Legislation to allow closure of public places
Fast-tracked legislation to allow the emergency closure of public places on health grounds was approved by senators yesterday.
The Public Health Amendment Act 2020 was passed without objection in the Upper House.
The amendment altered the Public Health Act 1949 to give the Minister of Health the power to close schools, cinemas, churches, hotels and other “places of public resort or meeting in Bermuda” to prevent the spread of communicable diseases such as the killer strain of coronavirus.
Ianthia Simmons-Wade, a Progressive Labour Party senator, said the amendment required Bermuda's Chief Medical Officer to be of the opinion that there was an immediate risk of an outbreak.
Ms Simmons-Wade added: “This is an important point as I wish for the Honourable Members and the public to fully understand that any action taken by the Minister of Health under these proposed amendments to the Act will be done with the benefit of fulsome public health advice from the island's chief health officer.”
She added that the Government was “keenly aware” of the economic damage and “social disruption” that could be caused if the amendment was used.
Ms Simmons-Wade said: “In every public health scenario, there is a balance to be struck.
“Events around the world, which confirm the aggressive spread of this virus and the importance of firm action to preserve life, dictate that we must use every tool available to protect the people who live and work in Bermuda.”