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Stand tough, Bermuda!

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As I write this opinion, the island is nine days into a state of emergency and 24-hour curfew, with limited exceptions such as medical needs, grocery shopping and daily exercise among them. These conditions are in place until Saturday.

While the Government and authorities have from time to time urged us to do better, generally Bermudians and residents have done a good job of complying with the regulations imposed.

The vast majority of us fully understand the acute challenge of Covid-19, the need to stay at home, practise good hygiene with constant washing of hands, and social-distancing at all times. I cannot emphasise enough the necessity to continue to follow the regulations, as the more compliant we are, the sooner restrictions will be eased.

Those that break the law or Covid-19 Shelter in Place Regulations should be charged and the matter dealt with swiftly by the courts.

Covid-19 has hit us with two big challenges: the health of our community and the need to rebuild the economy in the aftermath.

While in the first instance we concentrate on the safety and health of the people, we must also plan for the rebuild when restrictions start to be eased.

To date, the Government has done a commendable job in informing the public through daily press conferences of the present state of testing and changes required during the state of emergency, with the exception of a break for the Good Friday and Easter holiday, which some may question.

What is not clear at this point is, upon the advice of health experts, what Bermuda-centric model the Government is following and basing its decisions on as every day passes with more information and test results available.

The Government has talked about modelling, but at this point the actual form of modelling has not been made public. This is a surprise, as with a state of emergency in place, one would think the Government would have a model and a plan that it is following as we flatten the curve and try to reduce or even eliminate the impact of the virus on our island.

Any model is an asset, along with daily new information, and is critical in making decisions on when restrictions can be eased, what type of easing will take place and in what time frame.

While our good friend and neighbour the United States is struggling mightily with the virus, at least it has a model that it is following and it is informing Americans where they are on the curve and preparing them for what to expect in the coming days.

I would hope that our form of model will be made public very soon. In explaining it, the Premier and his colleagues should clarify what they need to see over the coming days to allow for any easing of the existing restrictions.

On April 8 in reply to a question at a press conference, the Premier stated: “I have no expectation to extend the shelter-in-place.”

I found that comment hard to accept because Bermudians are not aware of a model we are following, what success means under that model, and that most countries that have imposed stringent conditions have extended them.

I would be surprised if our present restrictive conditions are not extended past Saturday. I would love to be proved wrong, but without seeing any evidence of progress in flattening the curve in our fight against this virus, it would seem that an extension for another two weeks is probable.

As we go through this journey together, with everyone but essential services and those exempt from the curfew sheltering at home, the following would be helpful for the public to have some understanding and to help provide some faith and hope through this journey:

• What does aggressive testing consist of; what professions and what people fall into this category? Up until recently, testing has been reactive perhaps owing to the inability to access sufficient test kits to do anything else

• How will testing be expanded?

• What is our total testing capacity and what labs will be doing the testing?

• How accurate is testing?

• Are all labs subject to the same certification, accreditation and regulations?

• What is being done to protect and shelter the vulnerable among us such as seniors, those with asthma, diabetes, chronic lung disease or other serious medical conditions putting them at increased risks? The recent very sad and disturbing test results from a seniors home raise concerns

• How are we protecting those on the front line in healthcare, or those who serve in all our emergency services and correctional facilities? Do they have access to the required personal protective equipment? What checks have been put in place to alert the authorities of any health issues they may face and what testing requirements are in place for them?

• Are those in the hospital, Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute and any correctional facility safe and secure from the virus? What precautions and health monitoring is in place for them?

• What yardstick will the Government use in making any decision on easing or extending any restrictions?

This is not intended to be a criticism of the Government; it is meant to be a thought-provoking opinion as we work together to weather this storm — one we have not experienced in our lifetime.

In the coming days, I am sure we will discuss the vital economic recovery that is required and perhaps an appropriate first step in this regard would be the Government forming a bipartisan committee. Until then, thank you to the Premier and his colleagues for their tireless work on our behalf.

While I have not agreed with every decision, I have taken the opportunity to communicate with the Government, as together this journey can be made less painful.

Thank you to our essential and frontline workers who are under tremendous pressure, working long hours, day in and day out, to fight this virus and protect and help us.

Finally, thank you to all our exempt workers for all you have done to help feed the island and make the very restrictive conditions somewhat less burdensome.

Stand tough, Bermuda!

Easter demonstrates for those of faith that Jesus rose and provided a new beginning and hope. We should all have faith, take comfort and have hope that together we can rise again.

Stay home and stay healthy. Use the opportunity to exercise daily and get ample sleep.

Michael Dunkley is the former Premier of Bermuda, an Opposition backbencher and the MP for Smith's North (Constituency 10)

Immediate action required: those who break the shelter-in-place rules should be dealt with by the courts (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Michael Dunkley is the former Premier of Bermuda, an Opposition backbencher and the MP for Smith's North (Constituency 10)

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Published April 14, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated April 14, 2020 at 8:23 am)

Stand tough, Bermuda!

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