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Father challenges legality of Covid tests for children’s entry to school

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A judicial review is to be asked to rule that children should not be required to have routine coronavirus tests to attend school (File photograph)

A father has asked for a judicial review of a government requirement for children to have routine coronavirus tests to attend school.

Jason Benevides, a father of four, with one at public school, said he wanted to question the legal authority for routine testing, including for public health purposes.

He added: “Since September last year, the Ministry of Education has demanded routine testing of children as a condition of attending public school, regardless of whether there is any evidence that they are suffering from or have been exposed to Covid-19.

“I, and many other parents, believe this is unnecessary, and that subjecting children to unnecessary testing is harmful to their wellbeing.”

Mr Benevides said: “It creates anxiety for children to worry over their health status while preparing for and awaiting results.

“It also normalises a self-image that their generation are carriers of disease who must submit to testing.

“The shambles over public school reopenings in January, due to inability to process children’s test results in time, shows that this policy was poorly thought out and executed and detrimental to our children’s education.”

Mr Benevides has instructed Peter Sanderson, of BeesMont Law, to argue his case in court.

Mr Sanderson said it did not appear that there was any legal authority to demand routine tests as a condition of entrance to a school.

Peter Sanderson (File photograph)

Mr Sanderson added: “Testing involves submitting to the probing and taking of bodily materials, and analysis to determine medical status.

“The Bermuda Constitution provisions on privacy and searches of the person are clear that legal authority is required to carry out such procedures — whether in the course of a criminal investigation or, in this case, for public health purposes.

“The public health laws appear to only authorise compulsory testing when there is evidence that somebody either has symptoms or has been exposed to disease.

“If, as we believe, there is no legal authority for routine testing, then the whole testing policy amounts to unlawful and coercive pressure on families to submit to testing in order for children to enjoy their rights under the Education Act to a free public education.”

Mr Benevides’s legal team were given permission by the Supreme Court to argue the case in November.

Hearing dates were submitted on January 6 but a court date has yet to be set.

Mr Benevides said: “We are concerned that the longer this drags on, the more tests parents will be forced to submit to in order for children to enjoy their right to attend school.”

The Government did not respond to questions by press time.

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Published January 29, 2022 at 8:02 am (Updated January 30, 2022 at 11:15 am)

Father challenges legality of Covid tests for children’s entry to school

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