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PLP MPs revolt over mandatory quarantine in hotels for arrivals

Under fire: David Burt, the Premier (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

A fresh attack on controversial plans to enforce unvaccinated arrivals to quarantine in hotels at their own expense was mounted yesterday – from the Government side of the House of Assembly.

Progressive Labour Party MPs broke ranks during a debate in the House on changes to the penalties for breaches of the public health quarantine regulations.

Derrick Burgess, the Deputy Speaker of the House, led the charge.

He said the Government had a good record on Covid-19 – but that he had serious concerns about the regulation, scheduled to come into force next week.

Mr Burgess added: “The discriminatory part of it is, if you don’t have this form, then I am told you cannot get on the flight.

“Well, I don’t think you can deny my right to come home. Common sense tells me that is against the law.”

Mr Burgess said that he was not opposed to quarantine because the Government had to control the pandemic, but insisted there had to be a way to allow people to do it at home.

He added: “Discrimination in any form is not right. We have to fix that.

“This little piece about mandatory quarantine – I think we can fix that and do it better.

“Don’t tell me or anyone that they cannot come home because they haven’t booked a hotel. That’s not correct.”

Dennis Lister III said the Government’s intention was to keep the island safe – but the approach to quarantines had led to discrimination between those who were vaccinated and those who were not.

Mr Lister added: “I have heard the cries about how this is affecting the community in Bermuda. I cannot agree or support any discrimination in any form.”

He added that his PLP colleagues had raised “justifiable and valid concerns”.

Jamahl Simmons, a Government backbencher, said the Government had been successful early in the pandemic because it had the trust of the public.

But he added: “We have trust to regain, we have confidence to regain, and we have to find a way to bring the people with us along the way.”

Lovitta Foggo, a PLP backbencher, said that the Government had to do what it thought was right, its actions could have unintended consequences.

Ms Foggo added: “Many of our people are screaming and crying that they are being treated differently.

“They feel that many of the rules that are being put in place are being targeted at them.

“I would hope, as do others, that we can find that balance that would allow all of us to enjoy treatment from the legislation in the same way.”

Ms Foggo she had been questioned by a member of the public who asked how a vaccinated person who tested positive for the coronavirus could be allowed to quarantine at home, but someone who was unvaccinated with a clear test had to stay in a hotel.

But Government MPs did defend the policy during the motion to adjourn – including Diallo Rabain, the education minister, as well as backbenchers Jache Adams and Christopher Famous.

Kim Wilson, the health minister, said she understood the concerns.

But she said: “We must do what we can to protect the 64,000 people who live on this island.”

Ms Wilson added that the quarantine policy would be in place for a fixed period.

She said: “There are businesses hanging on by a thread.

“There are so many businesses that have been so adversely effected by lockdowns that another shutdown would be a death knell.”

David Burt, the Premier, highlighted that, although he had heard stories of hardship as the island battled the pandemic, there were 33 people who were no longer able to tell their stories.

He said: “This Government cannot ignore its duty in order to make sure that we protect our popularity.

“That is not what leadership is. It means standing strong and knowing that the decisions you make, though they may not be popular, are the right ones.

“We cannot put a price on Bermudian lives.”

The Bermuda Industrial Union also condemned the plan yesterday and claimed it had “set a dangerous precedent”.

Chris Furbert, the BIU president, blamed the Government for creating division.

Mr Furbert said: “The direction comes from the top – the Government has set a dangerous precedent of different treatment based on vaccination status.

“If science has told us that the vaccinated person can still catch Covid-19 and transmit the virus, why are we treating them differently from the unvaccinated person?”

Mr Furbert added: “We have watched as many companies have created vaccination incentive programmes.

“We do not agree with these initiatives as it is borderline bribery and puts employees and the wider public under pressure to make a decision that should remain a personal choice. We do not support these bullying tactics.”

The Royal Gazette understands that Mr Burt had planned to to make a statement on the pandemic in the House yesterday – but decided against it.

He could have faced a barrage of hostile questioning from his own MPs if he had.

The debate came after Kim Wilson had put forward the Public Health Amendment Act No.2.

The bill, designed to increase penalties for breaches of quarantine regulations from $1,500 to up to $10,000, was passed.

It also transferred responsibility for handing out fixed penalty tickets for breaches from public health officials to the police.

A second item of Covid-related legislation on the extension of the pandemic state of emergency until August 23 was also debated.

The Opposition agreed that an extension was necessary.

The OBA suggested it should be for a month, but the order was approved as tabled.

Correction - An earlier version of this article quoted Scott Simmons, the Government Whip, when the actual comments came from Jamahl Simmons. The previous version also listed Dennis Lister III as Transport Minister, a post held by Lawrence Scott.

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Published June 19, 2021 at 10:07 am (Updated June 22, 2021 at 7:55 am)

PLP MPs revolt over mandatory quarantine in hotels for arrivals

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