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Covid: Rules tightened for large-group and sport events

Ernest Peets, the Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Requests for large group exemptions will come under greater scrutiny because of the spike in coronavirus cases, the Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport said today.

Ernest Peets added that reducing the number of gatherings would help to “contain the current outbreak”.

He said: “We understand the social, cultural, psychological and economic benefit of such events, however, given the country’s current coronavirus concerns, the ministry will be applying more strict criteria in considering events.

“This is to ensure that risk can be minimised while allowing events of material cultural and economic significance to take place safely.”

Dr Peets added: “Effective immediately, indoor events will not be supported and the need for large gatherings to occur will be assessed with increased scrutiny.

“While the new criteria will not be retroactive in their entirety, we will be reviewing all previously approved events within the next month to consider any risks and mitigations necessary, and contacting any organisers affected.”

From Friday, groups without exemptions will be capped at 20 people.

The minister said that rules for sport will be tightened immediately.

Dr Peets explained: “While we appreciate the importance of sport to our community and its health benefits for the population, at this time group activities need to be discouraged.”

He said that the island will return to Stage 1 of the “return to sport” guidance, which includes a limit to the maximum group size, no contact, no fans and physical distancing.

The minister said: “Additionally, it is highly recommended that no group training take place at all for the next two weeks.”

Dr Peets added: “Curtailing sports attendance and training protocols and reducing the number of large-group exemptions are measures that will help contain the current outbreak, so it is necessary to assist in reversing the trend.

“Lastly, I want to stress that it brings us absolutely no joy at all to place further limits on the activities we can engage in.

“However we must ensure the safety, health and wellbeing of all.

“We are currently experiencing a significant community spread of the Delta variant, and as the Government we must do all that we can to protect lives and protect our healthcare resources.”

In the Senate this morning Ben Smith, a One Bermuda Alliance senator, questioned Dr Peets’ decision to announce the change by a press release rather than at the Senate.

Mr Smith said: “It would have been a great opportunity to have that information brought to the Senate so that we could ask questions and debate it instead of it coming out at the same time we are sitting in here.

“There are questions I would love to ask that I didn’t have the opportunity to ask because the statement did not arrive.

“And the minister who is responsible for that is sitting here in this chamber.”

Mr Smith said it was understandable that some restrictions would be put in place given the surge in Covid-19 cases, but that it appeared sport was baring the brunt of the measures.

“School sports did not happen last year. We are going into this year and it isn’t happening again,” he said.

“Sports needs to become a priority, not a buzzword.”

UPDATE: This article has been updated to include a change to the group size limit, which will come into place on Friday, as well as comments made in the Senate.

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Published September 15, 2021 at 10:21 am (Updated September 15, 2021 at 5:14 pm)

Covid: Rules tightened for large-group and sport events

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