Caines stresses Bermudian-first jobs policy
Business owners should employ jobless Bermudians rather than overseas staff as the island recovers from the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis, the national security minister said last night.
Wayne Caines added that expatriate employees “may need to leave” if their permits were not renewed, but he warned against xenophobia.
Mr Caines said: “We will need to review, reassess and re-evaluate our immigration policies and procedures in order to adapt to these unprecedented times.
“More specifically, we will now be closely scrutinising our work-permit policy, as there are a significant number of Bermudians who are unemployed.
“We must now look at closing certain categories.”
Mr Caines said that permission to live in Bermuda and look for work would be “assessed on a case-by-case basis”.
He added: “In this current climate, work-permit approvals are not guaranteed.
“In instances where there are clearly opportunities for hiring Bermudians, work permits will be denied.
“And as a result in some of these cases, guest workers may need to leave the island if their work permit is not granted.
“We will make every effort to balance the need for work-permit holders who provide specialised services to remain in those roles.
“However, in these cases, the local business must provide training, development and succession planning for Bermudians to take over in these roles.”
Mr Caines, who was speaking at a government briefing, said Bermudians had a responsibility to retrain where necessary and be prepared to work in other sectors.
Mr Caines added: “We've heard the devastating accounts of Bermudian families who during the economic shutdown have been desperately trying to make ends meet, who have been desperately trying to pay mortgages and rent and who have been desperately trying to put food on the table for their children.
“These are real accounts from people who we know — our brothers, our sisters, our close family members, our neighbours and our friends.
“So this government is urging our businesses, as they reopen, to consider hiring out-of-work Bermudians to provide a service in their establishments.
“If a Bermudian can do that job instead of a guest worker, then the Bermudian worker should take precedence.
“During this time of uncertainty, we must all do our part to help and support one another.”
The minister was asked later if laid-off expatriate workers had to leave, and how.
Mr Caines replied: “I want to put that in context because I do not want to set the stage for this to morph into where we are trying to get expatriates to leave our country and it turns into xenophobia.”
He added that he did not want to give the impression that “we will be forcing anyone to leave Bermuda”.
Mr Caines said that more than 2,000 people on unemployment benefits were expatriate workers.
He added: “The unemployment benefit is not a reservoir of money for ever.”
Mr Caines said that the Department of Immigration will accept all applications through a drop box on the ground floor of the Government Administration Building from Monday.
He was speaking after it was revealed that another case of Covid-19 had taken the island's total to 140.
Kim Wilson, the health minister, said it was among 115 test results that came back yesterday.
The island had 39 active cases of the illness, with nine people in hospital including two in critical care.
Nine people have died as a result of the disease.
The health minister said that the real-time reproduction number was 0.83.
Ms Wilson explained that some recent cases had been linked to “insufficient shielding”.
She added: “Shielding means protecting medically vulnerable persons from anyone who has contact outside of the home with others.”
She added that guidance for restaurants would be amended so that only one person at each table would need to provide contact details to allow tracing in the event of an outbreak of the virus.
Shopping by surname will remain in effect at grocery stores but the restriction has been lifted for other retail businesses.
Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the public works minister, revealed that anyone who arrives on the island from Sunday will be allowed to self-quarantine at home for 14 days, instead of at a government-run quarantine centre.
He said that beaches, parks and nature reserves would be closed from 8pm to 6am and that no bonfires would be allowed at beaches over the three-day holiday weekend.
David Burt, the Premier, said there had been recent cases of vulnerable people who ended up in hospital because “family members are bringing the virus into their home”.
He repeated advice for people to wear masks in public.
Mr Burt said an Air Canada charter flight from Toronto will run on June 5 to repatriate stranded Bermuda residents as well as offer the chance for Canadians on the island to return to their homeland. Anyone interested should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Premier confirmed that the drive-through test site at Southside in St David's had run out of antibody tests, which were a voluntary option for people being swabbed for polymerase chain reaction samples.
He added: “The Government has ordered more. They will be arriving shortly and then we will recommence that particular testing.
“But I think that it's important that we recognise and, as has been stated before, that the antibody test is not being done on its own.”
Mr Burt said antibody tests were done alongside the PCR nasal passages and throat swab, which was “the gold standard to ensure and to report a current infection.”
He added that the Government's policy was not to eliminate the coronavirus, but to minimise its transmission.
Mr Burt said: “We all have an important role to play and we must each step up and step forward as we collectively raise our game as a country.”
• To view the full statements from the Premier, Minister of Health, Minister of National Security, and the Phase 2 guidelines for parks, beaches, etc, click on the PDF links under “Related Media”