Caymans government backs repatriation airlifts for jobless expats

Published:  8 Apr at 6 PM
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Expats in the Cayman Islands are increasingly being let go by their employers, forcing the government to consider airlifting them back to their home countries.

As economies across the world grind to a hopefully temporary halt, the government of the Cayman Islands is facing up to the plight of a growing number of jobless and cashless expats. Pressure to provide repatriation flights is growing by the day, but is being made difficult due to airport shutdowns in many countries worldwide. The island archipelago has long been a favoured destination for expatriates of all shapes, sizes and talents, but the majority are now staring poverty in the face due to the massive decline in the tourism industry as well as worldwide economic uncertainty.

According to the Caymans health minister, those desperate to get back to their home countries appear to be waiting for news on repatriation flights before attempting to book a seat. However, those in this situation are now being urged to call or email the travel hotline with their full details in order to allow officials to collate the totals of those wishing to leave along with their destinations. Airlifts are expected to be via Cayman Airways, but organising a mass expat exodus is far harder than the majority of those affected realise.

Obviously, the main problem is that borders and flights to many expat destination are now closed off in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus, and the governments involved will need to give permission for urgent repatriation flights from the islands. However, another issue is that such flights will put Caymanian pilots and aircrew at risk of contracting the virus and bringing it back to the home country, even if mandatory quarantine is introduced. The same risks exist when flights repatriating Cayman Island citizens from countries such as the UK where the virus is at present rampant.

One British Airways flight which landed yesterday held 58 Camanians, all of whom are now being held in compulsory quarantine. To date, none have been tested for the virus due to its several days’ incubation period but, unless symptoms have developed, tests will be done once the two-week quarantine programme is over.
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