Burt accuses Opposition of speaking ‘out of both sides of mouth’ over vaccinations
Bermuda’s public health emergency has been rolled forward to the end of September after MPs yesterday approved a fourth extension order allowing a wide range of restrictions in the event of a resurgence of coronavirus cases.
But the Opposition called for the island to boost its flagging vaccination rate, with shadow health minister Michael Dunkley also urging the Government to give “more communication to us and the community”.
David Burt, the Premier, criticised the Opposition for speaking against the island’s “strong border policy” while calling for measures to boost vaccination.
“You cannot come into this honourable House and speak out of both sides of your mouth,” he said.
Mr Burt added that jurisdictions in the Caribbean had compelled guest workers to get vaccinated or leave, while Bermuda had left the jab to personal choice.
Kathy Lynn Simmons, the acting health minister, told the House of Assembly that the pandemic “continues to rage globally and a public health emergency continues on our shores”.
She commended the Government’s “sterling job of striking the right balance” to reopen the island.
Mr Dunkley said the community had grown “frustrated” as the pandemic wore on, adding that improving the “stagnated” rate of vaccination, with 63.7 per cent immunised, was critical.
He said the Government’s hoped-for deadline of 70 per cent “herd immunity” had shifted from May 24 to Cup Match but remained elusive.
Mr Dunkley warned that without getting the rate “much higher”, MPs could still be extending the emergency by the end of the year.
He also noted that the Premier had pointedly consulted with the Opposition early in the pandemic – but that it had “dried up to an extent”.
Scott Pearman of the One Bermuda Alliance told the House: “We are at that friction point between civil liberties and emergency powers.”
He said Parliament would resume on September 10, well ahead of the expiry of the latest emergency order.
Mr Pearman also suggested that the Government consult with people who believed that possessing antibodies after Covid-19 was as effective as being vaccinated.
Christopher Famous, a PLP backbencher, said Covid-19 and vaccination had divided many in the community.
He added that the island remained vulnerable to the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus now rampant in the US and UK.
Mr Famous accused Mr Dunkley of “gloating” at the declining rate of immunisation, but said the island was the second-highest in the region for acceptance of the jab – behind the Cayman Islands, where full vaccination stands at 70 per cent.
He said the OBA had joined protesters in opposing strict travel restrictions but was now “on board” with promoting vaccination.
He called for the public to be accepting of the Government’s efforts to “save lives and save our economy”.