Scott preparing compromise for cruise lines on Covid-19 tests
Talks are being held with cruise lines to ease Covid-19 testing requirements, Lawrence Scott, the transport minister, has said.
The move comes as two operators cancelled seven transatlantic cruises that were scheduled to visit Bermuda by the end of the year as they blamed the coronavirus checking regime for the decision.
Mr Scott said he was working with the health ministry and cruise lines to “come to a very nice compromise” on the issue.
The minister told The Royal Gazette: “Given our limited resources we have to be a little bit more stringent than others.
“However, we are working with the cruise lines to amend our policies so that they are not as restrictive and more user-friendly than they have been in the past.
“And we are working with the ministry of health to come to a very nice compromise because the cruise lines made recommendations.”
He added: “The cruise lines have focused on testing.
“And, they’re saying for transatlantic — adding the testing for you when we have to do it ourselves, and we have limited resources on board, it’s not sustainable for us and it’s not a good experience for the customers.
“The Ministry of Transport understands where they are coming from.”
Under the existing system, if cruises take more than four days to reach the island from another port, passengers wishing to get off the ship in Bermuda must take a supervised Covid-19 test on board, no more than two days before arrival.
Defending the regime last week, Kim Wilson, the health minister, said: “Cruise ships have a significantly dense residential setting, quite different from aeroplanes.
“There is a greater risk of infection because the virus spreads easily between people in close quarters aboard ships.”
Mr Scott also insisted that the $40 Travel Authorisation charge was not hitting the economy as One Bermuda Alliance and some businesses claim.
The minister said: “I would not go as far as damaging the economy.
“I don’t believe that it is negatively impacting the economy.
“On any given year we can have up to15 cancellations, for whatever reasons.
“Right now we are at seven, so we are actually below average.
“Keeping in mind that we have had higher-than-projected cruise occupancy — we had cruises during our peak season coming in at 110 per cent occupancy.
“Occupancy is based on two people per room, if you have three people that’s how you get to the 110 per cent figure.
“And so, we have generated more than we originally anticipated in revenue.”