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April: State of emergency

Businesses were shut, church services moved online and residents ordered to adhere to a 24-hour curfew that took effect on April 4.

Initially scheduled for two weeks, the state of emergency ultimately lasted for 28 days. It prevented all residents — bar essential workers — from leaving their homes for anything but food, medicine or petrol, unless there was a medical emergency. People were also allowed out to exercise, but it had to be on foot, within half a mile of their property and in groups of no more than two.

Recreational spaces, such as beaches and parks, were shut.

People were told they had to grocery shop at the store closest to their home. Residents with last names from A to K were permitted to shop on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; those whose surnames ran from L to Z were allowed on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Sundays were reserved for seniors aged 65 or over, although they were also allowed to shop on their surname days.

Long queues became a regular occurrence with basic items such as paper towel difficult to find.

Emergency orders signed by John Rankin, the Governor, made it illegal for people to enter a home that was not their own or to allow anyone into theirs. Offenders faced a fine of up to $10,000, six months' imprisonment, or both.

The measures were enforced by round-the-clock patrols of police officers and Royal Bermuda Regiment soldiers.

David Burt said that although most of the island's 32 Covid-19 cases came in from overseas and others were from close contact with these people, more cases had emerged where the link was “not as clear”.

According to the Premier, public health experts predicted a worst-case scenario where more than 700 people could die and 50,400 would be infected.

About 25,200 people would have symptoms and need clinical care and about 2,016 would have to be admitted to hospital.

The Ministry of Health estimated that healthcare demand could be “reduced by up to two thirds and deaths by half”, if the measures were adhered to.

Mr Burt said: “I am certain that this is the right thing to do for Bermuda at this time.

“Together, we must do all we can to save lives, and the danger of waiting is not worth the money it might save. We must act decisively and we must act now. The future of Bermuda depends on us all doing our part.

“What does this mean for you? The only way we will prevent this disease from intensifying in Bermuda, is if our night-time routine of everyone in their properties is extended throughout the day.”

He continued: “It weighs heavily on me personally that these decisions stall an economy that has struggled to emerge from the global shift of 2008. Men and women across various sectors have lost jobs or now will suffer reduced income earning capacity.

“These are hard times and our faith in many things is being tested. But we are a hard people and we can emerge from this stronger.”

Shelter in place: David Burt, the Premier, announces a “state of emergency”, having asked John Rankin, the Governor, to use his powers under section 14(3) of the Constitution (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published December 31, 2020 at 7:53 am (Updated December 30, 2020 at 10:03 pm)

April: State of emergency

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