First I would like to make it very clear that I have no difficulty taking PCR tests and wearing masks indoors to play my part to restrict or mitigate the risk of contracting or transmitting Covid-19 in Bermuda. I have demonstrated this by taking weekly tests and wearing masks indoors throughout the entire pandemic.
At around 5:00 pm EST, on Tuesday, 13 July 2021, I made contact with Mr. Armell Thomas, who is a Health Officer for the Bermuda Government, my former football coach, and, until now, someone I trusted. I initiated contact with Mr. Thomas via WhatsApp to ask for guidance regarding covid-protocol upon my arrival into Bermuda the following day.
In response, Mr. Thomas advised me to follow the established rules and suggested that I could dispute the Government’s covid policies and procedures while I remained in hotel quarantine. I explained to Mr. Thomas that I would not complete a Travel Authorization Form (TA) because I do not feel that it is fair or just for residents of this country to be forced to pay to return home.
I also explained that I could not afford to stay in the Government-supervised hotel quarantine on top of the rent that I pay each month for housing, combined with my regular living expenses. However, what I was willing to do was wear a monitoring device and go home.
During the course of the conversation, Mr. Thomas informed me that Ms. Sophia Cannonier was going to be charged in court on Wednesday, the following day, related to breaches of Bermuda’s mandatory quarantine regulations. I then took the opportunity to confidentially share with Mr. Thomas, that, in addition to my financial concerns, I was in possession of a physician’s statement, which addressed my personal health issues regarding mandatory hotel quarantine. I shared my medical information with Mr. Thomas in strict confidence as neither its contents nor my condition were known within the public domain, and, at that point, I had not yet shared my medical status with my lawyer or anyone else.
After reviewing the letter, Mr. Thomas advised that he could help me apply for a medical exemption from having to complete the mandatory quarantine in a hotel. However, I did not wish to disclose my personal medical information to a third party, Resqwest, whom I’d been highly critical of over the past few months. Therefore, I made it absolutely clear to Mr. Thomas that I would accept whatever consequences may be imposed upon me, and I was prepared to defend myself in court if necessary. Furthermore, I stated to him that I would not pay $300.00 for an exemption and that I was willing to pay $75.00 once I arrived on the island for my tests.
In response Mr. Thomas suggested that I complete the TA and upload the screenshot of my physician’s statement prior to my arrival in Bermuda. I informed Mr. Thomas in writing that, although it would be denied, I would complete the process and wait to receive a denied TA for my flight. I also advised Mr. Thomas that I wanted my lawyer present upon my arrival at the L.F. Wade International Airport so that he could advocate on my behalf.
To be clear, I had no intention of providing Resqwest, the company responsible for managing the Bermuda Government’s online TA platform, with my private medical documentation for the reasons stated previously. I also chose not to upload my personal medical information to the TA portal because I have consistently challenged the Resqwest business model throughout this pandemic, and I was not confident that my medical information would remain confidential on their platform. Mr. Thomas advised me to “be smart” about following the established process.
In short, my response to Mr. Thomas, was that Premier Burt can try to make an example out of me; however, my position is that people who do not have symptoms of covid should not be forced into a state of captivity. To be clear, I was, and still am, prepared to defend my position in court.
Whilst talking with Mr. Thomas, I received advice that the $75 TA fee covers the cost of PCR testing after arrival on island, which is required to maintain compliance with Bermuda’s covid guidelines for travelers. As a result of that information, I was now willing to pay the $75 TA fee as I had no objection to complying with my understanding of the established testing protocol.
Upon returning to the island, I was prepared to test on day 4, day 8, and day 14. Mr. Thomas confirmed that the $75.00 fee would cover the costs of my post arrival tests; however, Mr. Thomas also advised that, as a person who is not vaccinated against covid-19, I would only be administered the day 14 test, and would not be tested on day 4 or day 8. Mr. Thomas instructed me to upload my medical documentation, and for the reasons mentioned previously, I never did.
I departed New York on Wednesday, July 14, 2021 and was initially rejected from boarding the flight because I had an incomplete TA form. I threatened to sue the airline and was eventually permitted to board the flight.
During the flight, I received a WhatsApp message from an unknown contact on an unknown number. The individual said they were trying to reach me concerning my TA form. I asked with whom I was speaking to and they replied that it was Mr. Dean Parris from the Ministry of Health. Mr. Parris then informed me that he had updated and re-submitted my TA form and he wanted to confirm that I had received it.
To be clear, I did not give my consent to Mr. Thomas or to Mr. Parris to update, ammend or upload anything related to my TA or my personal medical status. I do not know if Mr. Parris took this action on his own accord, or if he was directed to update my TA form under the instruction of someone else in a position of authority.
Mr. Parris informed me that he had forwarded a yellow form to me. Mr. Parris also advised that he had received a copy of the physician’s statement that I had shared with Mr. Thomas in confidence, and used it to provide me with a medical exemption which would allow me to complete the mandatory 14 day quarantine in my own home. I then expressed to Mr. Parris, that if it’s so easy for someone to manipulate or change the data on a TA form, why was I held up in New York as I tried to board my flight home; and why have so many other Bermudians and residents experienced similar delays in the past? I also conveyed to Mr. Parris that I was curious as to what other tricks the Government had up its sleeve.
Mr. Parris’ response was that he had done his part by letting me know that my medical information provided me with a medical exemption to quarantine at home. I told Mr. Parris that I appreciated his efforts, which was tongue and cheek, and contacted my lawyer immediately to relay the details of what had just transpired. I also informed my lawyer that his presence would be required upon my arrival at the airport to provide me with legal representation for the situation I was expected to encounter upon landing in Bermuda.
Upon arrival in Bermuda, I was asked to complete a form that required my name, address and contact number only. I asked if my lawyer could advise me throughout the process and was denied his counsel. Instead, I was told that I could meet with my lawyer in another room. Despite having made prior arrangements to be with me throughout the entire arrival and entry process, my lawyer was only permitted to wait for me in the arrivals hall.
To restate my position regarding this matter, I have never given consent for my personal medical information to be uploaded onto the Resqwest TA form portal. I have never given any express, or implied permission to Mr. Armell Thomas, Mr. Dean Parris, representatives from the Bermuda Government or any other persons to share my private medical information with anyone, including Resqwest or the Ministry of Health, and at no time did I upload any of that personal information myself.
Before entering the arrivals hall at L.F. Wade International Airport on July 14, 2021, I was reading comments on various social media platforms stating that I suffered from anxiety, and that I had received a medical exemption to quarantine at home. Members of the general public would not have the ability to make such comments unless the contents of my confidential medical information had been made known, which I did not share. Soon after leaving the airport that afternoon, I read a joint press statement between the Bermuda Police Service and the Ministry of Health suggesting that I had applied for a medical exemption when the truth is that I had not made any such application for myself.
At that point, it had become quite obvious to me that staff within the Ministry of Health, Resqwest, or someone with access to my confidential data had leaked my personal medical information to the public. It also appears to me that a certain faction of the Bermuda Government cannot be trusted. What is particularly troubling is how my personal medical information was so easily published and shared publicly without my consent, perhaps in an effort to discredit me. These basic human rights violations should be of great concern to us all.
The onslaught of negative comments and public opinions which falsely accuse me of fraudulent behaviour has had a grave impact on me personally, and yet I continue to stand firm in my personal beliefs and integrity regarding my rights as a human being and as a citizen of Bermuda.
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