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July: Hope tempered by warning signs

Open for business: July saw Bermuda open its borders to overseas travellers for the first time in three months (File photograph)

The Covid-19 pandemic continued to dominate the news throughout July – but with positive headlines rather than bleak forecasts.

After months of quarantines, curfews and lockdowns, the number of active cases was withering to single figures. It seemed Bermuda was emerging from the crisis, having successfully nipped the virus in the bud.

Perhaps the biggest indicator that Bermuda was gradually returning to “business as usual” was the reopening of the LF Wade International airport.

An Air Canada flight from Toronto landed on July 2 – the first commercial flight to arrive in Bermuda in more than three months – with 44 tourists among its 115 passengers.

On the next day, Kim Wilson, the health minister, announced that the island was a Covid-free zone.

“I am delighted to be able to say that there are no longer any known active cases of Covid-19 in Bermuda,” Ms Wilson said.

“This has been an extraordinary journey involving a lot of sweat, blood and tears by a lot of people directly involved in the fight against the coronavirus.”

Although that news was welcome, Ms Wilson warned against complacency.

She said: “I want to urge everyone to please keep wearing your masks and stay six feet apart.

“We need to do this now more than ever in case there are any unknown asymptomatic carriers of Covid-19 still in Bermuda.”

It appeared that the Government had struck the right balance – containing the spread of the virus and keeping residents safe, without forcing the economy into meltdown or stifling everyday life indefinitely. The island became a byword in how to handle the pandemic.

But that first flight out of Toronto was perhaps a harbinger. Although passengers were ordered to follow safety restrictions, including mandatory testing and quarantining, one passenger on that first flight breached security protocols by heading straight to a restaurant.

Further breaches followed.

On July 15, one returning resident ignored quarantine requirements and went straight from the airport to their workplace. A test result later showed that they were a carrier of the virus.

There were distractions in the news. Government ministers Zane DeSilva and Wayne Caines resigned after video footage was leaked of both men attending a party in which Covid-19 safety regulations were flouted by revellers — including themselves.

Lawyer Charles Richardson also found himself in hot water while representing a client who had pleaded guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old girl.

In mitigation, Mr Richardson suggested that teenage girls seduced older men for “sport”.

And if Covid-19 wasn’t bad enough, Bermudians continued to endure a banana shortage.

But the global pandemic remained the story of the month and, as August approached, Bermuda could no longer tout its claim to be free of the virus. The number of active cases continued to creep up throughout the month, albeit always remaining in single figures.

“We must remain strong, vigilant and united as a country to keep this virus at bay,” David Burt, the Premier, said on July 28.

The month had started brightly. By its end, Bermuda had perhaps taken a small but significant step in the wrong direction.

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Published December 31, 2020 at 7:50 am (Updated December 30, 2020 at 9:57 pm)

July: Hope tempered by warning signs

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