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Travel remains high-risk, doctors report

Doctors in Bermuda and abroad have warned against anything but essential overseas trips in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Michael Ashton, the Bermuda Hospitals Board's Chief of Medicine, added that residents who stayed on the island could protect public health and help boost the economy.

He said: “Covid-19 remains a serious disease without proven cure. It is highly contagious and the pandemic continues unabated off Bermuda's shores.

“At this time, travel outside of Bermuda in neighbouring countries remains a high-risk activity.

“As such, recreational travel outside of Bermuda is not recommended.

“Now is not the time for residents to travel unless it is essential.”

Dr Ashton added: “Staying in Bermuda during the pandemic protects public health and can support the local economy.

“Other countries aspire to the safe haven Bermuda has become and people will wish to visit — but they must respect our public health standards for us to keep this fragile status.”

The infectious diseases specialist warned the public: “If you must travel, please follow and promote the standards that have been effective: physical distancing, properly worn facial masks, hand hygiene — especially before touching food or your face — environmental cleaning, avoidance of crowds and anyone with symptoms.

“A face shield can be worn in addition to facial masks, but not as a substitute.

“If you observe practices that are unsafe, please speak up kindly. You can also vote with your dollar.

“If you must travel and then return to Bermuda, please follow the same standards and guidance.”

Kristen Hysell, an attending physician in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, said that guidelines from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention also advised against non-essential international travel.

She told the public: “If you must travel, ensure you are up to date on any travel protocols or visitor restrictions that have been put in place by local public health authorities.

“Some destinations may require Covid-19 testing or quarantine for up to two weeks upon entering.”

Dr Hysell said that air travel could “pose quite a few risks”.

She added: “Spending time in security lines and aircraft terminals may cause you to be in close contact with others for a prolonged period of time and may also involve having to touch frequently touched surfaces which can carry germs.

“Flying within the aircraft itself can also carry risk. While the air is frequently circulated and filtered on planes, you may be seated close to other people and unable to physically distance at least six feet.”

Dr Hysell added: “Strict testing policies can help to prevent the spread of Covid-19 from travellers coming into a new region. By identifying travellers who could have the infection, especially those who are asymptomatic but contagious, health officials can identify travellers who should quarantine, reducing exposure to others.

“Testing can sometimes be inaccurate early in the course of the illness and multiple tests over several days increases the likelihood of detecting the infection.”

Information on the government website said that visitors to Bermuda must have a clear pre-departure coronavirus test no more than seven days before taking off but ideally within 72 hours.

It added that residents were not required to get tested before travelling to the island, but must quarantine for three days on arrival. They can end quarantine with negative results from both their arrival and Day 3 tests.

The website explained: “Residents without a pre-departure negative PCR test result must test on Day 3, on Day 8 and again on Day 14. Travellers (visitors and residents) with a pre-departure negative PCR Covid-19 result must test on Day 4, Day 8 and on Day 14.”

It added that from Saturday, residents without a pre-departure PCR Covid-19 test must quarantine for four days.

The website said that residents who do not wish to test when on the island will quarantine in their room for 14 days and must wear a bracelet for monitoring.

It explained: “If at 14 days they wish to be tested and it is negative, they will no longer be quarantined.

“If on Day 14 they do not wish to be tested, they will quarantine in their room for another 14 days, wearing the quarantine electronic bracelet.”

Now is not the time: Michael Ashton, the Bermuda Hospitals Board Chief of Medicine (File photograph)

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Published July 22, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated July 22, 2020 at 7:46 am)

Travel remains high-risk, doctors report

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