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Self-quarantine of arrivals to be enforced

New legislation empowering the Government to force arriving passengers to self-quarantine will be fast-tracked in the House of Assembly this morning.

As Bermuda braced for the coronavirus pandemic, supermarket heads last night advised customers to shop sensibly because panic buying was straining supplies.

Residents were urged to cancel non-essential travel as the Government tries to prevent the killer strain of coronavirus entering the island.

David Burt, the Premier, said on Twitter that he would ask the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate to swiftly pass amendments enabling the Government to enforce quarantines, effective from tomorrow.

Curtis Dickinson, the Minister of Finance, will also give a statement on the island's fiscal plan for the Covid-19 epidemic, the respiratory illness that by last night had killed 6,500 people worldwide.

The Government “strongly urged” passengers arriving from Britain, New York and Miami yesterday to self-quarantine for the next 14 days, even before the new legislation takes effect.

Passengers must complete a questionnaire setting out their travel history for the past two weeks. The restrictions are expected to remain until the end of this month.

Persons under quarantine will be contacted by health personnel, who will be the first point of contact in the event the person develops a fever, cough or difficulty breathing.

Meanwhile, Zach Moniz, manager of Lindo's Family Foods, and Giorgio Zanol, president of Lindo's Group, warned shoppers to buy only what they needed as panic buying in the United States hit the island's supplies.

Mr Moniz said the stampede of shoppers had been “absolutely crazy — worse than two Cup Matches”.

Mr Zanol said: “The week was busy, but from maybe 4pm Thursday it was crazy. From 7am to 8pm, non-stop at all the stores.”

The pair said that runs on shops had surged as the Government gave notice about the threat of the pandemic, and that talk of travel restrictions had unnerved shoppers.

Mr Zanol added that shipping to the island was secure, but US suppliers restocking America's supermarkets meant that “Bermuda gets left behind”.

Mr Moniz said: “Our suppliers for fresh produce are struggling. With things like Clorox, hand sanitisers, we're doing the best we can, but we can't guarantee they can fill the orders we request.

“Shipping continues but whether or not our containers get filled is debatable.

“We don't want to make people panic more, but if you've bought Clorox wipes already, don't buy more for a while.”

He said produce such as ginger, lime and garlic were being snapped up — but the two expected mass buying to ease off because “people can't store that much at home”.

Mr Moniz added: “We're at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to negotiating. We're behind the Walmarts of the world.

“Unless we can find somebody sympathetic to us, it can be difficult. One giant supermarket in the States can buy more than Bermuda as a whole. But we have some good people abroad that look after us.”

Mr Zanol said: “We want to make sure everybody gets their fair share. At all our stores, we are trying our best.”

He said his family in Italy, hard-hit by the pandemic, had been restricted to their home village after the state cracked down on travel.

Kevin Smith, spokesman for the MarketPlace chain, said the supermarket was “doubling and tripling orders of key items”.

“We have increased sanitising at high-traffic touchpoints like door handles, trolleys, and especially the food service area.”

Mr Smith added: “We have no concern from suppliers. We are strongly encouraging customers to shop sensibly. Don't buy more than you need.”

He said MarketPlace was “experiencing extremely high traffic — not on specific items, but people are buying in large quantity”.

“People are seeing what's happening overseas, in the US in particular, and responding to that.”

Several churches said they would take up the Government's ban on gatherings greater than 50, with services to be broadcast instead.

Wayne Caines, the national security minister, is to meet church leaders today.

Key health workers were given a refresher course over the weekend in use of protective gear, and a Covid-19 hotline is to be announced this week.

Sports awards and the Premier's Concert were both called off over the weekend.

Employers with quarantined staff were asked to “exercise sensitivity”, and not to require or knowingly allow workers to come to work if they have been required to self-quarantine.

The requirement to self-quarantine will apply also to visitors to the island — but they will be able leave Bermuda whenever this wish, if they have no symptoms.

The Ministry of Health last night issued quarantine guidelines, advising those under quarantine to separate themselves from people in their home.

According to the document, in the event that a quarantined person falls ill: “You will be isolated and the members of your household must be quarantined.”

To read the Government's directive on quarantine, click on the PDF under “Related Media”.

David Burt, the Premier, seated, speaking to members of his Cabinet as the Government outlines its steps to deal with the Covid-19 (Photograph supplied)

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Published March 16, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated March 16, 2020 at 9:00 am)

Self-quarantine of arrivals to be enforced

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