BTA welcomes relaxation in Covid-19 regulations
Tourism chiefs yesterday welcomed the easing of Covid-19 restrictions as a move that will help boost visitor numbers.
The Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA) said the move represented the first significant loosening of pandemic border controls since the island reopened in July 2020.
The comments came after the Government announced that antigen tests would be accepted for people arriving in the country from today.
The BTA said: “The rapid test result turnaround time, accuracy, and widespread availability of antigen tests will make the pre-arrival process significantly less burdensome for prospective travellers.”
Head of the BTA Charles H Jeffers II said the change would boost tourism.
He stated: “The shift in protocols is encouraging news for the local industry, and the introduction of the antigen testing reflects a change that we have advocated for on behalf of our stakeholders.
“With increased vaccination uptake in key markets, vacation-starved travellers have been shopping for their next destination.
“This move by the government puts us in a stronger market position as we compete with rival destinations touting less stringent travel requirements.
“To ensure that we remain a viable and attractive destination for our cruise and airline partners, we must demonstrate that our health and safety protocols meet consumer demand for a safe, streamlined travel experience from beginning to end.
“Vaccinated visitors to Bermuda represent less than one per cent of those testing positive whilst on island – on arrival or post-arrival.
“These numbers show that vaccinated travellers pose a shallow risk to the island’s Covid situation.
“The policy changes reflect the reduced likelihood of transmission from that category and provide a safe, convenient accessible option for visitors.”
The shift comes as a new Covid-19 variant – named Omicron by the World Health Organisation – has resulted in restrictions in the UK, the US and elsewhere for travellers from southern African nations.
The changes in the Bermuda Covid-19 regime also mean the size of large gatherings can increase from 30 to 50.
This will include weddings and funerals, as well as island boats in respect of the use of SafeKey.
Tables in restaurants, members clubs and bars will no longer need to be spaced 6ft apart.
But, for the time being, they will all still be restricted to seated service only.
Raft-ups will be allowed again and cinemas, galleries, and museums are to be allowed social distancing of 3ft with masks being worn at all times indoors.
Pupils enrolled in a school testing programme will be able to use a “student 7-day pass”, issued after a clear test result, to dine indoors with parents or guardians who have SafeKeys and attend youth sports and recreational activities that require a SafeKey.
Kim Wilson, health minister, said: “We are also reviewing the follow up testing once on island.
“The changes are aimed at allowing vaccinated visitors to begin enjoying Bermuda quickly without an extended period of quarantine upon arrival.
“We are making adjustments to enable residents who travel abroad for less than 72 hours to use their pre-departure test obtained in Bermuda, as their pre-arrival test upon their return. This will facilitate quick trips overseas.”