Senate: pandemic legislation approved
Senators approved amendments aimed at giving the Government more flexibility to fight future pandemics.
The Public Health Amendment Act 2020 gives the Minister of Health the power to create regulations in response to dangerous communicable diseases which can include restrictions on movement and a curfew.
Ianthia Simmons-Wade, the Junior Minister for Health, told the Senate yesterday that in order to put forward such regulations for Covid-19, the Government had to request the Governor declare a state of emergency.
The senator added: “The use of the constitutional power to declare a state of emergency and to apply provisions of the Emergency Powers Act is more suited to meeting the challenges of civil unrest in society.
“Their use in the current pandemic had proven an inelegant means by which to restrict the movement of people and manage the spread of the Covid-19 virus.”
Ms Simmons-Wade said, under the new regulations, the Minister of Health could make regulations to restrict movement if she was satisfied, after consultation with the Chief Medical Officer, that there was a risk of an outbreak of certain categories of disease.
Senators also approved the Cost of Living Commission Amendment Act 2020, which will enable the creation of a public database of the cost of essential food goods at Bermuda's grocers.
The database, which would cost around $50,000, is intended to help the public find the best prices for 24 staple goods.
Ms Simmons-Wade said the cost of food was high in Bermuda and sometimes inconsistent between grocers, and the measure could help encourage more competitive prices.
She added: “Not everyone can go to every store to compare their prices.”
Jarion Richardson, a One Bermuda Alliance senator, voiced his support for the amendments and efforts to lower the cost of living.
But he warned that price control initiatives must be handled carefully or there could be “downstream” ramifications.