[Updated] While “the risk to residents remains low, it is still a great concern to Bermudians that this ship will be coming here,” Shadow Minister of Health Patricia Gordon-Pamplin said in reference to the Anthem of the Seas, which is expected to arrive in Bermuda tomorrow.
Yesterday the Government stated that the U.S. Center for Disease Control “confirmed that the results were negative for the novel coronavirus among four passengers who were tested and were aboard the Anthem of The Seas on a previous sailing.
“Clearance by US health authorities confirms there are no suspected cases of Coronavirus aboard the Anthem of the Seas,” the Minister said. “To further ensure the safety of Bermuda, as is always the case, health and port authorities will continue to apply careful control protocols at all of Bermuda’s points of entry.”
Royal Caribbean have also announced enhanced screening measures, stating they will deny boarding to any guest who has traveled from, to or through mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau in the past 15 days.
Video of the Government’s press conference yesterday on the matter
Ms Gordon-Pamplin said, “Alarm bells rang this weekend, when Bermudians learned that the Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Anthem of the Seas, is due to dock in Bermuda on Wednesday of this week. This ship had been quarantined in Bayonne New Jersey, due to fears around some passengers being infected with the coronavirus.
“While the Governor of New Jersey has confirmed, by tweet, that all four passengers from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship docked in Bayonne, New Jersey tested negative for novel coronavirus, and that the risk to residents remains low, it is still a great concern to Bermudians, that this ship will be coming here. The incubation period for the corona virus could be as long at 14 days. So not presenting symptoms certainly does not equate to being virus free.
“The World Health Organisation states that to date, the coronavirus has killed more than 800 people in China, and that currently, there are now more than 37,000 cases worldwide. We are all well aware that Bermuda’s hospital and health care infrastructure cannot withstand an epidemic like the coronavirus.
“Further, no ship can enter into Bermuda waters without the proper Bermuda authorities and ministers being notified and made aware of, among other things, the crew list, the passenger list, the anticipated arrival date of the vessel and the expected departure date.
“So at the time that Royal Caribbean made their ‘change of itinerary’ announcement, the Bermuda Government was well aware that the ship was destined for Bermuda.
“What continues to be of concern to the general public is the fact that this Government continues to make decisions that have the potential to detrimentally affect our entire population [think health care reform], without giving any care or thought as to impact or, more importantly, how the people feel of Bermuda feel about this.
“The Bermuda Government’s ‘reactionary’ statement to Royal Caribbean’s announcement that they would be coming to Bermuda is becoming all too typical of this Government.
“And while New Jersey may be comfortable that there are no episodes of the virus in that state at this juncture, the truth is that they really just don’t know, and unfortunately, this is a situation where only time will tell the real story. The confirmation by another jurisdiction as to their health and safety is in no way a guarantee that Bermuda will be protected, and that we have the ability to manage this challenge, should even one incident of the Coronavirus surface.”
Update 4.30pm: A Ministry of Health spokesperson said, “As the Ministry of Health has already advised, this ship does not pose any risk different from any vessel arriving to Bermuda at any other time. To further ensure the safety of Bermuda, as is always the case, health and port authorities will continue to apply careful control protocols at all of Bermuda’s points of entry.
“The Ministry of Health is working closely with stakeholders from different disciplines and sectors of society to plan and prepare for the global risk presented by coronavirus. This work includes very close collaboration with the Department of Customs, Department of Immigration, Skyport and Cedar Aviation to enhance screening of arriving travellers and direct those with a travel history risk for further monitoring and assessment.
“The Ministry response is not “reactionary”, as the Opposition Minister claims, but, rather, evidence-based and appropriate for the level of risk known at this time. As the Opposition Minister says, this situation can change at any moment and so our usual protocols for ongoing risk assessment are being employed diligently.”
Update 8.13pm: MP Neville Tyrrell said, “Irresponsible scaremongering, reckless and cheap demagoguery are the only words to describe the attack made by the OBA’s Pat Gordon Pamplin today.
“Despite the fact that there are no cases of the Coronavirus on this vessel; despite the fact that the suspected cases that were proven false were on a previous cruise, the OBA has, once again, decided to capitalize on people’s fears in an effort to score cheap political points.
“Is the Opposition suggesting that we ban all flights into Bermuda and close our borders to the world?
“Strong precautions are being taken to protect Bermudians from the Coronavirus. Addressing rumors, innuendo and political opportunism is proving more problematic, however.
“This attack by MP Gordon-Pamplin represents a clear example of irresponsible political opportunism.”