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Burt trashes quarantine link to work stoppage

  • On the record: David Burt, the Premier (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Talks to end industrial action by trash collection workers are under way, the Premier said last night.

Sanitation staff stopped work yesterday over what the public works ministry said were “concerns raised by workers”.

Mr Burt said that trash collection was an essential service and that a halt to garbage pick-ups was “unfortunate”.

He added: “I am, however, concerned that the result of this impasse could be counterproductive to all that we are trying to achieve by causing more people to be out of their homes, and in unnecessary contact with others, just to dispose of their trash.

“My hope is that this impasse can be resolved in the best interest of all of us.”

Mr Burt said that he had talked to Chris Furbert, the president of the Bermuda Industrial Union yesterday, and that more talks would be held today.

Mr Burt admitted that the conditions under which people had to work as a result of steps to curb the spread of Covid-19 were difficult.

But he said that the preventive measures that had been taken by the Government were in the “interest of protecting lives”.

Mr Burt added: “I urge all of those who are involved in essential services to recognise the role which we play to help our country be united in getting through this particular time of challenge.”

He added that he had to “set the record clear” on social-media rumours that trash collection had stopped because self-quarantine rules had been broken by a trash collector.

Mr Burt said: “At no time did anyone who was under mandatory self-quarantine break their quarantine in this particular circumstance.

“Fear and hysteria will not help Bermuda get through the difficulties of which we are going through right now.”

He added that everyone had a role to play to make sure Bermuda contained the spread of Covid-19 and “emerge stronger”.

However, Mr Burt warned: “If we decide to tear ourselves apart, to say, ‘I’m not going to do this, I’m not going to do that, et cetera’, then it will be a difficult few weeks and I hope that we will not get there.”

He said that the country’s “aggressive testing regime” to combat Covid-19 continued and that 16 new test results yesterday had all been clear.

Mr Burt added: “Bermuda is ahead of the curve when it comes to testing our population.”

He said that he could not give the number of tests performed. yesterday. There were six confirmed cases of the virus last night.

Mr Burt added that the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital’s 28 ventilators would “certainly be enough” if the country was able to limit the spread of Covid-19.

He said he was “incredibly confident” about preparations made by the Bermuda Hospitals Board to handle the disease.

Mr Burt added he had not been given an estimate of the percentage of the population that would become infected with the coronavirus.

Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, said predictions had been made by Public Health England for the Overseas Territories, which could be released later.

Mr Burt hoped there would be “100 per cent compliance” with the expanded closure order that came into force yesterday.

All retail stores, cinemas and bars were shut down and restaurants were limited to take-out service.

Mr Burt said that the closure policy would be in place for seven days at least.

He added that the police and the Royal Bermuda Regiment would enforce mandatory self-quarantine orders with checkpoints to catch people who ignored the rules.

Mr Burt said: “Those people who should be in quarantine put people’s lives at risk by being out and about in the community.”

Stephen Corbishley, the Commissioner of Police, said that there was a plan to hold anyone arrested for violation of self-quarantine orders. But he declined to discuss details. Mr Corbishley said: “I don’t think it would be suitable for us to discuss that here, just because it is an operational matter for the police.”

But he said the possibility of arrests for quarantine violations was “remote”.

Mr Corbishley added that police officers would continue social-distancing on the job and that it was not necessary for police to wear face masks.

The commissioner said: “We don’t want to alarm the public by taking that step.”

Mr Burt said that a WestJet flight from Toronto to bring Bermudians stranded in Canada home was expected to take off at 2pm today.

He added that talks were continuing to get a similar flight from the United States.

To view the Premier’s statement in full, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”