In recent months, numerous countries around the world have shifted from trying to prevent new cases of COVID-19 to learning to sensibly live with the disease.
More than 2,000 businesses and individuals in the Cayman Islands believe the country needs to make that shift as well and have signed their names to an online pledge stating they are "ready to reopen" without quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travellers on 20 November, the date announced by the Cayman Islands Government on 22 October.
The pledge is organised by the private sector "Reopen Cayman" group that consists of 16 prominent businesspeople, including Dart CEO Mark VanDevelde. In a press release sent out last month by the group, another one of the group's supporters — Woody Foster of Foster's supermarket — said that while Cayman was able to eliminate COVID-19 from the country for more than a year, it was always known that the day would come when elimination was no longer possible.
“As a business owner, my job now is to adapt our operating practices so that safety remains our top priority, and to demonstrate to employees and customers how we can all still go about our daily business safely with COVID in our midst," he said in the press release. "As we have heard repeatedly, getting vaccinated remains our best defence against this virus — to protect ourselves, our families and the wider community.”
Part of Reopen Cayman's efforts to get the wider community ready for reopening includes a public education campaign that acknowledges that getting ready for reopening can vary from person to person depending on individual circumstances, including if and where they are employed, whether they have school-aged children, their age, any pre-existing medical conditions and even their beliefs.
“We recognise and appreciate people have different perspectives and priorities,” said Foster. “Our intent is not to impose a single point of view, but to bring the community along with us on our journey toward readiness. The rest of the world is learning how to live with COVID, and I am confident we can, too.”
Being ready to reopen the borders without quarantine restrictions for travellers — even if only those who are fully vaccinated — requires the community’s readiness to safely coexist with the virus to protect lives and livelihoods.
"Coexistence with the virus is key if we are to continue to move forward as a community," the Reopen Cayman website states. "We believe we are ready to fully reopen our borders, for local businesses to thrive again, to welcome back visitors and to reconnect with loved ones overseas."
The website, which can be found at reopencayman.com, highlights and explains several key elements and protocols of how to reopen in the safest possible way, including the fact that getting a COVID-19 vaccination has proven effective against the most severe forms of the disease, including those caused by the variants of the virus.
Another of the businesspeople who supported the "Ready to Reopen" pledge is Century 21's Kel Thompson, who originally launched the Reopen Cayman website with fellow businessman Michael Tibbetts of Clearly Cayman.
“The negative impact of our borders remaining closed goes beyond the financial loss," said Thompson in the press release. "It separates families and affects our mental well-being. As a community, it is essential we agree on a path towards a safe and timely reopening of our borders.”
Reopen Cayman welcomed the government's announcement that the Cayman Islands would move to Phase 4 of its reopening plan, which eliminates the requirement for vaccinated travellers to quarantine.
Randy Merren of Hurley's, another of the businessmen who support Reopen Cayman, said the group was "hugely supportive of the collaborative efforts in recent weeks by the government, the civil service departments and the private sector in developing a plan that allows us to reopen our borders safely."
"As we move forward to the next phase, we need to ensure we keep safe, social practices top of mind as we share responsibility for each other’s well-being," he said.
This article appears in the November 2021 print edition of the Camana Bay Times.