Police, Health Department officials and by extension the Government were late last night forced to back down from an attempt to arrest and forcibly place in a Government mandated quarantine facility Sophia Cannonier, her husband Mike Watson and their two children.
Authorities were met with firm resistance from the family, which refused entry by authorities at their Second Avenue home, while a highly charged crowd of protesters against a Government mandate that requires all returning residents that are unvaccinated against the Covid-19 virus to quarantine at an approved hotel, but allows vaccinated individuals to attend their private residences.
A potentially volatile situation involving close to 20 members of the Bermuda Police service (BPS) was at least temporarily resolved when conversations between police, health officials and Barrister Marc Daniels, representing the family, agreed to a “recess” period that would allow for receipt of the family’s Covid-19 arrival test results and further discussion regarding application of the legislated protocols regarding arriving travelers, particularly residents.
Earlier yesterday evening, upon arrival from London at L.F. Wade International Airport Ms. Cannonier and her family had acted in what she described as a manner of “civil disobedience” in refusing orders from a health official to board a mini-bus along with other presumed unvaccinated persons to be transported to a Government sanctioned quarantine facility known to be Hamilton Princess.
Instead, the family chose their own transport to venture home to their private residence, thus triggering the response from police and health officials.
Ironically, the scene would unfurl mere steps away from Premier David Burt’s residence in the Cavendish Height’s area, although there would be no live appearance on the scene by the Island’s leader.
Prominent on the scene though was Bermuda Freedom Alliance (BFA) member and social activist Eugene Dean, who partnered with Ms. Cannonier and others at a recent protest rally held on the grounds of the Cabinet Office. Mr. Dean acted in the capacity of chief spokesperson for the gathered members of the public and at the end offered perspective regarding the situation after parties had agreed to disperse, leaving just two police officers on the scene.
“The good news is that we’ve, as a result of the legal intervention in conjunction with the Health department and the police, come to an agreement to take a recess,” said Mr. Dean, who was a candidate for the Free Democratic Movement organization during last year’s general election. “The Deputy Commissioner has made assurances that there will be no attempts to try to arrest anyone or enter the house or things of that nature, so that has been successful.
“Two police officers will be left to make sure nobody enters the house or anything of that nature.
“They’re (Cannonier/Watson family) still awaiting their arrival test results, so the issue will then be picked up again tomorrow (today), where there will be more conversation between the legal team and the Health department.
“So, what I’ve been made to understand in looking through the legislation, and what’s very positive, is there’s a lot of discretion in the legislation, there’s nothing really absolute in it.
“For example, I’ll read what it says here: ‘Where a health officer gives an order gives an order, instruction or condition to a traveler and the operator fails or refuses to comply with the order the health officer MAY arrest a traveler’.
“So that means there’s discretion and that’s the conversation that was had and everyone agreed that there is an opportunity to go forth with an arrest or an opportunity to avoid an arrest.
“But the real legal test in this is that, ‘a traveler who is arrested under this same section MAY’, again may is being used, ‘be placed in isolation until such time that a Government medical officer, acting on instructions of the Chief Medical Officer, has determined that the traveler’s state of health is such that as to not pose a risk or significant harm to public health’.
“So the key word is ‘significant’, and again that’s what the legal test is and they (Government) have to prove that the family will pose significant risk of harm to the general public.
“At the moment no one knows their health status, they haven’t released that information. No one knows whether they’ve been vaccinated or not. What they do know is that they took a test prior to leaving the UK, which was negative and they’re awaiting the results of their arrival test which they figure which will be negative as well.
“So they complied with a request to get a test when they came home. If they test negative, then there is evidence that they pose no risk of significant harm to the community.
“So, does this warrant rolling up to someone’s house, taking they and their children out of bed and forcibly putting them in a hotel facility, which was one of the matters.”