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Burt defends reopening island to tourists

  • Stringent monitoring: David Burt, the Premier, speaks during yesterday’s Covid-19 press conference
  • Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Cheryl Peek-Ball, the Chief Medical Officer (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Graphic by Christina White
  • Graphic by Christina White

Strict health precautions will be introduced to protect the island from Covid-19 as Bermuda prepares to reopen to visitors, the Premier said last night.

David Burt said that the Government had to strike a balance between the economy and safety as Bermuda entered Phase 4 of the relaxation of coronavirus regulations tomorrow.

Mr Burt told the public: “Like you, we have seen the examples of countries that have not successfully managed the reopening of their economies like Bermuda has been able to do and are also concerned about the potential risk to their loved ones and our community. We have been able to address those concerns through the most stringent and monitoring processes that will be in place.”

He was speaking as an online petition set up to demand the island should stay closed longer to visitors from the United States for approached 1,350 signatures last night.

Mr Burt said the required pretests would help keep the island “a safe place to travel” and that air travel was “vital” to Bermuda’s international business as well as tourism.

He added an electronic travel authorisation process would launch today, with all travellers required to fill out a form which will be made available online this morning.

Mr Burt said the “beauty” of the electronic authorisation process was that “you can adjust as you wish” to take account of changed conditions. The first flight is scheduled to arrive from Toronto on Thursday, with services from Atlanta and London to take off soon after.

Mr Burt admitted reopened borders would come with risks, but that it was about “making sure people in this country do not go hungry” and rebooting the jobs market.

He said the end of grocery shopping days by surname would also end with the start of Phase 4.

Mr Burt added that the Government had asked supermarkets to continue to offer discounts three days a week instead of once a week, but only one — the Lindo’s group — had agreed.

He said: “They have said they will continue, in the interest of our community, the discount days on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays through the Cup Match holiday.”

Kim Wilson, the health minister, said 378 coronavirus tests that had come back since Sunday were all clear.

She said the island had only two active cases of Covid-19, with one in hospital but not in critical care.

The island has now gone ten days without a new case of the disease.

Ms Wilson also outlined the authorisation process for visitors, which will include a one-off fee of $75 to cover tests.

She said travellers should fill in the online forms at least 48 hours before they are scheduled to fly, but added that the processing of applications would be “pretty much automatic” and confirmation should be received inside 24 hours.

Ms Wilson said travellers will not be allowed to board flights without the travel authorisation.

People without health insurance will be required to agree to cover their health and accommodation costs if they become sick on the island.

Travellers will also have to be tested for the coronavirus on Day 1, Day 3, Day 7 and Day 14 of their visit. The rules are the same whether visitors arrive by air or sea.

Cheryl Peek-Ball, the Chief Medical Officer, said travellers under the age of 10 will not be required to undergo Covid-19 tests.

But she said untested children, including returned residents as well as tourists, would be required to undergo a 14-day quarantine period.

Dr Peek-Ball said: “They wouldn’t be joining camps and going into the community as they ordinarily would.”

She added that with a family of visitors with children aged under 10, only the adults would have freedom of movement because they had been tested.

Dr Peek-Ball added: “Children who are not tested are not allowed to move about the island — that wouldn’t be safe. Our priority is safety. They would have to stay in the room.

“The adults, having been tested, assuming they have their pre-arrival test and arrival test that is negative, would have freedoms that the children would not have.

“Indeed, somebody would have to stay back and look after the children in that scenario, but as you can imagine there are an infinite number of scenarios.”

Mr Burt said the curfew would continue into Phase 4 in part because of loosened restrictions on bars and nightclubs.

He highlighted the surge in cases of Covid-19 seen in many parts of the United States after the sector reopened for business.

Mr Burt said the Government would “see how it works for one week” and review the curfew every week after that.

The Premier emphasised the need for people to continue to wear masks, wash their hands and keep a safe distance from others.

He added the removal of more restrictions would only be considered after “a long period of time” with no new cases.

Mr Burt added: “We cannot, and will not, allow behaviour that jeopardises the health and safety of the community to occur.”

To view the statements from the Premier and Minister of Health, click on the PDF links under “Related Media”