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Under siege: island braces for 24-hour lockdown

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Shelter in place: David Burt, the Premier, announces a “state of emergency”, having asked John Rankin, the Governor, to use his powers under section 14(3) of the Constitution to begin on Saturday, as the fight against the novel coronavirus intensifies. The premier and the governor to invoke the Emergency Powers Act 1963 to force residents to stay at home (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A 24-hour lockdown will be imposed for 14 days from Saturday in the battle against Covid-19, the Premier announced.David Burt said yesterday that he had asked John Rankin, the Governor, to declare a state of emergency and that the public, with the exception of essential workers, are to leave their homes only for food, medicine or gas unless there was a medical emergency.Mr Burt added that the economic effects on of such a drastic measure “weighs heavily” on him. But he said: “I am certain that this is the right thing to do for Bermuda at this time. “Together, we must do all we can to save lives, and the danger of waiting is not worth the money it might save. We must act decisively and we must act now. The future of Bermuda depends on us all doing our part.”Mr Burt said in an address to the country that, although most of the island’s 32 Covid-19 cases came in from overseas and others were from close contact with these people, more cases had emerged where the link was “not as clear”.He added he had asked for advice from Cheryl Peek-Ball, the Chief Medical Officer, who said that stricter measures were needed to cut the risk of community transmission. Mr Burt asked the Governor to declare a state of emergency yesterday — in line with his power under the Constitution. The decision, he said, was “based on what is now necessary to intensify the fight against this virus”.The Premier added that he asked Mr Rankin to make regulations “to direct that Bermuda’s residents must shelter in place for a period of 14 days”. Mr Burt told the public: “What does this mean for you? The only way we will prevent this disease from intensifying in Bermuda, is if our night-time routine of everyone in their properties is extended throughout the day.”Mr Burt said: “Shelter in place means we must stay at home unless we must go to the store for food or medicine or to a gas station. Other exemptions will be in place for workers in essential areas and that list will be similar to the one now in place for night-time curfew.”Mr Burt said the 8pm to 6am curfew would end on Saturday morning. He added: “From the moment that that curfew order expires, this country will be under a 24-hour requirement to shelter in place for an initial period of 14 days. “The Constitution requires that the Legislature meet within five days of a state of emergency being declared. “I have confirmed with the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate that both Houses will meet as required on Monday, April 6 at 10am and 12pm respectively.”Mr Burt said the Attorney-General’s Chambers was working on the needed regulations.He explained that the only businesses that would stay open are food producers and wholesalers, grocery stores, doctor’s offices and medical facilities, pharmacies, gas stations and the ports.Utility companies such as gas and water will be available for emergency service and banks will be on restricted hours to provide only essential services.It was revealed later that people could leave their homes to exercise on foot within a half mile of their residences and in groups of no more than two. People were asked to visit supermarkets in their own areas only and to avoid excessive shopping.Round-the-clock patrols of police officers and Royal Bermuda Regiment soldiers will enforce the curfew. Mr Burt said in his address to the country: “Beyond the clinical public health advice and the cold language employed to give effect to this rare set of restrictions on the freedoms we all enjoy, there is a human element to all of this. “It weighs heavily on me personally that these decisions stall an economy that has struggled to emerge from the global shift of 2008. Men and women across various sectors have lost jobs or now will suffer reduced income earning capacity.“There is anxiety among our seniors and those who appear to be most susceptible to the worst effects of this disease. “Some families are facing the stress of personal economic impact or of loved ones unable to return to Bermuda because of travel restrictions.” Mr Burt added: “These are hard times and our faith in many things is being tested. But we are a hard people and we can emerge from this stronger.“My colleagues and I have wrestled with how best to respond to this pandemic and in addition to my personal faith I am guided by the oath I took when I was appointed to this office. To do right — without fear.”Mr Burt said: “Uncertainty is never good and this is a period of global uncertainty. But the strongest defence to uncertainty is unity. Fighting this pandemic demands a unity of purpose that challenges us to lay aside those things that may divide us in times of peace and to join together in a common goal of keeping this island that we all call home safe.”• To read David Burt’s national address, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”

Look of concern: Kim Wilson listens to a question during the daily Covid-19 briefing (Photograph by Akil Simmons)