Hundreds of people have backed a petition to demand a delay to the resumption next week of air travel from the United States.
Flights between Bermuda and the US are scheduled to resume on July 6, but an online petition said it was feared that commercial air travel could bring new cases of Covid-19.
The Change.org petition, launched by a group called Keep Bermuda Safe, added a rush to restart flights could be disastrous. The group said: “The US is the world’s epicentre of Covid-19 with new cases surging out of control each day.
“The decision to allow American tourists on to 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 so far, but opening our borders to Covid hotspots can quickly set us backwards, eventually leading to widespread sickness, hospitalisation and ultimately deaths.”
Keep Bermuda Safe added: “Although we are promised there will be testing protocols in place, it only takes one case to slip under the radar, for a detrimental domino effect to ensue. By then it could be too late for us to catch up.”
The group said the EU and Canada had not reopened to flights from the US and that Bermuda should follow their lead. Keep Bermuda Safe said the tourism industry had suffered as result of the pandemic — but that the economic damage from a fresh outbreak of Covid-19 would make the situation worse.
The group added: “If our cases rise and we return to Phase 1, our entire economy will be worse off, possibly beyond repair.”
It said: “We love our American neighbours and will welcome them back in due time, but right now we need to be sensible and delay.”
The petition, launched on Saturday afternoon, had attracted almost 700 signatures by 6pm yesterday.
David Burt, the Premier, said yesterday that the Government was aware of the petition. But he added precautions would protect the public.
Mr Burt said: “This government’s goal has always been to contain and minimise 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.
“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.”
Mr Burt said the travel requirements in place for visitors are the most stringent in the world, requiring travellers to undergo testing multiple times.
He added: “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.”
The Ministry of Tourism and Transport said earlier it expected flights to begin with weekly Air Canada services to Toronto, from Thursday.
A weekly Delta Air Lines service to Atlanta will start next Monday and British Airways is scheduled to start a twice-a-week service between London and Bermuda on July 17.
Many airlines have capped seat sales to allow for social-distancing. Delta has limited flights to 60 per cent capacity — but some operators, including American Airlines, said they would book flights at 100 per cent capacity.
Measures to combat Covid-19 continue in all three countries.
The US has reported more than 2.5 million cases of the virus and more than 125,000 deaths. New York and Boston have seen the number of new cases fall, but cases in other parts of the country continued to increase.
Several states, including Texas and Florida, last week reimposed tighter restrictions after they reported record increases in new Covid-19 cases. A total of 103,000 cases of the virus have been reported in Canada and more than 8,500 people have died.
Ontario said that it had processed almost 33,500 tests on Friday and identified 160 new cases — the lowest positive rate recorded in the province.
More than 311,000 cases of Covid-19 and 43,550 deaths have been logged in Britain.
New cases and deaths have been on the decline in Britain for more than a month, although concerns have been raised about the potential spread of the coronavirus as restrictions are lifted.