While pleading his case on behalf of the Bermuda Government, Co-Director of Trott & Duncan Delroy Duncan QC, urged Chief Justice Narinder Hargun during the second day of a Constitutional Challenge virtual hearing today to keep in mind that other jurisdictions around the world have similar Coronavirus policies to Bermuda’s. Canada, Australia, and Trinidad and Tobago are just some that were mentioned.
Mr. Duncan also explained to the Court why everyone who tests positive for the Coronavirus in Bermuda, vaccinated or unvaccinated, are required to quarantine for 14 days. According to a study, 95 percent of Coronavirus cases were discovered within an incubation period of 13 days or less. Due to this, 14-day quarantine became the standard quarantine period.
Mr. Duncan also provided some statistics to the Court, which were supplied with the help of Dr. Carika Weldon and her lab. Since reopening Bermuda’s airport on July 1 of last year and up to June 21 of this year, Bermuda’s Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory identified 260 travellers who tested positive for the virus; 125 of whom tested negative on their arrival test but converted to positive during the 14 day period. Out of the total 260, 249 were non-immunized and only 11 had been fully immunized.
Mr. Duncan also pointed out that, similar to Bermuda, all unvaccinated travellers arriving in the Cayman Islands, another British Overseas Territory, are required to quarantine for 14 days, regardless of their test results. Unlike Bermuda, however, the Cayman Islands has recorded 609 virus cases and only two deaths from the virus since the start of the pandemic last year.
Mr. Duncan then moved on to what Justice Hargun called “ the only real contentious part of [the Government’s current guidelines];” the 14 day mandatory paid quarantine for unvaccinated travellers at a select-few government-authorized hotels on the island. He explained why the Bermuda Government implemented that policy.
Mr. Duncan emphasized to the Court that the government had considered and in fact previously implemented other measures to try and ensure quarantine compliance before this policy, including the wearing of electronic bracelets and check-ins by some members of the Bermuda Regiment. According to Mr. Duncan, however, the Government considered these measures to be “ impractical and ineffective” for the following reasons:
The Government does not currently have the resources to deploy many members of the Regiment solely for this purpose;
People who visit the home of someone who is supposed to be under quarantine make it considerably more difficult for contact tracers to do their jobs and Examples of previous quarantine breaches provided by the Ministry of Health resulted in more infections, outbreaks and even deaths sometimes, all occurring during periods when less
restrictive policies were in place.
On the flip side, there were zero examples of quarantine breaches when all returning residents were required to quarantine at the start of the pandemiclast year.
Bearing the government’s case in mind, Director of Chancery Legal Mark Pettingill, representing Albert Brewster, told the Court that the guidelines for travellers up until Sunday June 20 proved to be quite effective in slowing the spread of the virus. Why then, he asked, would the Government pass their mandatory hotel quarantine policy at this point in time, when in his opinion, the island is continuing to move in the right direction and closer to herd immunity?
Mr, Pettingill then admitted to the Court that he and Mr. Duncan do not have much disagreement regarding the legal principles used by the government in this case, but they strongly disagree on how those principles have been applied to handling the pandemic in Bermuda.
“ If [mandatory paid quarantine] was such a reasonable position to take, then why was it not enacted by the Government before this time,” Mr. Pettingill asked the Court during his closing statements.
Justice Hargun will weigh and take into consideration all of the evidence presented to him within these past two days, and told Mr. Duncan and Mr. Pettingill that as soon as he is able to pass a judgement for this case, he will do so.
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