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OBA accuses Premier over travel confusion

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

The Premier was last night accused of a failure to take responsibility for an about-turn on Covid-19 safety regulations that has caused confusion for Bermudians trying to get home.

The One Bermuda Alliance went on the attack after David Burt denied that the Government had backtracked on its policy.

Michael Dunkley, the shadow national security and health minister, said that Mr Burt needed to admit the error.

He added: “Premier David Burt set out a travel policy which blocked unvaccinated Bermudians from returning home unless they had prepaid to quarantine.

“Is the Premier now denying that was his plan? David Burt needs to be straight with Bermudians.

“He had a bad plan. He was called out by the OBA and others. On Friday in Parliament, he changed his plan to drop the prepayment requirement.

“If the Premier is now denying his original plan, that is deeply misleading to the Bermudian public.

“He got it wrong and should admit he got it wrong.“

The row flared up after the Government warned that Bermudians who returned from overseas would be barred from entry if they did not have all their paperwork completed.

Kim Wilson, the health minister, said last Tuesday: The provisions under the legislation will require that persons – everyone that is returning to Bermuda – will be required to upload the travel authorisation.

“Persons will not be permitted to return to Bermuda in the absence of completing the travel documents.”

But the policy was questioned by Michael Dunkley, the shadow minister for national security, last Friday.

Mr Dunkley asked: “Is this even constitutional? It is indeed a very sad and concerning day when the Government blocks Bermudians from returning home.”

The regulations said non-vaccinated Bermudians who returned to the island would have to spend 14 days quarantined in a Government-approved hotel.

They would also have to pay for their stay in advance and show a receipt for payment before they were allowed to board a flight.

But Mr Burt revealed that the policy had been discarded in the House of Assembly on Friday night.

He said in the motion to adjourn: “I just want to take a few moments to clear up some facts.

“Number one. We will not stop Bermudians from returning home. We cannot legally and we will not legally deny the rights of Bermudians to return.”

Mr Burt on Monday denied that any late changes to the regulations was the cause of confusion – and blamed airlines for not sticking to Government instructions.

He said: “As I said in the House of Assembly on Friday, the Government is not denying any Bermudian the right to return home.

“Whilst the requirement for a travel authorisation is not new, we have had to work with our airline partners to ensure that they have the correct information.”

Mr Burt added he told the IATA: “Recently, some Bermudians have experienced challenges when trying to board flights to Bermuda because they did not have the necessary travel authorisation documents.

“Please update your system advising that, under the provisions of the Bermuda Constitution Order 1968, no Bermudian should be denied entry into Bermuda as Bermuda cannot deny a resident his or her ability to return home.“

Mr Burt added: “We will continue to reiterate this message and make the point that no Bermudian should be refused boarding a flight home for this reason.

“The adoption of new and different restrictions has been a challenge throughout this pandemic, but these changes were announced on Tuesday as part of the regular Covid press conference, and so any suggestion that notice of the changes was any later is simply false.”

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Published June 23, 2021 at 8:06 am (Updated June 23, 2021 at 8:06 am)

OBA accuses Premier over travel confusion

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