Friday 3 July, 2020

70 public servants and volunteers keeping the airport running

Seventy public servants and Red Cross volunteers, as well as statutory authorities and government companies like Cayman Airways, have been working on a rotating basis to support the facilities of the airports in order to get Caymanian citizens and residents back into Cayman and to repatriate foreign nationals back to their home countries, during the pandemic.

These inter-disciplinary teams of civil servants and volunteers work 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.

“We have some 70 public servants and Red Cross volunteers working on a rotating basis to support the facilities," Deputy Governor Franz Manderson confirms. "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.”

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.

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.

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.

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 passengers 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.

Despite the closing of borders, these services have been offered in a seamless fashion with all persons and entities involved collaborating to ensure the highest standards of safety during the pandemic.

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