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OBA: SafeKey requirement may be death knell for businesses

Michael Dunkley, The Shadow Minister of National Security and Health (File photograph)

New public health regulations requiring patrons to have a SafeKey could be “the final nail in the coffin” for businesses struggling to survive the Covid-19 pandemic, Michael Dunkley has warned.

The Shadow Minister of National Security and Health added that the rules requiring customers of establishments including bars, restaurants and gyms to have proof of Covid-19 vaccination or a negative test are creating another divide in the community and are targeting the wrong entities.

Mr Dunkley said: “The majority of Bermudians are vaccinated but still there is a significant and important minority who have to date not had the jab.

“The imposition of SafeKey by the government has created another divide.

“For many, the new regulations make people feel comfortable about going to impacted entities.

“However, these establishments have never been the problem. The spikes have come from those not following Covid guidelines while attending funerals, personal gatherings and large scale events allowed just before Cup March.

“SafeKey, while a well intended government policy, once again penalises those businesses that have borne the brunt of Covid policies over the past 18 months; restaurants, gyms, charter boats, sports clubs and bars to name a few.

“For these, SafeKey might not be the saviour, it could be the final nail in the coffin.”

Mr Dunkley questioned the government's rationale in selecting the businesses.

Karen Hodgkins, the owner of Magnum Power Force Gym in Pembroke said last week that she would disobey the guidelines and allow her members to enter the facility without a SafeKey.

The new rules did not appear to have affected bars and restaurants on Front Street on Friday night as they enjoyed brisk business in the early part of the evening.

A manager in one bar and restaurant said most customers had opted to sit outside in the evening sunshine.

Customers of indoor bars, clubs, restaurants and fitness centres have to produce a SafeKey certificate as proof that they have been vaccinated or have had a recent clear test result as part of the extra restrictions.

The regulation also applied to boats with more than 20 passengers on board and SafeKeys are also required for new large group exemptions.

The move is designed to arrest the spread of the virulent Delta variant which has led to a sharp increase in Covid-19 cases since Cup Match.

The SafeKey rule does not apply to outside areas.

A government spokeswoman said earlier that the change was introduced “due to the increase in transmission we have recently experienced, and to allow indoor activities to continue with a reduced risk of coronavirus spread”.

She added: “As a note, employees of these establishments are not required to have SafeKey in order to go to work as all employees are required to remain masked at all times.”

The spokeswoman said: “The Government appreciates that there are members of the community who still need clarity in accessing a SafeKey.

“In that regard the public is encouraged to visit www.safekey.gov.bm.

“There they will find tutorials and information on how to access and download their SafeKey.”

Tinee Furbert, the Minister of Social Development and Seniors, added that older people might need assistance to get a SafeKey.

Ms Furbert said: “We encourage family members, friends, and charities to assist seniors who may not have access to a computer, printer, or smartphone and who may not be familiar with the use of such devices, to obtain their SafeKey certificates.”

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Published August 23, 2021 at 8:45 am (Updated August 23, 2021 at 8:45 am)

OBA: SafeKey requirement may be death knell for businesses

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