“As we approach 65% of the total population being fully immunized, there will be revisions to the approach to the policy on supervised quarantine,” Premier David Burt said, adding that “it is my expectation that as soon as next week, we will be positioned to announce these changes.”
He said the “changes will address adjustments that can be made immediately, changes that will come into place when we reach 65% of our population being immunised” and “what the supervised quarantine regime will look like when 70% of the population are immunised or when the current quarantine order expires on September 30th.”
The latest vaccination statistics indicate that 65.0% of the population has received one dose, while 63.7% of the population has received two doses.
The Premier was speaking after the Supreme Court has dismissed the legal challenge brought by the Constitutional Freedom Bermuda group in relation to the mandatory quarantine policy.
Speaking in Parliament today, Premier Burt said, “Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the indulgence of the House and your permission to make this Statement.
“Honourable Members will, by now, be aware of the judgment of the Chief Justice handed down earlier today. The Court dismissed all claims by the Applicants and determined that the Government’s policy as set out in the Quarantine Order most recently made by the Honourable Member, the Minister of Health, is lawful and not a breach of Section 11 of the Bermuda Constitution.
“We often confer on peaceful protests the description of “democracy in action”. That is an accurate description but it bears remembering that another cornerstone of democratic societies is the rule of law and the ability of ordinary citizens to seek justice in the courts.
“In this case citizens of this Island exercised that democratic right and in a fair, transparent review of the evidence the Court has made a determination.
“Whilst the Applicants may not have been successful, it is democracy that has emerged as the victor. The Government’s case met the required test and the evidence provided in support of the actions taken to keep this country safe has satisfied the Supreme Court of Bermuda of its foundation in Bermuda law and the Bermuda Constitution.
“The determination of this matter in the Courts now provides the opportunity for the Government to continue its efforts to revise policies that meet the public health situation presented in this period of the pandemic and reflect the success of our vaccination programme.
“Governance during a once in a century pandemic is challenging, and policymakers must be nimble to adapt to changing circumstances. In the three months since the Government’s quarantine policy was first announced Bermuda is in a different situation.
“Three months ago we were in the midst of a third wave which took 21 persons from us, and the Government was required to implement strong action to break chains of transmission. Three months ago schools, nurseries, restaurants, gyms and beauty salons and barber shops were all closed.
“Three months later, Bermuda is open. Our balanced policies, which have been confirmed by the Courts as lawful, again see us being the envy of the world. Our airlines are full, our hotels are employing people, our local economy is rebounding, and the vast majority of people are following the laws that have been judged by our court as constitutional, and judged by our country’s pandemic performance as effective.
“Most importantly Mr. Speaker, three months ago 37% of the population were immunized. Today that number stands at just under 65%. Mr Speaker, Bermuda is one of few countries that has not required vaccinations in any circumstances.
“Many of our fellow overseas territories have required work permit holders to be vaccinated, not Bermuda – we have remained consistent with the message that vaccination is a personal choice between the individual and their doctor.
“I am proud of the progress that we have made, and proud of our persistence in sticking to the principle of leaving vaccinations up to the individual to choose.
“No one likes to limit the rights and freedoms of individuals. It is the last thing that a Government wishes to do. However, as we have seen time and time again, and as we are seeing now around the world, Governments that do not take the virus seriously end up worse off with more restrictions, a weaker economy, more suffering of people, and death.
“Now that the judgment has been rendered, I am able to advise Honourable Members and the public that as we approach 65% of the total population being fully immunized, there will be revisions to the approach to the policy on supervised quarantine.
“It is my expectation that as soon as next week, we will be positioned to announce these changes, setting out clearly how we can pivot on the basis of the success of our vaccination programme, and the effectiveness achieved in mitigating the risk against dangerous variants entering Bermuda’s population.
“These changes will address adjustments that can be made immediately, changes that will come into place when we reach 65% of our population being immunised and most importantly, what the supervised quarantine regime will look like when 70% of the population are immunised or when the current quarantine order expires on September 30th.
“I am grateful to the feedback that the Government has received from members of my Parliamentary Caucus, members of the public, and those persons who have given reasoned and thoughtful feedback in a respectful fashion that is befitting our democracy. I am confident that the roadmap that we will share will address some valid concerns that have been raised, and will be appropriate to ensure that as our vaccination rates rise, our policies are suitably adjusted.
“As I close, I am bound to express my thanks to Queen’s Counsel Mr. Delroy Duncan and his team who led the Government’s case; the Deputy Solicitor General Mrs. Shakira Dill-Francois, the Honourable Member, the Minister of Health, the Chief Medical Officer, the Chief Strategy Officer and the Permanent Secretary of Health and Drs. Carika Weldon and Dr. Joanna Peden for their invaluable expert evidence provided to assist the Court.
“This is an important case. The precedent it sets will no doubt be cited for many years and in many courts. Bermuda is fortunate to have a judicial system that can determine complex and sensitive cases in a timely manner. This case is now over. The Government’s policy has been tested and withstood that challenge.
“Now, as a country Mr. Speaker, we must move forward in the spirit of collective unity of purpose that is required for our island home to move beyond this pandemic. Thank you.”
The full judgment follows below [PDF here]: