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Take this pandemic seriously –get vaccinated

I could carp, but I won’t. I could lash out in anger, but I won’t. Complaining and criticising at this critical stage of the fight proves only one thing, and that is that hindsight is 20/20 vision.

So if you are looking for that in this column. Stop. Do not read on.

That means everyone: we are now in Phase 3 of the government vaccination strategy

Finding fault is easy. Sure, I am as tired and as upset and as worried as the next person. Yes, it may be starting to look like we are going to a hard, if not impossible time reversing the spread of Covid-19 and its virulent UK variant.

But we press on. We must.

Some countries have done better. Some have done worse. There are lessons to be learnt from what has been done or not done, here and elsewhere. But on one thing I think we should be clear: those in power, those who have been charged with the responsibility of guiding us through this crisis, have attempted to follow the best medical advice available and to act accordingly.

It has not been easy, trying to find the right balance, and those measures that have been imposed, and are being imposed, have at all times been a matter of judgment based on the scientific data and prevailing circumstances at the time.

The real problem, in my book — and that of many others, I believe — is that not everyone has taken this pandemic as seriously as they should and adhered to the recommended protocols and restrictions. The majority has suffered as a result.

Some of us even grew impatient and complacent — until the UK variant struck and struck hard, with a sharp, steady increase in cases and, sadly, no, tragically, more deaths. All of which has prompted a further round of legislated restrictions, much to the chagrin of many.

Tough.

Sure, we can disagree on what has been done — or not. That is the beauty of living in a democracy. Ours is not an authoritarian state. We can have these disagreements and we are free to express them.

But there are limits.

These limits can be found in the Bermuda Constitution Order 1968.

While the order is there to establish and protect our fundamental rights and freedoms, such as those of the freedom of expression and the freedom of assembly and movement, it also sets out circumstances when they may be abridged or infringed.

Still, there are also constitutionally prescribed hurdles that must be overcome.

Briefly, any law in question must (1) be shown to be “reasonably required” ... “in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health”; (2) for the protection of rights and freedoms of others; but (3) providing the law in question or “the thing done under the authority thereof is shown not to be reasonably justifiable in a democratic society”.

While any law is open to constitutional challenge in appropriate cases, the challenge is not just a legal one. There is also an evidentiary burden: a case must be made out on the relevant facts as well.

For those who are aggrieved, the Bermuda Constitution Order provides that any person who believes a fundamental freedom “is being or is likely to be contravened” can apply to the Supreme Court for redress. The bench has the power to either strike down or modify the law to the extent that it no longer contravenes the fundamental freedom or right in question.

Significantly, this principle was once again reaffirmed in the recent decision of Chief Justice Narinder Hargun in the unsuccessful challenge of the Corporation of Hamilton against the Bermuda Government; a case in which, incidentally, but importantly, the Chief Justice also made a number of instructive comments about the constitutional roles and relationship between the judiciary and the legislature, remarks that in fact merit another column.

Stay tuned.

In the meantime, please follow the recommended protocols and restrictions and, if you are able, get vaccinated.

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Published April 22, 2021 at 8:02 am (Updated April 21, 2021 at 5:14 pm)

Take this pandemic seriously –get vaccinated

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