A late plea: hold off on airport reopening

  • File photograph by Blaire Simmons

    File photograph by Blaire Simmons


Dear Sir,

Our airport is scheduled to reopen on Wednesday, albeit with a limited schedule. I am sure I am not the only one concerned about the risk we are opening ourselves up to. Do the positives really outweigh the negatives by opening it back up too soon?

As it stands, the United States is facing uncontrollable spikes throughout the country. States that relaxed measures and opened up early are now on the brink of having to shut down again, this time with more dire consequences.

Opening up too quickly is tempting and I understand why people feel the need to; however, Bermuda can learn from other countries the consequences of doing so.

Hong Kong and Singapore seemed to have coronavirus under control and started easing restrictions — only to have major resurgences that led to stricter rules.

Britain is also set to ease restrictions, effective Saturday. Based on other regions/countries that have done likewise, we know what the likely outcome is going to be — a spike in Covid-19 cases. Just these past few days, we have seen all caution thrown out the window in Britain as a result of good weather. Cases will rise there as they are in the US.

Britain and the US are our direct links to the outside world. Reopening those links before we should will have dire consequences for Bermuda.

It is worth remembering the virus found its way to Bermuda through those gateways, without proper checks and quarantine measures being enforced. Going into lockdown for a second time surely will be the nail in our coffin.

The Bermuda Tourism Authority has forecast between $70 million and $90 million in revenue from air-visitor spend between July and December.

As it stands, we have businesses opening back up, people returning to work, nurseries taking children, and hotels reopening on a wider scale.

Do we really want to go back to a lockdown and close down the economy once more?

Think of the economic impact to Bermuda and the cost to the Government and us the taxpayers, all for the sake of potentially $70 million over the course of six months. We won’t see even those six months out.

Based on Bermuda being open for the month of July, before we have to shut down again, we may potentially receive $6 million in visitor spending from fewer than 5,000 people. Is $6 million really worth the risk given the downside we open ourselves up to? We are already seeing an increase in violent crimes — can people take another lockdown, not just economically but mentally?

I suspect that those who actually come to Bermuda on holiday will most likely have a far more carefree attitude to Covid-19 than we want here. As we have seen it takes only a couple of flights to bring this virus right back to our shores.

The other side of the coin is, how many people will leave Bermuda to “get off the rock”? These are the residents that we want to spend money here and keep the economy going from a local standpoint. Let them fill the bars, restaurants and shops, and rent boats and stay in hotels to keep people working.

Local businesses can incentivise residents to spend locally and make this the “Summer of Bermuda”. Continue to have charter flights for residents to return home that we can monitor.

We made mistakes and squandered the head start that we had when this began, rather than learning from other countries. Let’s not make the same mistake again, given what is already going on all around us.

We have the perfect set-up for quarantine in Bermuda. We stand at three active cases and one in hospital (as at Saturday), which is a manageable number. Hopefully, that continues trending downwards. Normal life has slowly started to return and as the weeks go on, it will get better.

I, for one, don’t want to go back into lockdown again or have restrictions forced upon me or my family for the sake of $6 million when we can contribute that to the economy ourselves through all the residents.

I would urge the Government to see how the US/UK situations develop before rushing to open our airport. Opening up the airport to commercial flights really needs to be way down the list of our priorities.

RONAN KANE

Devonshire

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Published Jun 29, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Jun 29, 2020 at 8:10 am)

A late plea: hold off on airport reopening

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