Tourism Ministry: CDC advisory will not ‘negatively impact’ sector

The content originally appeared on: Cayman Compass

The Tourism Ministry has called the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory against travelling to the Cayman Islands “regrettable”, but says raising the jurisdiction to level 4 – very high risk of COVID-19 – does not mean the industry will be “negatively affected”.

“Looking around the region and beyond, being at level 4 has not been shown to have any long term or immediate negative impacts on the economies or tourism products of our competitors who were placed there before us, and are now at level 3. The Cayman Islands is expected to follow suit,” the ministry said in a statement issued Tuesday evening.

However, Opposition Leader Roy McTaggart believes otherwise. He said the CDC moving Cayman to level 4, coupled with The New York Times ranking of Cayman as having the highest per capita number of cases in the world over the last seven days, will have consequences.

Opposition Leader Roy McTaggart

“These events have severe implications for our tourism business – particularly as we are poised to re-open our borders and reintroduce visitors to our Islands. We will have tourists willing to visit, but the rise in community spread of the virus, coupled with the CDC recommending travellers avoid the Islands, will temper any enthusiasm for visitors to come here,” McTaggart said in a statement issued Tuesday evening.

On Monday, the CDC updated Cayman’s risk level following a dramatic jump in local COVID-19 numbers since a community outbreak started in September. As at 8am Monday, local active cases stood at 2,118, with 14 people hospitalised.

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The Tourism Ministry, in its statement, noted the Cayman Islands is one of 80 countries on the level 4 list, which currently includes the UK, Ireland and Switzerland, along with 15 of Cayman’s Caribbean neighbours.

“Given that we are close to reopening the borders it is understandable that this travel advisory is raising concerns, particularly in relation to tourism. But the reality is, the move to level 4 does not automatically mean that the Cayman Islands tourism industry will be negatively affected,” it added.

The ministry pointed out that the CDC’s recommendation that travellers ensure they are vaccinated is in keeping with Cayman’s border-reopening policy, with the next phase due to take effect on 20 Nov.

“The policy stipulates that all visitors to the Island must be fully vaccinated and present a negative PCR test result taken within 72 hours of arrival. Travellers who arrive prior to the reopening date are required to quarantine for periods of 7,10 or 14 days depending on their vaccination status,” it added.

The ministry said it has not received any indication from tourism stakeholders that the CDC’s move “presents a major hurdle, neither has there been any suggestion that vacation bookings are being cancelled due to the CDC rating”.

Borders are set to open 20 Nov. for vaccinated tourists.

“On the contrary, we do not expect that visitors will be deterred and the Department of Tourism stands by its projection that the Cayman Islands will remain on a path of slow and steady growth following the reopening of borders on 20 November, 2021. The Cayman Islands government remains confident that stringent health and safety protocols implemented by Public Health will continue to keep residents and visitors to our Islands safe,” it said.

McTaggart called the current situation “a regrettable set of events, and I remain of the view that this is down to serious mismanagement by the government”.

Premier Wayne Panton, he said, must now lead from the front.

“He and his government must take action to have firm rules in place regarding all the necessary public health protocols, and these must be enforced. This action is needed now to limit the further spread before we start to have tourists arrive here in ten days. Hopefully, it is not too late. The government’s cavalier attitude towards the pandemic must end,” he said.

However, the Tourism Ministry said Cayman is bolstered by the fact that 80% of the population have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 77% are fully vaccinated, having completed the two-dose course.

“As a result of the Islands’ high vaccination levels, hospitalisations due to covid-19 are relatively low. 14 patients are currently hospitalised in stable condition and none have needed to be ventilated,” it added.

Even so, McTaggart said the indication that the government is still working on their plan to “as they say, open safely”, and the fact that this is still not completed “is worrying, given how close we are to their November 20th opening date”.

“Whilst one may debate whether there is any such thing as a genuinely safe re-opening of the borders, there is little argument that one must have a properly planned border re-opening,” he said.

He urged Panton to “provide real evidence to the country that he and his government, as he said to us a few months back, does indeed ‘have this’ under control”.

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