As you may be aware, returning home to the Cayman Islands is no longer as easy as choosing a date and booking a ticket. We are still within the midst of a global Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, meaning that it is imperative to manage risks carefully to maintain the health and welfare of everyone on our islands.
The Cayman Islands Government (CIG) have announced that as of October 1st 2020, they will begin a phased, soft reopening of our borders. This means that they will begin increasing the amount of repatriation flights from the United Kingdom, United States, Jamaica, Honduras, and other countries, with the hopes of fully returning to normal commercial travel procedures. If you are currently abroad and are looking to travel inbound from October 2020 onwards, look no further. To make things easier, we have created a step-by-step guide to help you through the process of returning home, giving you tips from preparing your flight, all the way to the release period.
1. Preparing for Your Flight
If you have not already done so, prior to booking your flight, make sure that you have registered your interest to travel with TravelTime by filling in the form at www.exploregov.ky/traveltime with your preferred month/period of travel, your passport number, nationality, and name of passenger(s), by emailing TravelTime@gov.ky, or calling (345) 649 6913 (8.30am-5.00pm, Monday-Friday). Once you have registered, TravelTime will contact you via email with upcoming repatriation flights, and you will be able to select the one that suits your schedule. Once you have selected a flight, TravelTime will email you with a booking link, instructions for travel and paying for your ticket.
As of October 1st 2020, it is not only Caymanians, residents and work-permit holders that are eligible for repatriation flights. As announced on 9th September 2020, repatriation flights are now open to new workers (looking to stay in the Cayman Islands for an extended period), as well as residential property owners. If you are travelling via British Airways (BA), repatriation flights are running every 2 weeks from October 1st to November 30th 2020, and can now be booked on their website www.britishairways.com. BA flights no longer must be booked directly from the Governor’s Office. Dates for upcoming BA flights include October 1st, October 15th, October 29th, November 12th, and November 26th.
Although other websites are advertising flight bookings to the Cayman Islands, please be advised that the only flights running are arranged via Cayman Airways Ltd (CAL) and BA. The Government encourages visitors that, if they are booking flights from other airline providers, they are doing so at their own risk. Vouchers for flights previously booked to depart before October 1st (or with other airlines) are non-transferable and cannot be used as a ticket for future repatriation/airbridge flights. Non-essential travel into the Cayman Islands is strongly discouraged at this time.
The airline will provide you with hand sanitizer on the flight, however you are required to bring your own mask and other sanitising materials as necessary, such as anti-viral wipes or latex gloves. Passengers will be socially distanced on flights with approximately one seat in between each passenger, however families can be sat together. Customers are advised to wear their masks for the entire duration of the flight, bar the exception of eating or drinking. There will also be a limited carriage service and hot meals will not be provided. Snacks will be given at regular intervals, however if you do not think this will be sufficient, make sure that you buy some meals and/or snacks to bring with you at the airport.
2. Arrival at the Airport
Every passenger will receive a COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test upon arrival at the Owen Roberts International Airport (GCM) in Grand Cayman. After testing, passengers will collect their luggage, and from then will be informed (if not previously via email) which government isolation facility they will be allocated to. Once you have retrieved your luggage, you will be asked to hand it over to the Isolation Facility Workers, who will place them onto the luggage bus. You will then be told which bus you should board, upon which you will be directly driven to your designated isolation facility (whether that be a home-isolation or government-led facility).
3. Self-Isolation & Quarantine
If a Caymanian or non-resident chooses not to isolate in a government isolation facility, they will be equipped with new track-and-trace Geofencing monitoring technology (most likely in the form of a wristband or bracelet). Travellers under the age of 10 may not be required to wear a monitoring device but will still have to undergo a PCR test at the end of the isolation period. Random check-ins from the CIG may be done at any time to ensure that you are properly isolating and adhering to the regulations. Whether you are staying in a government-led facility, or a residential area approved by the Minister of Health, yourself and family members in the household must isolate for a period of 14 days. If the Geofencing technology is removed from your person, or you are detected to be outside of your designated area, an alarm will sound, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) will be contacted, and you may be subjected to a CI$10,000 fine and 2-year prison sentence.
Four local hotels will be used to accommodate travellers and are operating as isolation centres. The cost for quarantine at a government-led facility must be paid in advance (prices vary depending on the facility). Caymanians and permanent residents are not required to pay for their stay at a government-led facility. If you are a work-permit holder, you must use a paid facility. The two currently available are Palm Heights (starting at CI$5,250) and The Ritz-Carlton (starting at CI$9,000). Rooms are allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis.
On the 15th day, persons will receive a second PCR COVID-19 test, upon which a negative result is required to be released from both government-led and home isolation facilities. Test results can take anywhere from 48-72 hours to confirm. If your test result is positive, you will have to remain in isolation for a further 10 days until you receive a negative test, or receive further guidance from Cayman Islands Medical professionals if your case is not asymptomatic and you are experiencing severe symptoms indicating the onset of pneumonia, bronchitis or lung infection. Such conditions may require further medical treatment in hospital.
If you receive a negative PCR result, you are now eligible to leave your isolation facility. You may continue life as normal, and subject to personal and/or commercial circumstances, you may return to work. Although masks are no longer required to wear in the Cayman Islands in private and public establishments, Chief Medical Officer Dr John Lee still advises that persons remain cautious, use their best judgement and wear face-coverings whenever they feel is necessary. Continue to remain a safe distance from persons outside your immediate family (2 metres wherever possible). Practise safe hygiene by washing your hands and avoiding touching areas around your mouth and nose.