Since the COVID-19 global pandemic closed borders across the world stranding many far from their home countries, approximately 380 Caymanians and permanent residents have been able to return to the Cayman Islands, thanks to efforts by a cross section of Government agencies.
In many cases these persons had travelled to overseas to study or pursue medical treatment, and found themselves abroad with their schools closed, or unable to receive medical treatment for COVID-19 related reasons, such as the high risk the virus poses to persons with auto-immune diseases, etc.
Helping to facilitate the return process were inter-disciplinary teams of civil servants and volunteers working across areas such as: health, human concerns (which operates shelters), security and law enforcement (emergency services), evacuation (including the Civil Aviation Authority, Cayman Islands Airport Authority), resource support (procurement) and relief aid.
An early point of contact for inbound and outbound passengers was the Emergency Travel Helpline, led by the Office of the Governor, and staffed by the Cayman Islands Regiment. The Governor’s Office also led on international negotiations.
To ensure that returning passengers were clear on the conditions for all arrivals, the National Emergency Operations Centre working through the Cayman Islands Government office in the United Kingdom, through the airlines themselves and through Government channels, to communicate the requirements to take part in all flights.
As a result of these operations all incoming passengers were required to spend time in Government’s mandatory isolation facilities, where the work of the NEOC teams continued to provide them with secure accommodations and COVID-19 testing on exit.
Arriving passenger s are met at the door of the arrivals hall by public health officers conducting health checks. They are then guided by civil service representatives through the customs and immigration process to buses waiting to take them to the isolation facility.
Regular sanitization and social distancing measures are used throughout the process, and are reflected in the arrangements for accommodation, board and care of the isolation facility residents including their daily periods of exercise.
Health checks also continue at the facility and a negative COVID-19 test is required before the person departs.
“We have some 70 public servants and Red Cross volunteers working on a rotating basis to support the facilities. Contributions range from grocery shopping to procuring catering, laundry, garbage collection and security services. Workers also provide much needed moral support to the residents. I cannot speak highly enough of the teamwork, compassion, efficiency and energy that our NEOC teams have brought to this role”, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson remarks.
Some additional 900 people, many of them workers let go from their employment due to the COVID-19-related closure of the economy, were able to leave the Cayman Islands to destinations including London, Miami, Toronto, Honduras, Cancun and Costa Rica.