Controversial quarantine rules delayed again
Government yesterday again postponed the date for making unvaccinated travellers to Bermuda quarantine for two weeks at their own expense.
The measure was originally due to come into place on June 6 but was put back to yesterday.
Now the controversial Quarantine Order looks likely to come into place around June 24, the date Government wants to fully reopen the economy.
Minister of Health Kim Wilson said in a statement: “We continue to work on the necessary amendments to finalise the Quarantine Order as it pertains to mandatory quarantine.
“This Order intends to formalise in law the exemptions and fees related to supervised quarantine for travellers. Additional logistics are being worked out to ensure that we have it right and that we best protect Bermuda from dangerous coronavirus variants.”
The Premier, David Burt, added: “As we fully open our island, it is important that we do our best to keep new variants out of Bermuda. The measures being put in place are designed to achieve this while balancing our safety with our need to encourage and support local events and tourism activities throughout our economy. Our goal is to end local restrictions in Bermuda.
“As our test results show we have not had any new local cases in over two weeks with all of our cases coming from overseas. That means our full effort must be at the border, focused on keeping dangerous variants out of Bermuda and successfully containing them if they arrive.
“The implementation of the new border restrictions will coincide with the full re-opening of the economy – which will be no later than June 24.”
The second delay comes as a lawyer who challenged Government over mandatory quarantine says the quarantine rule is “nonsense” as people cannot be fully vaccinated in Bermuda as supplies have all but run out.
Speaking before the latest delay was announced, Mark Pettingill, who unsuccessfully sought an interim injunction against the supervised quarantine at travellers’ expense, said the move was “beyond punitive” if it was now impossible to get immunised against the virus.
He said: “If it’s the case that there is no vaccine available at this stage for people to make use of it, and it’s still the Government’s intention to be punitive, then the analogy is sending people tickets for speeding when they not allowed to own or drive a car.
“It certainly lends itself to our case with regard to the reasonableness of what the Government intends with regard to the unvaccinated.
“That would be another piece of evidence that highlights the nonsense of allowing a certain group to stay at home and quarantine while telling others they can’t and making them stay in an institution, which is arbitrary detention in my view, and making them pay for it, in circumstances where the vaccine was not available to them.”
Mr Pettingill said that “right thinking people will abide by the rules” and that confining people to a hotel went too far.
He also questioned how far the Government would go in keeping people to a hotel room.
“Are they doing to have cameras watching hotel doors?” he said.
“For a Government that has been doing a good job with this pandemic, if they take this approach makes us a laughingstock as a jurisdiction.”
Mr Pettingill’s Supreme Court challenge was dismissed this month by Narinder Hargun, the Chief Justice – but will get another hearing on July 7.
Mr Pettingill said that under the Bermuda Constitution Order, the Government had the power to do “what is reasonably required” in the interests of public health.
He added: “Those are the key words. The test is what is reasonably required in the circumstances, They have to establish that it’s reasonably required that non-vaccinated people are quarantined in a different manner.”
Also speaking before the second delay was announced, Charles Richardson, a lawyer who considered joining the challenge last month but withdrew from the case, said: “A restriction that the Government wants to impose has to be justified in the circumstances.
“You will see the Government has adjusted restriction gradually as the circumstances have changed.”
But he added: “The availability of the vaccine, when you put in place a rule that essentially requires people to be vaccinated if they want to avoid a certain type of hardship – that may raise some interesting legal challenges.”