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Government and anti-quarantine campaigners at loggerheads over travel form

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Antonio Belvedere arrives at LF Wade International Airport yesterday. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The Opposition is calling on Government to enforce mandatory supervised quarantine laws following a series of incidents at the airport this week.

Michael Dunkley, the One Bermuda Alliance spokesman for national security, pointed out that the party opposed the regulation – but added: “However, if it is the law, it should be adhered to and violators taken to court.”

Mr Dunkley spoke out after a family of four who had not been vaccinated arrived in Bermuda on Sunday and went directly to their home from the airport, rather than to a government-designated hotel.

Sophia Cannonier and her husband, Michael Watson have now been allowed to quarantine at home, although they have been charged with failure to fulfil a quarantine requirement and complete a travel authorisation form.

Stephen Corbishley, the Commissioner of Police, later admitted that there had been “lessons learnt” after officers failed to arrest the couple.

On Wednesday a second opponent of supervised quarantine was allowed to go home directly from the airport – despite claiming that he deliberately failed to fill out a travel authorisation form.

Government said Antonio Belvedere, a member of pressure group Bermuda Freedom Alliance, was allowed to quarantine at home because he had submitted a medical exemption certificate.

But Mr Belvedere denied that suggestion.

In a lengthy statement issued this morning he said: “It is my reasonable belief that the Government of Bermuda has intentionally misled the public and presented a false narrative that I applied for a medical exemption in order to evade quarantine. I did no such thing.”

Yesterday, Mr Dunkley said: “It is alarming to say the least that over the past week we have seen the mandatory quarantine rules challenged by travellers arriving at the airport.

“It appears government was not prepared to enforce its laws and, to make matters worse there is now a claim that the Government is not telling the truth.

“The OBA is on record of not supporting the mandatory paid quarantine policy. What has transpired recently has shown that the government is weak and this policy is not in the best interest of Bermuda.”

Mr Belvedere said he was on a flight to Bermuda when he received a Whatsapp message from the ministry of health informing him that he would be allowed to quarantine at home.

In his statement, Mr Belvedere said he did not complete a travel authorisation form before leaving the US yesterday.

He also denied downloading or paying for any forms.

He went on: “Whilst en route to Bermuda, I received a missed call from an unknown number.

“I then received a WhatsApp message from a member of staff at the Ministry of Health. The individual stated, in writing, that they were trying to reach me regarding my travel authorisation form.

“The individual then confirmed that they ‘re-did’ a travel authorisation form on my behalf, and further, they wanted to make sure I received it. I confirmed that I was in the air and that my Travel Authorisation was denied.

“The individual told me that they updated the system and they changed my status from mandatory quarantine to home quarantine. I did not ask this individual to do this on my behalf. I did not ask anyone else to do this on my behalf.

“I told this individual that I would see what other tricks were in store.”

Mr Belvedere said that, when he arrived at LF Wade International Airport, he asked to speak to his lawyer to discuss the mysterious messages.

He said: “However, I was not permitted to receive his counsel until I entered the arrival hall where he was kept waiting.

He said that, while waiting in Customs, he was asked to provide his name, address and telephone number on a separate form.

He said that he then learnt that Government and the Bermuda Police Service had released a statement stating that he met the requirements of the law, had arrived with an approved travel authorisation form, fell within a medically vulnerable exempted category, and was allowed to quarantine at home for 14 days.

He said: “All of these four facts are true. However, I did not request or cause any of these steps to occur.

“It is my reasonable belief that the Government of Bermuda has intentionally misled the public and presented a false narrative that I applied for a medical exemption in order to evade quarantine. I did no such thing.

“Further, I believe that the Ministry of Health has intentionally sought to mislead Bermuda because of how vocal I have been in my criticism of their policies. This sets a dangerous precedent for our country.

Mr Belvedere added: “It is clear that my name and reputation have intentionally been totally besmirched in the public domain in order to silence me.

“More importantly, I did not give permission to any medical personnel, or civil servant, to release any private and confidential medical information that may exist anywhere into the public domain.”