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Bermuda lobbies US over Covid-19 safety status

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Efforts continued yesterday to change a US health agency’s assessment of Covid-19 risk in Bermuda, particularly as it affected people travelling to the United States.

The US Consulate said it was in talks with the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to improve Bermuda’s safety status.

Government House added that it supported work to change the island’s risk ranking.

David Burt, the Premier, said last night quarantine policies in New York in particular presented a challenge for the island.

He said: “I can look at when Air Canada put on it’s initial flights and wanted to fly two or three times a week and then had to reduce it because it was only one-way traffic.

“This will be the same thing where people are travelling from New York – they don’t have to quarantine when they are here, but then when they go back they have to quarantine, which can discourage travel.

“It is something we are continuing to work through. The challenge is that the US has very few countries on its Level 1 list. It is my belief that Bermuda belongs there given the work that we have done, but this is the New York State Government that has applied this.”

Andrew Cuomo, the Governor of New York, signed an executive order last month to remind international travellers entering the state from Level 2 and 3 countries to quarantine and fill out a health form.

The direction applied to all but 31 countries around the world.

A spokeswoman for the US Consulate General Hamilton said then that travellers from Bermuda were advised to follow New York’s requirements, which suggested “self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival”.

She said yesterday[Tues, October 13]: “The US Consulate remains engaged in conversations with the CDC and others regarding Bermuda’s safety levels while addressing Covid protocols for entry into the United States.

“At this time, we advise the public to continue following recommendations issued by individual states.”

The CDC listed only four countries – Cambodia, New Zealand, Saint Barthelemy and Thailand – as Level 1, or low risk, for Covid-19.

Bermuda joined Malaysia, the Northern Mariana Islands and Saint Vincent & the Grenadines on the Level 2 list, where risk was classed as moderate.

People with certain underlying medical conditions, older adults and others at increased risk for severe illness were advised on the CDC website to “postpone all non-essential travel” to Level 2 countries.

That compared to a recommendation for people in those groups to “talk to their healthcare providers before travelling” to Level 1 countries.

A spokeswoman for Government House said yesterday[Tues, October 13]: “Government House is supporting efforts to reduce the CDC’s ranking of Bermuda from Level 2 to Level 1 through diplomatic channels.”

Bermuda was upgraded to a Level 2 travel health advisory notice by the CDC in August after it was earlier listed among the Level 3 countries, which advised US citizens to avoid anything but essential travel.

Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, said then: “This change is reflective of our efforts to minimise the impact of Covid-19 and halt its spread in our community – efforts which the rest of the world is now recognising.”

She added: “It is my goal that we soon join the ranks of those countries classed as low risk travel destinations.”

A Government spokeswoman confirmed that in addition to the US Consulate General, the Government has had direct contact with Governor Cuomo’s office through its congressional relationship with the New York congressional delegation.

The chief medical officer has provided two submissions about Bermuda’s Covid status.

Mr Burt said the Government was also in talks with the Canadian Government in an effort to increase travel from the country.

He said: “The Canadian flights were cut back because of the restrictions put in place for visitors to Canada, which is an issue we continue to work on.”

Andrew Cuomo, the Governor of New York (File photograph by John Minchillo/AP)

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Published October 14, 2020 at 9:36 am (Updated October 14, 2020 at 3:35 pm)

Bermuda lobbies US over Covid-19 safety status

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