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Cabinet ministers flout Covid-19 guidelines

  • Too close for comfort: Zane DeSilva, the Minister of Tourism and Transport, is shown enjoying a saxophonist’s tunes during a charity event at the Blu Bar and Grill Restaurant on Friday night (Photograph supplied)

A Warwick restaurant could be shut down after Cabinet ministers were among revellers who failed to adhere to stringent Covid-19 health guidelines at a charity bash.

Short video clips making the rounds on social media showed guests dancing in proximity without face masks, including Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, and Zane DeSilva, the Minister of Tourism and Transport, on Friday.

Mr Caines granted permission 24 hours earlier for more than 50 people to gather at the fundraising dinner for the charity Meals on Wheels at the Blu Bar and Grill Restaurant on Belmont Drive, Warwick.

A Ministry of Tourism and Transport spokesman said last night that the Government would conduct an inquiry as it appeared that rules designed to restrict the spread of the coronavirus were broken.

He added that the venue could be closed by health minister Kim Wilson if rules were violated without reasonable excuse.

According to the gazetted notice on Thursday, the “large-group exemption” came with requirements for masks and physical-distancing.

“All persons attending the event must wear a face mask and maintain appropriate physical-distancing at all times,” the notice said.

However, the videos depicted guests dancing close together and without masks to a saxophone rendition of Collie Buddz’s Love & Reggae.

The July 3, 2020 date could be seen on menus, although it was unclear when in the evening the clips were filmed.

One clip appeared to show Mr DeSilva dancing near the saxophonist, with Mr Caines on the opposite end of the stage.

Guests at restaurants and bars are not required to wear masks when seated, under the health guidelines for Phase 4 of Covid-19 restrictions.

But masks are required at all times when moving about and physical-distancing of six feet — or three feet when not possible — is to be maintained.

The requirements were not in evidence at the dance scene, while servers moving among tables did not have masks visible.

A staff member at the restaurant said last night that Blu strictly adhered to the restrictions, but that the event had been privately organised.

A request for comment from the Ministry of National Security was not responded to last night, but a spokesman for the Ministry of Tourism and Transport said: “MEF Enterprises Limited was granted a large-group exemption for the Meals on Wheels charity fundraising dinner, under the Public Health (Covid-19 Emergency Powers) Regulations 2020, by the Minister of National Security.

“The exemption was granted under regulation 5 (4), permitting a group of more than 50 persons to assemble on Friday, July 3, 2020 from 6pm to 11pm at the Blu Bar and Grill Restaurant and as required, a notice was placed in the Official Gazette prior to the event.

“The notice required persons to wear masks and to adhere to guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health. From the videos shared, it can be seen that those rules were not being adhered to at all times during the event.

“The Government will conduct an inquiry and if it is confirmed that rules were violated without reasonable excuse, sanctions will be issued under Section 7(2) of the Public Health (Covid-19 Emergency Powers) Regulations 2020, which permit the Minister of Health to close an establishment that does not comply with health directions.”

The Royal Gazette was unable to reach the event organiser, Zarabi Entertainment.

The online news site TNN Bermuda reported yesterday that Zarabi confirmed permission for a sit-down dinner where guests stayed at their tables “for the majority of the night”.

The statement added: “As guests were leaving, they were serenaded by a saxophonist and stopped to listen to a song on the way out.”

Guests were thanked, with “a special thank-you to the ministers for coming out to support our charity dinner”.

The statement said $10,000 had been raised for the charity.

Editor’s note: the response from the Ministry of Tourism and Transport, requested before 7pm, was received too late to make the midnight print deadline