Bryan: Any cruise ship that poses a risk to Cayman will be turned away
Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan said community safety remains a top priority for the government and if an approved cruise ship poses a risk to Cayman, it will be turned away.
Bryan, speaking on Wednesday’s episode of Cayman Compass Facebook show ‘The Resh Hour’ gave the reassurance by acknowledging community concerns over the return of cruise ships on March 21.
“Anyone going down will have to follow normal protocols like everywhere else… indoor masks, social distancing where you don’t have to wear a mask and all the other protocols,” he said.
Bryan added that, as required by maritime law, ships must issue a medical statement to the port authority before receiving permission to disembark here; therefore, captains will need to disclose any cases of COVID before they can dock.
Permission will be granted, following feedback from Caymanian health professionals, he added.
As an example, he said that if “God forbid they come and they say, ‘Oh, by the way, we’ve got 35 cases on board,’ I’ll be like… I’m sorry, thank you very much. safe, but that’s just too much. But if, for example, a ship comes in, they say, ‘Oh, by the way, we just found out that somebody wasn’t well this morning and that person and her husband have been tested and they are in quarantine now, ‘do you stop the whole ship from coming if this person has been taken into isolation?
That decision, he said, “will be up to the medical professionals here in Cayman to advise the duty officer if we deny this vessel or allow the vessel to disembark.”
A total of 21 ships have been cleared to sail to the Caymans, starting with Disney Magic, which has a maximum capacity of 2,700, on March 21.
Bryan said the government has chosen to start with four weeks of cruises, so it can assess what works and what doesn’t before resuming fully.
A total of 74,208 passengers is expected for this period.
Bryan argued that while 21 ships might seem like a lot, “most of them don’t work past 60% or 70% [capacity],” he said. “So we still think it’s going to be a soft [beginning]…You will see gradual growth – and that is what we hope to have – so that we can slowly… [get] people are going back to work,” he said.
Protocols to be finalized
Bryan said work on cruise ship return protocols is continuing and should be released as soon as Cabinet approves them.
He said residents can rest assured that steps will be taken to protect against any spread of the virus.
Cruise ship passengers, he said, must be tested before boarding. However, he said pre-disembarkation testing would not be feasible given the number of people on board and the short time they had to disembark.
As one of the protocols, he said, close contact of anyone who tests positive will not be allowed ashore “whether they are symptomatic or not”.
“We prefer to be more conservative,” he said.
Additionally, as he previously shared on the Compass radio show “Beyond the Headlines” on Rooster 101FM last Friday, Bryan reiterated that unvaccinated cruise ship passengers ages 12 and older will not be not allowed to disembark in Cayman, even if they have a medical exemption.
Ships will also not be sailing at full capacity, reducing the risk of superspreading events, he said.
Bryan said chief medical officer Dr. Autilia Newton spoke to members of the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association about their individual protocols and approved them.
“They have limits on how many people they can sell [packages to],” he said.
The protocols, he said, apply more before arrival than after landing, as regulations are already in place on the island.
The government strongly advocated lateral flow testing as part of the protocols, he said, but in the end they had to give in on that requirement.
“We find that no other jurisdiction has been able to convince them to do the same; this is ideally the best thing to do. Just before you get off, we know you’re fine and everyone is feeling comfortable.
“But we feel comfortable enough with the protocols on the ship, based on what they have done and what they continue to do, as well as testing just before they arrive. [on]that the vast majority of times people will be safe enough to come to our shores,” he said.
“We have to be realistic about our expectations and we do our best to weigh the benefits against the risks.”
Bryan said he expects cruise protocols to be ready “shortly” and will be shared with the public via a press conference.
He advised those who might feel concerned about exposure to cruise passengers to stay away from places such visitors may frequent while on the island.
“Keep doing what you feel you need to do to protect yourself and your families. Get vaccinated… I know some people don’t want to do that; but get tested regularly, stay as healthy as possible, and keep your immune system strong.
“And if you do those things, as well as the virus itself which starts to decline…I think we can learn to live with this and survive and have business going where Caymanians can survive economically,” he said. -he adds.