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Campaigner maintains he did not seek medical exemption

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

A campaigner opposed to mandatory supervised quarantining has again maintained that he did not submit a medical exemption form when he returned from an overseas trip last week.

Antonio Belvedere acknowledged that he did share an exemption letter from his doctor with one health official “in strict confidence” – but never requested or gave permission for it to be used to apply for a medical exemption certificate on his behalf.

In a statement released yesterday, Mr Belvedere said he approached the Ministry of Health last Tuesday, the day before he returned to Bermuda from the US, “to ask for guidance regarding Covid-protocol”.

He claims he was advised “to follow the established rules”, but told the official that he would refuse to do so – although he did say that he was in possession of a letter from his doctor.

Mr Belvedere said that, after the official reviewed the doctor’s letter, they offered to help him complete a medical exemption form, but he said he again refused.

He claimed he did not want to divulge any information about his health to ResQwest – the tech company that set up and operates the travel authorisation process.

Mr Belvedere said: “To be clear, I had no intention of providing ResQwest, the company responsible for managing the Bermuda Government’s online TA platform, with my private medical documentation.

“I also chose not to upload my personal medical information to the TA portal because I have consistently challenged the ResQwest business model throughout this pandemic, and I was not confident that my medical information would remain confidential on their platform.

“Therefore, I made it absolutely clear … that I would accept whatever consequences may be imposed upon me, and I was prepared to defend myself in court if necessary.”

Mr Belvedere said he was initially blocked from boarding his flight the next day because he had failed to complete the travel authorisation document. He said he was eventually allowed to travel after threatening to sue the airline.

Once in the air, Mr Belvedere claimed he received a series of Whatsapp messages from a second health official.

One of the messages read: “I redid your TA and wanted to make sure u received it. Don’t worry I have updated it in the system and I have your physician; s letter so I moved you to home quarantine”

Today Mr Belvedere said: “To restate my position regarding this matter, I have never given consent for my personal medical information to be uploaded onto the ResQwest TA form portal.

“I have never given any express, or implied permission to … representatives from the Bermuda Government or any other persons to share my private medical information with anyone, including ResQwest or the Ministry of Health, and at no time did I upload any of that personal information myself.”

Another couple campaigning against supervised quarantining claim they have been left confused by a court ruling that stated they they should remain at home until they received their day 8 Covid-19 negative test.

Sophia Cannonier and her husband, Michael Watson, were charged with refusing to comply with a mandatory 14-day supervised quarantine and failing to complete a travel authorisation form. The couple pleaded not guilty to both charges.

Senior magistrate Juan Wolffe adjourned the case until August 16 and released the defendants on $3,000 bail each on the condition that they stay at their residence until receiving a negative day eight Covid-19 test.

Last night the couple said they had a day 8 test carried out at their home by North Shore Medical which was submitted to government’s Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory – but the samples were rejected.

But Mr Watson said the couple had not been told the result and were unsure if they no longer had to remain at home – in accordance with the magistrate’s order – or would have to stay in quarantine for another six days.

Mr Watson said: “Under the conditions of bail, we must provide our day eight PCR negative Covid test results and we have been compliant.

“It really comes down to who has the authority. The magistrate said we had to quarantine for eight days, Government is saying 14 days.

“We appear to have fallen into a gap and Government is trying to pigeonhole us.

“This is why there’s confusion. There’s nothing that we have agreed to in any legally binding way and Government hasn’t officially served us with anything.”

Mr Watson said his family planned on staying at home tonight, but were considering returning to work later this week.

He said: “We have it on good authority that if we were to leave the premises then no arrest would be sought.”

Last night a Government spokeswoman insisted that the couple would be in breach of Covid-19 public safety orders if they did not quarantine for the full 14 days.

The spokeswoman said: “We cannot comment on the court ruling which relates to the bail conditions. However, the law is clear, and they must quarantine for 14 days.”

The spokeswoman also said that the couple were informed on multiple occasions that they would have to quarantine for the full period and were given letters outlining the requirements which Ms Cannonier refused to accept.

She said: “To now say they’ve received no documentation from the Ministry of Health is, at best, disingenuous.

Asked why the day eight test was rejected, the spokeswoman said: “Testing on arrival, day 4, 8 and 14 is the traveller testing regime for fully vaccinated people.

“The Cannonier/Watson family is not fully vaccinated. All unvaccinated travellers are tested on arrival at the airport and on day 13 for ‘check out’ of quarantine on day 14. They are not tested in between because they are in quarantine and, by definition, are alone and not interacting with the public.”

She added: “This is not a new policy; it is one of long-standing. Travellers who are in quarantine only test on arrival and at the end of their quarantine period.”

Mr Wolffe told The Royal Gazette: “The Bail Act 2005, which sets out the conditions on which the court may grant bail, does not include ‘quarantine’ as a condition. Orders made by the Court are separate and distinct from statutory powers of any Government department, and the court must always treat persons as innocent until proven guilty.”

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Published July 20, 2021 at 7:57 am (Updated July 20, 2021 at 7:57 am)

Campaigner maintains he did not seek medical exemption

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