A section of Bermuda’s Constitution Order of 1968 states that “ . . . no person shall be hindered in their freedom of movement [throughout Bermuda] . . . the right to enter Bermuda and immunity from expulsion therefrom.”
However, the Constitution also states, a few sentences later, that “the imposition of restrictions on movement or residence in Bermuda or on the right to leave Bermuda of persons generally or of any class of persons that are reasonably required . . . in the interest of public safety, defence, public order, public morality or public health.”
Bearing this in mind, Director of Chancery Legal Mark Pettingill, counsel for Albert Brewster, told Chief Justice Narinder Hargun during a virtual Supreme Court hearing yesterday morning that, even though the Progressive Labor Party got things “ mostly right ” while handling the COVID-19 pandemic in Bermuda, in his and his clients’ opinion, mandatory paid quarantine for unvaccinated travellers arriving to the island, a policy that is currently in place, is not reasonably required in the interest of maintaining public health.
Mr. Pettingill pointed out to Justice Hargun that, when the pandemic was at its peak in Bermuda a couple of months ago, the Government did not consider their mandatory quarantine policy for unvaccinated travellers as reasonably required. He then asked why they would consider this policy to be reasonably required now, when there are less than 20 active cases and zero hospitalizations from the virus as of Tuesday, July 6.
The most concerning feature in the case, according to Mr. Pettingill, is how, through their mandatory quarantine policy, the government has distinguished between vaccinated and unvaccinated persons and are treating one group differently than the other.
In this respect, he believes that the Government’s current guidelines for unvaccinated travellers is “a bridge too far, unnecessary, unreasonable and irrational.”
Mr. Pettingill made it clear to the Court, however, that neither he nor his clients are advocating for relaxed quarantine policies, but rather that forcing someone to spend 14 days in a confined space at their own expense should not be a part of Bermuda’s quarantine policies and that the Government should reconsider it.
Co-Founder and Co-Director of Trott & Duncan law firm Delroy Duncan QC, counsel for the Government in this case, reminded Justice Hargun that the current regulations for non-vaccinated travellers will not be in place forever and that they are scheduled to expire on Thursday September 30.
Mr. Duncan also said that, despite Mr Pettingill’s submissions, the Government’s current policies were designed with the intention of managing possible risks with what would be considered variants of concern and not with the intention of discriminating against or causing division between vaccinated and unvaccinated persons.
The hearing will resume today(July at 9:30 a.m via Zoom.
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