‘Air bridge’ plan to return stranded students
Stranded students affected by the coronavirus pandemic could be returned to Bermuda by an “air bridge”, the Premier said last night.
David Burt added that he felt morally obliged to look after people stuck in other countries.
The Premier said that any private passenger jets allowed to land in the country must have seats available for students.
He explained: “The Government continues to work to bring Bermudian students, who are stranded due to no fault of their own, back home.
“There has been some concern expressed that Bermuda is letting persons into the island which means that we may be admitting additional positive cases.”
The Premier said that although the airport was closed to commercial flights earlier this month, scheduled cargo flights, medevacs, or air ambulances, and private jets were operating.
Mr Burt said: “I know that there has been a large level of public criticism that has been levied towards the Government for advertising the fact that we are looking to bring stranded Bermudian students back home.
“I have to state this, that I consider it our moral obligation to take care of our persons who are stranded, some of them in very desperate situations.
“Imagine being overseas, your dorm being closed, persons around you have been able to travel back home or to go where they are, you are by yourself, food service at your dormitory is ending — this is the situation that some of our students overseas have found themselves in.”
The Premier said that the leaders of other jurisdictions were dealing with similar challenges.
Mr Burt said: “We are looking, in conjunction with the other overseas territories, to organise an air bridge.
He added: “Nothing has been confirmed, but I want all persons to know that if you are a Bermudian student overseas, that the Government is working to make sure we can bring you back home.”
Mr Burt said that the Cabinet decided last Friday that anyone who was brought back from Britain would not be allowed to self-quarantine and must instead stay in a government-approved quarantine facility.
The Premier said that since the airport was closed only three private jets with passengers have landed.
Two were on Thursday, when companies teamed up with the Bermuda Business Development Agency to charter flights from Atlanta for students and family members. The third landed yesterday.
Mr Burt explained: “The flight that arrived earlier today brought home the family of a resident, a doctor for the Bermuda Hospitals Board who was stranded overseas who wasn't able to get home, and a Bermuda student.
“It should be noted that any private plane which requires permission to land has to get permission from myself in order to do so.”
Mr Burt added: “Permission is being given only if extra seats are made available for Bermudian students who may be stranded to come home.”
His comments came after a Facebook group was launched to try to rally Bermuda residents in Britain who would like to return to the island.
Bermuda Residents in the UK — #bringthemhome was set up over the weekend in an effort to determine how many people might take up the opportunity of a flight, if one was available.
The Twitter hashtag had more than 80 members last night.
The Government said on Friday that the Ministry of Tourism and Transport was aware that some Bermuda residents overseas, who normally lived on the island, needed advice or help.
It asked anyone in the US and UK who would like to return home to complete a form and submit information by visiting https://forms.gov.bm/covid19/return.
Residents in the UK who need assistance can contact Bermuda's London Office at email@example.com.
Those anywhere else in the world should contact the nearest British Embassy for help.
The Government added: “If you have previously contacted the Ministry of Tourism and Transport or the London Office regarding flights home, we have your information and you do not need to provide it again.
“However, if you have not made contact, please provide the necessary information as soon as possible so that we will be better informed.”
• A health declaration form must be completed for returning residents, which can be done on arrival or in advance at http://forms.gov.bm/covid19