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Bermudians ‘feeling that their human rights and constitutional rights are being trampled upon’

Marcus Jones, One Bermuda Alliance senator

Bermudians feel that their “human rights and constitutional rights are being trampled upon” by “onerous” quarantine rules.

And greater debate is needed over Government’s Covid-19 regulations in order to safeguard the rights of Bermudians, according to an Opposition senator.

Marcus Jones, told the Senate yesterday that the public had become increasingly frustrated by Government’s measures to control the spread of Covid-19.

He added: “Many people in this country are feeling left out. They are feeling disenfranchised. They are feeling hard done by.

“It is incumbent on us as legislators that when we put bills and legislation in place that we have the rights and liberties of our people as our priority.”

He noted the outcry of the requirement for unvaccinated travellers to quarantine at a hotel at their own expense - a policy he described as “onerous”.

Mr Jones said the policy had resulted in Bermudians - including a Government back bench MP - being challenged as they attempted to return to the island.

He said the Government had created a “PR nightmare” that could have been avoided if legislators were able to debate the finer points of the regulations.

“Listening to the public, reading the blogs, getting a sense of the feeling in the community, people are feeling hard done by.

“They are feeling that their human rights and constitutional rights are being trampled upon,” said Mr Jones.

The comments came as the Senate debated an extension of the public health emergency order, which is scheduled to end today.

Curtis Richardson, Junior Minister of Health, said the extension would allow the order to continue another 60 days, with the new end date to be August 23.

He said that vaccines have been a useful tool as the Government worked to stem the spread of the virus, but more time was needed to reach the goal of community immunity.

Mr Richardson said the virus was still an international threat and the recent outbreak highlighted the impact of Covid-19 variants.

Mr Jones said the OBA supported the move in principle given the “ever evolving national crisis”.

But he added that the 60-day length of the extension could be considered an overreach and suggested a 30-day extension would be better.

Ernest Peets, Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport said the emergency powers gives the Government greater flexibility to protect the country, and the pandemic still presents a threat.

Michelle Simmons, an independent senator, said the extension was important.

Ms Simmons said: “This is the responsible thing for the Government to do, to bring this order forward so the power is there to act.”

Joan Dillas-Wright, Senate president, also voiced her support for the extension arguing that it was better to be safe than sorry.

She added: “For me, as a health professional, I do believe that this is the right decision for us at this stage.”

Senators also approved the Public Health Amendment Act #2, intended to revise the fixed penalty regime established for the Covid-19 outbreak.

Dr Peets said the changes would treat many Covid-19 breaches in a similar fashion to traffic tickets, with those ticketed able to pay a fine without a court hearing or a conviction recorded against them.

He said serious breaches, such as those who knowingly expose individuals to the virus, would still be heard by the courts.

Mr Jones said he appreciated the need to streamline the system and prevent convictions, but questioned the significant increase in maximum fines for those who refuse to provide officers with information.

While the maximum penalty had been a fine of $1,500, the legislation increased it to $10,000.

Dr Peets said the increased fines were intended to address serious breaches that can pose a real threat to public health, and a strong penalty was required to deter people from breaking the rules.

He later added: “We still have a lot of work to do to protect this country.”

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Published June 24, 2021 at 7:57 am (Updated June 24, 2021 at 7:57 am)

Bermudians ‘feeling that their human rights and constitutional rights are being trampled upon’

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