House: curfew legislation passed by MPs
Legislation designed to introduce measures such as a curfew in the interest of public health was passed by MPs yesterday.
Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, said that the Public Health Amendment (No. 2) Act 2020 would mean regulations that “provided for the prevention, control or suppression” of certain communicable diseases could be made if it was determined that the diseases posed “a severe threat to public health” in Bermuda.
She explained that the diseases included Covid-19 as well as things like chickenpox, German measles and influenza.
Ms Wilson told a virtual sitting of the House of Assembly: “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, especially in light of the duration of the limitations applicable to the relevant powers, that did not reflect the need for ongoing flexibility based on public health advice and best practice.”
She said that Cabinet was asked to consider amendments to the Public Health Act 1949 that will allow the Governor to make any regulations needed to address public health situations such as pandemics.
Ms Wilson added: “The Bill before the House today creates the necessary regime without the requirement to rely on powers under a state of emergency.”
Patrica Gordon-Pamplin, the Shadow Minister of Finance, questioned why the amended powers allowed an initial shelter in place period for up to 30 days, but extensions could last up to 60 days.
Ms Wilson responded that any decision to extend restrictions would be made in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer and would require the approval of Parliament.
She added that restrictions could be less than 60 days and, while it might be difficult to envision a situation where a 60-day extension of restrictions was required, she had not envisioned a 14-day shelter in place period before Covid-19.
• To read Kim Wilson's brief in full, click on the PDF under “Related Media”