PACT government remains to reopen the borders to tourists in the coming weeks without having to close them again or see the country plunge back into any form of containment. Prime Minister Wayne Panton has said the government will give the country one month’s notice when it sets a date for the isolation restrictions to be lifted. His deputy, Chris Saunders, said the goal is to do what no country has done before, which is to open up to visitors without having to close due to an increase in COVID-19 cases.

Last month’s decision to suspend reopening after the virus returned to the community hasn’t changed the primary goal of reopening and staying open.

“Our vision is to bring the country to a point where we can continue the reopening program and remain open responsibly, not just by trying to stay open … but by doing so in a safe manner,” the Prime Minister said on Tuesday. in Parliament. This means being able to manage “the inevitable increase in COVID-19 cases that will come with the reopening of the border,” he added.

So far, no one has gotten very sick from the current spread in the community and public health has been able to handle the testing and tracing, he noted. But this system test has given some insight into our readiness to reopen, as it will be a bigger challenge than the current situation. He said there was still work to be done to be ready.

It has become evident in recent weeks that public health resources are crunching under the pressure of current local transmissions, even without any disease. The handling of outbreaks and testing in schools is overwhelming and the isolation system is unsustainable as an undisclosed number of families are forced into self-quarantine.

The number of teachers in quarantine alone has forced schools to mid-term break, which impacts parents, who may not have been exposed to the virus, with childcare issues.

Meanwhile, people in isolation complain of difficulties getting a response from Travel Cayman or public health when children get sick or need help with supplies or cope with employers pressuring them to. that they come to work.

“The government is taking stock of the systems and improving … our state of readiness,” Panton told parliament, saying the plan to reopen needs to be and will be updated.

“We cannot continue to close all schools. We cannot continue to ban all indoor activities and exercises. We cannot continue to close the borders any longer. We can’t expect to lock down for months to get rid of COVID, to get back to zero. That does not make any sense. We have COVID in the community. We have to move forward. You have to live with it. “

Panton said tourism was a vital part of the economy and needed to be revitalized, but the focus was on ensuring the healthcare system was not overwhelmed. He said rapid tests will be used to help identify and isolate positive cases more quickly.

“In the coming weeks, we will have to resume the discussion on reopening our borders … We know that the challenge is to find a balance between the security imperative of our community and the imperative of responsible openness”, a- he added.

The prime minister explained that the goal would be to open up to vaccinated visitors without them needing to quarantine, while minimizing hospitalizations and having no deaths in the community linked to COVID. He said that goal was the driving force behind the plan.

In short, the Prime Minister described an opening scenario where there would be no need to retreat as the government has created a safe environment for people to live with, but not suffer from the virus.

“What we will do in the coming weeks is to give the country an effective, achievable and resource-identified plan that Cabinet decided before the reopening, a plan that offers predictability, accountability and transparency that we can share. with everyone, ”he said. .

Panton said everyone needs to share the trust that we can successfully open, but the government is not just going to pick a date, no matter how much pressure is coming from the business community.

“It’s not the smart thing to do,” he said, adding that the government needs to properly assess the readiness before setting the date. “The fear of contracting COVID is understandably painful for many, but the uncertainty of not having a reopening date is just as painful for others. “

Panton said there had been a rapid change over the past few weeks on the need to prepare to deal with the virus, but the hurdles ahead were all manageable.

“We think we need to give the country at least a month’s notice,” he said. After all readiness assessments, the government would then inform of plans to lift isolation measures for vaccinated guests.

The current hiatus may not last until the end of the year, but any return of visitors before the Christmas or New Year holidays is unlikely to be meaningful.

American Airlines plans to start flying to Grand Cayman in early December, which were announced last month, have been postponed until next year, according to social media posts. While Jet Blue and Delta still plan to fly here before the end of the year, the airlift will still be very limited, with only a fraction of the visitors who came to Cayman during Christmas 2019.

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