Cayman Prepared For Swine Flu
Published 29th April 2009, 2:38pm
With the World Health Organization declaring the swine flu outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, the Ministry of Tourism and Commerce is working closely with the Ministry of Health and public health officials who are taking the necessary measures for early detection and control.
The Ministry and Department of Tourism continue to closely monitor the situation and its potential impact on travel and trade and remain in close communication with partners such as the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association, Caribbean Tourism Organisation and local tourism and trade associations.
As it relates to cruise tourism, both cruise ships which originally had itineraries which arrived in Grand Cayman directly after visiting Mexico (where the swine flu outbreak originated) have cancelled their calls to Mexico until further notice. To date, at least five cruise lines have adopted similar policies to temporarily suspend calls to Mexico.
In the past 48 hours, the Cayman Islands has received additional bookings from cruise lines. The Carnival Inspiration has extended its visits to two-day calls during the month of May 2009 and will stay in port until 6pm (instead of 2pm) on its normal days, go offshore and return the following day at 7am and depart at 3pm. In addition, they will be calling on alternate Saturdays. Other bookings are being made tentatively by various cruise lines. Persons with cruise interests are asked to closely monitor the Port Authority cruise schedules to monitor these developments.
"The swine flu has the potential to seriously interrupt travel and trade around the world. While international analysts disagree about the extent to which this will have an impact on tourism, locally we are taking steps to actively protect our borders while working closely with our business partners to weather this crisis as we have done in the past when facing global threats," said Honourable Charles E. Clifford, Minister of Tourism and Commerce.
Since Monday night (April 27), Public Health has implemented advisories that all ships calling upon Cayman should restrict the disembarkation of passengers and crew who have flu-like symptoms.
In terms of travel by air, the Cayman Islands does not have any commercial flights to and from Mexico; however direct flights do operate from countries/states with confirmed cases (Texas, New York, Canada and the UK) and private flights routinely visit from Mexico.
Protocols have been requested from local public health in the event additional vigilance is required and signage is being developed for all Cayman ports of entry. Any procedural change will be handled in accordance with international standards.
Many travel journalists seem conflicted on whether or not they think the outbreak will actually affect travel demand, however this presents yet another challenge that global tourism is facing and we need to implement measures to mitigate the impact on the Cayman Islands.
As a preventative measure, front-line staff at the airport and port have been advised to implement everyday actions that can help to prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses like influenza. Additional measures are in place to encourage good hygiene at ports of entry. Liquid disinfectant stations are being set up at airports and sea ports to encourage and remind people to keep their hands clean and to avoid contact with their eyes, nose and mouth.
Anyone with additional questions relating to travel and the swine flu should contact the Department of Tourism on (345) 949-0623.