Following the launch of a petition calling for the Government to not allow flights from the USA due to their high rates of Covid-19, Premier David Burt has responded saying that “our testing requirements for visitors are the most stringent in the world and are designed to keep our residents and visitors safe” and “it is vital that we open the airport and allow visitors to arrive” as it “is a critical step required to get hundreds of hospitality workers back to work.”
The petition said, “Bermuda is due to accept flights from the United States in two short weeks. The U.S. is the world’s epicenter of Covid-19 with new cases surging out of control each day. The decision to allow American tourists onto our shores is questionable at best, and puts our citizens’ health and safety in jeopardy.
“Bermuda has done a great job of keeping this pandemic under control thus far, but opening our borders to Covid hotspots can quickly set us back, eventually leading to more widespread sickness, hospitalizations and ultimately deaths. Although we are promised there will be testing protocols in place, it only takes one case to slip under the radar, for a catastrophic domino effect to ensue [superspreaders etc]. By then it could be too late for us to catch up.
“Other places around the world have shown us that rushing back to normalcy is a big mistake. As states are reopening, increases in infections and deaths are also rising sharply. Air travel from the U.S. is currently banned in the EU and Canada among others, and there is no reason we cannot follow suit.
“We understand and sympathize with the hardships in our tourism sector, but we must look at the bigger picture at stake. If our cases rise and we return to phase one, our entire economy will be worse off. Another lockdown will prolong small business suffrage, and keep many of us at home instead of back to work. We love our American neighbors and will welcome them back in due time, but right now we need to be sensible and delay.
“We are asking Premier David Burt to delay all flights from the U.S. until they are able to get their cases on a downward trend. We care about the elderly. We care about the sick and immunocompromised. We care about our little island Bermuda and its people. We say no to American flights.”
Premier David Burt’s Statement
In response to the petition, Premier David Burt stated, “The Government is aware of the petition that is circulating and the rightful concerns raised by the organizers and those who are signing it. As a country we have managed the impact of COVID-19 in Bermuda. Our current World Health Organization status is sporadic cases.
“This Government’s goal has always been to contain and minimize the impact of the virus, which we have done. However we can’t let the economic impact on the country be worse than the disease itself. In the last three months, the Government has implemented stringent public health guidelines and taken a phased approach to safely opening our economy. This is the next step in a careful and deliberate process.
“We know public health measures work. Physical distancing, wearing a mask and washing hands frequently together with enhanced sanitization processes work. The other key to our success has been extensive testing. In the last few weeks, we have put in place pop up testing locations so everyone can get tested.”
The Premier continued, “Now it is vital that we open the airport and allow visitors to arrive. This is a critical step required to get hundreds of hospitality workers back to work. Our testing requirements for visitors are the most stringent in the world and are designed to keep our residents and visitors safe. The guidelines we are implementing will be strictly adhered to.
“Visitors are strongly encouraged to get tested three to five days before they come to Bermuda. If their testing results are delayed, they will have the option to come to Bermuda, but they will be tested upon arrival and then tested again on day three of their visit. During those three days, the visitor will be required to quarantine in the room at their accommodation. If the pre-departure test result arrives during the 3-day quarantine it will be counted as a valid pre-departure test and the visitor will be released from quarantine.
“Additionally, all visitors coming to Bermuda who have a negative test result will be required to be tested when they arrive, on day 3, day 7 and day 14 of their stay. The number of tests required obviously depends on the length of stay.
“If at any time their test result is positive they will be fitted with a quarantine bracelet and will be required to isolate in their room. The bracelets will alert the authorities if the person attempts to leave their room.
“All visitors will be required to complete an electronic pre-boarding form before they can board a plane to Bermuda. They cannot have a positive test result and must not be sick or have COVID-19 symptoms. The visitor must demonstrate they have health/medical insurance to cover all medical costs should they get sick while in Bermuda.
“If a visitor becomes ill while in Bermuda, they will be required to isolate for a minimum of 14 days at their own expense or until they can leave the island by private jet or yacht.
“Additionally visitors will be told of the requirement to wear a mask, how to establish physical distancing and the requirement to frequently wash their hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer.”
The Premier concluded, “As we move forward, we will continually examine our protocols and adjust them, as needed. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have proven to be nimble in our response. All agencies involved have shared information and worked together closely. This will continue. We will do all in our power to make sure people in Bermuda remain safe.
“If breaches are observed, members of the public can dial 211 to file a report with the Bermuda Police Service who will investigate immediately. We have developed a good record and strong reputation for our handling of the crisis. This will continue.”