Covid public health emergency to end in November: Wilson
Emergency powers brought in to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic will be withdrawn at the end of November, Kim Wilson, the health minister, said yesterday.
The minister is to outline the moves when the House of Assembly meets on Friday for the first time since July.
Ms Wilson said the Government would not seek an extension of the public health emergency beyond November 30.
The House of Assembly session due on September 16 was replaced by tributes to the late Queen Elizabeth II and the planned September 23 meeting was cancelled because of Hurricane Fiona.
The One Bermuda Alliance called the reasoning “hogwash” and insisted restrictions, including the controversial Travel Authorisation form and payment, should cease immediately.
Ms Wilson said: “The adjusted parliamentary sessions in September meant there was insufficient time remaining to bring an emergency extension order to the full House for its consideration prior to the most recent order expiring on September 26.
“Therefore, in the interim, I have exercised powers pursuant to section 107A of the Public Health Act 1949 to extend the public health emergency for a period of 30 days.
“More details regarding the road map for ending the public health emergency, changes to border testing requirements and changes to current mask requirements will be shared with the House of Assembly on Friday, September 30.”
The current public health emergency orders have been in place since June 30, 2020, following the state of emergency put in place on April 1, 2020.
Ms Wilson added: “Although we continue to contend with variants of concern, the world is in a different place than it was in 2020. Certainly, Bermuda is.
“We are fortunate that our community responded well to the Government’s vaccination campaign and the vaccine offered through participating medical practices, health services and pharmacies.
“We have fully vaccinated 75 per cent of our population, and that figure rises to 84 per cent when you consider just the eligible population.
“We have just received additional Covid vaccines, including Moderna’s bivalent booster. This will provide additional cover for our community as we go into the winter months.
“We have also received additional pharmaceutical supplies, including oral antivirals and monoclonal antibodies specific to Covid-19.
“These pharmaceutical measures work best in preventing hospitalisation and deaths in medically vulnerable patients.
“While these drugs are in short supply globally, we are working closely with our partners to secure our future supplies.
“The consensus among most public health experts is that this upcoming autumn and winter season is important.
“Across the world, there is a relaxation of public health measures to control this virus along with the Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5 driving the infections at the moment.
“This is coupled with the waning protection from vaccines across the world. With the colder months, a new, more infectious or deadlier variant can cause havoc.
“As this period of the public health emergency draws to a close, it is critically important for all of us to be still responsible, consistent and unrelenting in our use of personal protective equipment, such as face masks; in our behaviours, such as practising physical distancing, good hand hygiene and staying at home when sick; and, in our activities by avoiding closed spaces, crowded places and close contact settings, as well as taking a risk-based approach to mass gatherings.
“While the public health emergency may be ending in Bermuda, the global pandemic continues. Be careful and be safe, for yourself and our community.”
One Bermuda Alliance shadow health minister Michael Dunkley said the government needed to start listening to the people on Covid-19.
He told The Royal Gazette: “The minister has rolled emergency powers forward for another two months.
“This is while the rest of the world realised many weeks ago that time was up for these types of restrictions.
“But this government is still stuck in the past using powers that are no longer needed.
“We do not support this, and it is a load of hogwash talking about parliamentary time - we have said that we would come back at a drop of a hat if needed.
“The TA should have ended long ago.
“It is hurting Bermuda’s economy, and the government needs to start listening to the people.”
The most recent extension of the Public Health (Covid-19) Emergency Order was approved by the legislature in July and expired on September 26.