The Blu effect: rules enforcement to be stepped up
Enforcement of Covid-19 rules for parties will be stepped up in the wake of a controversial dinner that led to the departure of two Cabinet ministers.
Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the public works minister, said spot checks would be carried out at restaurants and bars which hosted groups of more than 50 people and that “a complete review of the protocols” would be held.
Colonel Burch was speaking after Wayne Caines, the national security minister, and Zane DeSilva, the tourism and transport minister, were caught on camera in breach of regulations by dancing and mingling without face masks at Blu Bar and Grill Restaurant in Warwick last Friday night.
He said the Cabinet committee working to reopen the island would meet today to discuss how it could provide “greater clarity” on guidelines for large gatherings.
Colonel Burch told the regular Covid-19 briefing at the Berkeley Institute: “Following the events of this past week it is clear that a number of things must now happen.
“Firstly, a complete review of the protocols and how they are communicated to event organisers.
“Enforcement protocols must be enhanced so that the requirements necessary for approval are adhered to, such as confirmation that rules are actually being enforced, spot checks at establishments, especially liquor establishments, recording of names and contact information, adequate sanitiser and issuing the appropriate sanctions for non-compliance.”
Colonel Burch said the Government had received an increase in requests for special exemptions to hold events with more than 50 people in attendance — the limit under pandemic restrictions.
Exemption requests must be made to the Minister of National Security and include a plan for social-distancing and the wearing of masks, indoors and outdoors, if safe distancing could not be maintained.
David Burt, the Premier, said that he had taken “no pleasure” in asking Mr Caines and Mr DeSilva to resign.
He added: “Their energy and zeal demonstrated a genuine care and concern for the people of Bermuda, and I will remain for ever grateful for their contributions because few know how difficult it has been for those of us in leadership over the past few months.”
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But Mr Burt insisted: “There is no consideration for the reinstatement of ministers who have resigned.”
He said he could not confirm if permission to allow the Blu event had been “fast tracked”, but that he had been told on July 2 that a notice would be published in the Official Gazette.
Mr Burt added the lessons learnt from the controversy were “critically important” and that Colonel Burch’s review of the process for large events would be publicised.
He said: “The job I am charged with requires me to make difficult decisions every day.
“The decision which was made, I think, was the best decision given the circumstances, and we will move on from this.”
Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, added that the ministry had launched an investigation into the incident. Police said on Wednesday that they were investigating the event, which was claimed to be a fundraiser for Meals on Wheels.
Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the shadow health minister, said yesterday that video footage that emerged throughout the week raised doubts about the ministers’ version of events.
She said: “I have seen videos that cause me to question their statement that this happened on the way out. Unless the way out in this case was past the women dancing on tables, it didn’t appear to be consistent with the excuse they proffered.” Ms Gordon-Pamplin added: “There are people that couldn’t get to see their children graduate after five years of school, while someone else thought it was appropriate to have a charity shindig.
“It would have been more responsible for them to have written a cheque than to have a party. That would have been a more sensible and safe approach.”
The former Cabinet ministers earlier claimed that people at the Blu dinner party had largely followed Covid regulations.
Mr Caines admitted a musician had serenaded guests as they left and Mr DeSilva said he “jigged for a couple of minutes” before he departed.
But more videos of the event posted on social media on Wednesday night showed both MPs dancing onstage alongside a saxophonist and others in a room full of revellers without masks.
Footage also showed partygoers dancing on tables without masks or social-distancing and the saxophonist walking among the diners.
• To read Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch’s remarks in full, click on the PDF under “Related Media”
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