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OBA claims PLP has backed off from Covid-19 and economic problems

Questions: Michael Dunkley of the One Bermuda Alliance (File photograph)

Government is “stepping back” from the double challenge of control of the Covid-19 pandemic and rebuilding the economy, the Opposition claimed last night.

Michael Dunkley, the One Bermuda Alliance spokesman for health and national security, was speaking after a relaxation of pandemic safety rules was announced at last Thursday’s Covid-19 briefing, led by David Burt, the Premier.

It included an end to the 14-day mandatory supervised quarantine in a hotel for non-vaccinated travellers, which was cut to just four days.

Travellers will be allowed to spend the other ten days quarantined at home.

Mr Dunkley said: “Many in the community are asking where do we go from here due to the mixed messages and changing polices of the Government.

“Premier Burt touted that 75 per cent of the eligible population was vaccinated, while health minister Kim Wilson has said the vaccination rate is 64.4 per cent and Dr. Weldon has stated that if the Delta variant was on island we would require 87.4 per cent of the population vaccinated.”

The Goverment has insisted in the past that “herd immunity” would only be achieved if 70 per cent of the entire population was vaccinated.

Mr Dunkley said: “No wonder many are trying to figure out where we stand, what we need to do and what the Government plan is.

“The Government has been adamant that unvaccinated travellers upon return must quarantine, in spite of calls by the opposition that there is a better way.

“Now the Government changes the policy and states that after a day four negative test travellers can isolate at home.”

Mr Dunkley asked: “Is this because the Government has provided a high percentage of exemptions to the policy or because people have challenged it?

“Maybe it is because the Government has spent a quarter of a million dollars to date on quarantine sites.”

He said: “Premier Burt and his Cabinet colleagues have initially put a lot of effort and planning into the vaccination policy, but lately the community vaccination rates have stalled, the Government has failed to communicate a current cohesive plan and community frustration builds due to the very tough climate all Bermudians are living in.”

Mr Burt said the easing of health precautions was justified because almost 75 per cent of the “eligible” population had been vaccinated.

But vaccination rates have stalled – the 64.4 per cent figure used by Ms Wilson was up just 1.1 per cent on a month ago.

Mr Burt said then: “We are not going to reduce restrictions at the border because that will be suicide”.

There has also been a mini-spike in coronavirus cases in the last three weeks, with the number of rising from 17 on July 23 to 92 at present.

Mr Dunkley also criticised Mr Burt’s announcement that he and Ms Wilson will no longer hold weekly Covid-19 briefings and that “technical officers” would field media questions instead.

Mr Dunkley said: “Perhaps this change is a sign that the Government is not willing to face the press and field difficult questions.

“Our economy, poor before the pandemic under the PLP, is in tatters.”

He added: “Families and businesses from Somerset to St. George's struggle due to the terrible economic situation and restrictions imposed.

“It appears that Government is stepping back from addressing the challenges the island faces.”

Mr Dunkley said: “Meanwhile, people want to know what the plan is to address Covid and, critically, what is the Government plan to rebuild the economy.

“Bermuda cannot count on cryptocurrency, vertical farming or a new fish processing plant in a PLP plan that lacks substance.”

A spokeswoman for Mr Burt last night defended his comments.

The spokeswoman said: “Premier Burt did not use the term ‘herd immunity’ when he referenced the per cent of the eligible population that has been vaccinated so it is not correct to equate the two.

“Bermuda successful vaccination programme makes it less likely Bermuda's healthcare system can be overwhelmed by an outbreak, this allows risk-based adjustments to be made to all restrictions including quarantine.

“All unvaccinated persons will still be subject to a period of supervised quarantine.

Benjamin Lau, the president of the Bermuda Medical Doctors Association, did not respond to a request for comment.

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Published August 16, 2021 at 7:56 am (Updated August 16, 2021 at 7:21 am)

OBA claims PLP has backed off from Covid-19 and economic problems

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