Burt: bring them home
Bermudians stranded in Canada and the United States by the Covid-19 pandemic are to be flown home this weekend, the Government revealed yesterday.
David Burt, the Premier, added Government House was tackling the problem of more than 30 people trapped on cruise ships unable to dock as the epidemic locked down ports around the globe.
Last night Karen Marino, a Bermudian student at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, said she was delighted to be coming home after she thought she had missed the last flight to Bermuda before air travel shut down.
Ms Marino, 23, from St George’s, who planned to come home early with pet rabbit Django, changed her flight to tomorrow night before she knew that the island’s airport would close last night and faced being stuck in Canada for at least a month.
She added: “After packing up all my house and everything and without any notice, I was left here with basically nothing, not even with any food in the fridge because I was planning to leave so soon.
“So when I got the message saying I was unable to leave, it literally so unbearable because I didn’t know where I was going to go or who I was going to stay with.”
Ms Marino added: “I am extremely grateful the Government was able to do some organisation to help us get back home. I feel the whole news about not being able to come really got to us and stunned us.”
She said: “I’m really, really looking forward to coming home. I have family who’re willing to do quarantine with me with no problem at all whatsoever.
“Just being able to be with them, having my rabbit home with me, having him being able to travel with me, it’s just such a blessing.”
Mr Burt said that US carrier Delta will arrive this afternoon with returned residents and US nationals who want to go home can fly out.
A WestJet plane will take off from Toronto at 2pm tomorrow and return at 6.30pm with any Canadian nationals who want to go home.
Zane DeSilva, the tourism and transport minister, said: “Government is aware of many Bermudian students stranded in Canada and Canadian nationals in Bermuda unable to secure a flight back home.
“Thanks to the assistance of the Canadian Consulate and WestJet, we are able to provide an opportunity for them to fly back home to be with their families.”
Mr DeSilva added: “To that end, I ask all members of the public to help get the word out by sharing this opportunity with their friends, family, and on social media. We must all help to get our loved ones back home.”
But he warned: “With that said, when we finally see our loved ones, emotions will get the best of us. And so I must remind and encourage everyone to protect themselves and help prevent the spread of Covid-19 in Bermuda by following the instructions provided by the Ministry of Health.”
The flight crew will remain on the aircraft and all returned residents will have to follow the mandated 14-day self-quarantine period.
A ministry spokesman added: “Should any person not have the ability to effectively self-quarantine at their residence, facilities have been identified to accommodate them.”
He said: “Bermudian students in Canada and Canadian nationals in Bermuda who wish to return home are advised to take advantage of this opportunity and purchase a ticket online at West Jet Airline’s website: https://www.westjet.com/en-ca/book-trip/flight as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.”
The arrivals to Bermuda will have to fill out a health declaration form, which can also be done online in advance at http://forms.gov.bm/covid19.
Mr Burt said it was understood the number of Bermudians “currently on the high seas is in excess of 30 — it is not a small number, on multiple cruise ships, and not all these persons are as young as me”.
He added: “That’s something being handled with Government House, as they are in foreign jurisdictions, to make sure we can find a way to get those persons repatriated to Bermuda.
“It is going to be a difficult and long process. We’re getting updated on a regular basis.” The Premier said there were “a lot of cruises that are being denied entry to particular ports”.
He added: “We’re continuing to work with the UK government. I’ve been in conversations with the fellow premiers of the Overseas Territories. Yesterday the Premier of the Cayman Islands and I had a conversation about the programme he’s doing to bring his students home.
“Though they’ve closed their airport to regular scheduled commercial traffic, they have additional flights just as we have.
“There is some discussions about possibly more additional flights for all the Overseas Territories as well.
“That is something we’re going to assess the risk of.”
He said protections would be set up to prevent “any possible further importation of Covid-19 to our shores”.
Craig Cannonier, the Leader of the Opposition, said with the exception of cargo ships and flights, “we are now basically on our own”.
Mr Cannonier added: “But Bermudians are strong, you are resilient.
This is unlike anything we have faced but by working together we will get through this. We will conquer this.”
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Ada Nyabongo (1926-2020)
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